NEW, OLD TOWN

Some weeks ago, I took the train to Dunaújvaros (that’s Danube New Town, formerly Sztálinváros) the purpose-built industrial town some way down the Danube in central Hungary. Under Soviet rule, Dunaújvaros was used to showcase the socialist perfectibility of Hungary, even after the 1956 Hungarian Revolution eminences were taken on hospitality tours of Hungary’s largest iron and steel works and the wide, dappled avenues lined with Socialist Realist apartment buildings.

Left to rust after The Change of System, or System Change (note the linguistic implications of these terms for denoting the end of Communist rule here in Hungary) it has latterly undergone reinvention as a city of culture (though not as a City of Culture – that honour will be bestowed upon Pécs in 2010). Dunaújvaros now has its own Institute of Contemporary Art, artists’ studio complex and the International Steel Sculptors Colony. There’s something pleasantly apposite and self-sustaining about this particular process of regeneration. The iron and steel works supports the artists with materials, and in turn the works are bought by the local council and installed in public spaces, like the sculpture garden on the banks of the Danube.


No Gehry or Foster destination architecture here, nor the kind of apparently well-intentioned, yet fundamentally-insensitive attempts at Critical Regionalism you might find in British post industrial city centres under a process of regeneration. This low-key town’s prime tourist pull seems to be the beautiful view across the Hungarian plains.


The Hungarian Government, like that of Britain, clearly recognises the regenerative power of that thing, culture, though, and the ease with which cultural regeneration segues so easily with commercial development. The National Theatre* and the Palace of Arts on the Pest bank of Lágymányosi Bridge are the cultural luncheon meat in a commercial sandwich that is regenerating the Ferencváros district, just north of the island of Csepel.


Here, as in other spots around the city, Budapest seems hell-bent on transforming its cityscape into the kind of glass-boxed, stone-fasciaed heterogeneity that better befits a modern European capital. Vodaphone and Morgan Stanley have already moved in. There’s a riverside redevelopment apartment complex, replete with the kind of architectural clangers (lack of provision of pedestrian access or most basic services and amenities) generally associated with British redevelopment projects. There’s also a good smattering of public art installed with the express intention of evoking, in ersatz style, the heritage of the area, and the deeply-emotive significance of the National Theatre in Budapest (it was demolished on a shaky pretext by the Communists in 1965). Despite these attempts at producing locality, this place, this strange shiny, landscaped enclave on the banks of the Danube could be anywhere. All they need now is a Big Screen like in Hull or Manchester – the cherry on top of all post industrial regeneration projects, I reckon – and the successful transformation will be complete.


* The National Theatre has long been a pawn in the game of tit-for-tat that is pluriform multi-party democracy here in Hungary. I’m going to resist recounting its chequered history here; those with a taste for the political absurd can go here to read the tale in full.

WHAT DO YOU DO ALL DAY?

Amongst all the great mysteries of the universe, the one that’s always puzzled me most is, quite simply: What do people do every day?

I have chronic problems with the concept of a daily routine. That’s not to say I’m one of these zany, radical individualists who reject, outright, the mere concept of “daily routine” as a cramp in their revolutionary style. Although I imagine their excuses for staying up past ten on a school night go something like this:

For God’s sake, Mum! Manifesting the kind of life I always knew, deep down, I was supposed to live is pretty knackering! I was up ’til 4AM tirelessly documenting the magic in the everyday with my Soviet-era toy camera and publishing these hitherto-unappreciated small treasures on my blog. All week I’ve been benevolently performing the little acts of kindness that will, one day, change our world for the better. Besides, I’m doing polyphasic sleep this month, remember. Give me a break – I’ll get up when I’m ready!

