Our previously-thwarted Cité de l’architecture et du patrimoine and Musée national des arts asiatiques-Guimet trip was finally completed on Saturday, but perhaps, in retrospect, the universe was trying to tell us something when it prevented us from going a couple of weeks ago.
First up was Cité, which was the site of the previously-mentioned AUA exhibit. Confined to an admittedly-large room, it was a pictorial and textual history of an architecture group which became somewhat of a movement between 1965 and 1985, and the buildings that said group produced.
One can see where they were going with the presented designs, and how they were trying to change how people lived by filtering said people through the living space, but I can’t help but wonder if that’s the root of the problem; the architects were filtering people through their buildings, expecting the filtration to change them, as opposed to accommodating the way that people lived. If you create a filing system and nobody uses it because it doesn’t organize the files in a meaningful way, it is a failure, isn’t it? The blame can’t always lay with the people not “following the procedure,” can it? The flip side of that argument is “how else can you change people, if not by gently altering their course?” The answer: I don’t know. The immediate answer might be “incentivization,” but I’m not sure that’s right either, and it neglects a fact that culturally, Americans have either forgotten or simply don’t give a shit about: economics is not a system of morality. It’s an optimization (with the caveat that optimization is the improvement of a process towards a single output: one optimizes for cost or for constructability or for schedule or for environmental friendliness or for whatever; simply saying “optimize it” is a sure sign of a dumbass) for a specific (note: not necessarily “best,” because then somebody has to define “best”) outcome…
That’s a rabbit hole that I don’t know if I should go down.
So I suppose the essence of the exhibit was that this architectural group built a bunch of ugly, ridiculous crap (this from someone who’s oft-partial to brutalism), some of which is still around today, and about which, when I had seen it, I had wondered “who the fuck built this stuff?”
Walking around the rest of the museum again (we went a little over a year ago), which is filled with casts of various significant edifices is indeed fun, even if I had to resist the temptation to pull the keystones from the little block arches that the museum encourages you (kids, really… so yeah, I played with the arch blocks) to carefully build.
The less said about Guimet, the better. Endless copies of Thai-style buddhas aren’t my thing, and even the exhibit, the tantalizingly-named Tigres de papier, was short on tigers: we counted 12, four of which came from the drawing that was used on the poster.
I’d quote Blake here, but I’m not a) drunk or b) feeling particularly morose, so I’ll save it. I also like Blake, and did not like paper tigers, so fuck it.