Talk by Mitchell Akiyama: 'A Weight, a Course, a Coursing'
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I have been to so many talks since entering the art world: creative, technical, philosophical, and scientific, but i honestly can't remember what any of them were about or who was on the panel or what was even said. god help me. I have kept the vaguest memories tho, of butterflies, feminism, artists selling items on the dark web or talking about their big boring paintings. ideas go in 1 ear and out the other, slowly slowly over the course of time or until I don’t need them anymore. still I go to talks, because like petrol for my thinking, they help bump me over the next hill. Whether the chat is cool or boring, it expands the world a little and without going anywhere i feel travelled.
as a part of the ICA’s In Formation III, a series of talks n events that rethink the institution and how its spaces can be used, scholar-composer-artist Mitchell Akiyama was invited over from Toronto to 1. do an installation in the studio and 2. deliver his talk ‘A Weight, a Course, a Coursing,’ both of which i attended tonight. I am writing this in bed, pulling together my notes and new memories, and failing not to jump over to youtube every five minutes bc if I’m honest my concentration was over-stretched - Akiyama’s talk was roving. It was like, here are these 10 different ideas and things that people have said, if you hold them all in your mind at the same time, don’t they just sorta make sense? But the funny thing was that ye, they did there and then. He was speaking around the idea that buildings might have feelings or consciousness, that maybe space was not just space but something else. Buildings could get sick and effect their inhabitants ; ; ; or have you thought that their corridors and negative space could push thru a whole circulation that is active with or without human presence? his thinking walked from haunted houses to cybernetics (relational, feedback loops, input and output, constantly updating and learning) and ended with intelligent architecture. As Akiyama spoke, I had this image in my head of everyone in the world opening their window at the same time. I thought about that tweet from the other day, ‘EVERYONE MILLY ROCK AT THE SKY WE CAN TURN THIS HURRICANE AROUND.’ existence like a soft whooshing sound (Alexa, find the ghosts. but the ghosts are gone, floating away with the whooshing). The acoustics in the upper gallery were not very good and I kept missing words, which tbh only lent itself to the waviness of the content. I really couldn’t stop thinking about ghosts and how haunted my Nan’s is. ever since I was little I used to rush dangerously down the stairs bc of the heavy feeling that something was behind me. found out my cousins felt the same, n when I was a teenager I was told the man who previously lived there had hung himself on the landing. Jonesy. i still rush away from that boxy carpeted space to this day.
At one point, Akiyama read a quote from something Adrian Forty had written that I went up n asked him for at the end because it kinda academically justified a lot for me (not that I need that twitter verification from clever people but because it articulates something I believe, fills tha brain gap more comfortably). it goes, ‘(Paul) Frankl, in the Principles of Architectural History, was just as aware of movement as the agency of perception as he was of it as a functional property of architecture. There is in certain buildings, as he puts it, a ‘great flood of movement that urges us round and through the building.’ In other words, movement, so to speak, is there in the building before anyone has arrived, and it is not the people who move, but space itself that goes round and round.’ it is worth going to talks just for these nice moments of clarity. that flood of movement must go diagonally down the stairs in my nan’s over and over i can SEE it, go like video game energy currents, or that amazing-amazing website that shows the live wind map which I always visit, idk why. Because I am an art critic and I spend so much time visiting galleries /big, little, white/ I was thinking about how their architecture pushes me round space. i got smaller, and thought about how very specific curation of something like a solo show can be a hand on my shoulder taking me round the art. image 2 image, around a sculpture the right way instead of any other way. I understand that as curation, and when the art is affecting, it’s as tho the curation becomes atmosphere. I tweeted last week ‘all I ever want is an exhibition with an atmosphere’ because not only is it a fresh n damp soil 2 write from, but it just IS an aesthetic experience: makes a shift in time and space (when it is achieved, which is rare i think). Transformative. take the temperature before and after the art is installed. So, in the ‘does anyone have a questions’ section, I was glad for a person on the front row to put their hand up and ask this wild dreamy picture of a question about what happens to atmosphere in terms of intelligent housing - and what if the smart home allowed for a t m o sphere to be downloaded into the room, >>>>> wow.
I did think wow, but I went back to my art-thinking because, well, that’s just what a good exhibition can do. in artists + curators we have people who craft atmosphere, who harness ghosts n get a hold of that feeling under your bed; or of old rooms, smells, waiting paintings; they take formlessness to form and formalism. I wish that art was not just rarely good but overwhelming. and i wonder if this was learnt and known, if atmosphere was a more common intention with art, would more people would go to galleries. (i would. i would i would :)).
we've been commissioned to write about n review events in this In formation III series at the ICA, by invitation of curator Carey Robinson. we are also using the texts to engage the ICA's Social Creative Network, and all payment amounts are on our accounts page as ever if u are interested. also important: we r totally allowed to write what we want, otherwise we wouldn't do it.