For me, the problem is rather more banal. Like every terminally-anxious Noughtie, my mental chronometry is completely out of wack. There’s always too little, or, worse, too much time to complete the simplest of tasks. Foolhardily, I’ve also chosen a very modern way of making of living: piecemeal teaching and writing work here-and-there and as-and-when. Though it was chosen for its flexibility (like every other 25 year-old, I have an abject – and, might I add, rather self-important – fear of the nine-to-five) I’ve found myself trying to shape this formless morass of job into a reasonable (but oh-so-conventional) daytime chunk. Which somewhat misses the point of this kind of work (but reveals the terrible insidiousness of the hegemony of routine, right, whimsical internet chaps?)

Anyway, because of this, I’m a very eager student of what other people do all day. The hungry middle manager might have his copy of The Seven Habits of Highly Productive People, but I’m happy to say I get my lifestyle design fundamentals from autobiographies. Actually, I’d recommend the same to all apparently-reasonable people whose trigger fingers hover just a little too long over the Buy it Now button of books of a similar ilk.

Happily, I can now seek guidance whilst engaged in the very deferral activities which doom this whole scheme to failure via Daily Routines, a blog that collects extremely eminent peoples’ methods of organising their days.

Shutter shades signal end of Western civilisation…

It’s okay Douglas Haddow, I hate hipsters too!

Adbusters loses cool over them polaroid-toting, soft porn-aping, keffiyah-wearing gits. Comes off like extract from highschooler’s journal:

We’ve reached a point in our civilization where counterculture has mutated into a self-obsessed aesthetic vacuum.

and, moreover:

We are a lost generation, desperately clinging to anything that feels real, but too afraid to become it ourselves. We are a defeated generation, resigned to the hypocrisy of those before us, who once sang songs of rebellion and now sell them back to us. We are the last generation, a culmination of all previous things, destroyed by the vapidity that surrounds us. The hipster represents the end of Western civilization – a culture so detached and disconnected that it has stopped giving birth to anything new.

Far more on the money is this: the Onion‘s Hipster Archive.

We get what we deserve?

Dear June Sarpong,

I think I get your sentiment but I definitely don’t dig your arrogant, ill-thought out new media opportunism.

June Sarpong’s new lipstick n’ politick blog, Politics and the City, is noteable as a hateful conflation of two particularly doh-brained phenomenae: the latecoming demographization of women as media consumers (see also the truly horrible Observer Woman Magazine, Mamma Mia, most things associated with the SATC jamboree 2008 ) and the compulsion to talk down to one’s audience as some vaguely-imagined – possibly dribbling – lowest common denominator. The result could be subtitled, as Lost in Showbiz puts it, “Women: Is the News Too Hard for You to Understand?”

However, just as the internet taketh away, it giveth: the collective “wtf?” that met Sarpong’s new venture at its launch two Monday ago was most heartening.

Anyway, good luck with your portal, June.

J x

Intervention

An important sentiment, elegantly expressed. Yawn…

In 2002, the Detroit Museum of New Art announced a new exhibition:

The Detroit Institute of Arts will start the next millennium with a bombshell in the form of an exhibition entitled kaBOOM! Based on the destruction of art in this century, on vandalism as a sincere form of artistic expression, viewers will be invited to destroy actual works of art. Man Ray’s Object to be Destroyed can be crushed with an over-sized hammer, you can spray paint a green dollar sign on a Malevich painting, piss in Duchamp’s Fountain, erase a Willem de Kooning drawing, stitch up a Fontana, or slash up a Barnett Newman. Flash Art (Milan): ‘kaBOOM!’, November/December.

Here’s what happened:

A museum survey examining the phenomenon of destruction in art backfired at the event’s opening when audience enthusiasm overwhelmed the exhibit. kaBOOM! began its two month run at Detroit’s Museum of New Art (MONA) last Saturday and by night’s end it was all over, literally.

They even destroyed the pedestals and wall shelves,” one museum staffer shrugged in disbelief.

Fires were set in isolated galleries and a wrecking ball for one display had been removed from its chain and used instead as a bowling ball, taking out an installation as well as the corner of one wall.

In a twisted way, it was a wild success,” MONA’s director Jef Bourgeau says the morning after, on a surprisingly bright note as he wades through the carnage and debris…