This chilly Easter weekend I’m in Paris for the 3rd Conference of the European Narratology Network. Here’s some pics of the venue: a lovely and extremely varied campus, if a little run-down in places:
The delegates gather.
Brian Richardson delivers the one of the first keynote speeches on Friday morning.
Human sacrifices entirely absent!
Exciting but brutal modernist workout. Derelict.
Interesting juxtaposition: Bauhaus-style building with man-monkey statues.
Raphaël Baroni delivers the final keynote on Saturday afternoon.
The conference? I delivered my paper yesterday and it went as well as could be expected. Overall? Let’s just say that I found the limits of my interest in narrative quite early on…
Our first exhibit: the full-length documentary Requiem for Detroit by Julien Temple from 2010:
The other side of the coin? A more positive view in a Johnny Knoxville fronted show from vice.com (30 mins):
And to round off here’s a photo essay and commentary from Wired entitled Captivating Photos of Detroit Delve Deep to Reveal a Beautiful, Struggling City.
As the West spirals into decline, is this a glimpse of the future, or simply an aberration? One slightly more trivial point: apart from a mention of Richie Hawtin—born in Britain, grew up in Canada!—in the Julien Temple film, the absence of any discussion of Detroit Techno (or, indeed, any music on the soundtracks) is jarring feature of both films. Plenty of mentions and appearances by the old guard (Motown, MC5, Stooges, etc.) needless to say.
All very strange…
Another quick visit to Dublin. No time to look around, but plenty of dead time in airports. Fortunately I took Brian Eno’s A Year With Swollen Appendices to keep me company—his diary-with-essays from 1996—and consequently came home feeling much smarter. Coincidentally, there are a number of entries in the book about his own visits to Dublin, so keeping in the spirit of things here’s an ambient photo-essay on the airport:
Most years I get the opportunity to go to Dublin on business and it’s a place I’ve grown very fond of. Not sure I’d want to live there: financial crisis aside, the city has some serious structural faults that I’m sure test the resolve of even the most patient residents. The lack of a rail link to the airport seems bizarre, and the subsequent reliance on the roads is compromised by the endemic bottlenecks. The whole city seems to exist in a state of perpetual gridlock.
On the plus side, the Dart is the epitome of a civilized urban transport system, and I also particularly like the technoid bleeps and rimshots made by the pedestrian crossings. The people, of course, are lovely…
This year I explored the newly-developed area down toward the Grand Canal Docks: here are a few images (iPhone 4S).
The new Convention Centre and the Beckett Bridge seen from Sir John Rogerson’s Quay. In the background, and below, evidence of the financial crisis is all too visible:
All the way down City Quay and along Sir John Rogerson’s Quay there’s plenty of slick post-modernist architecture, mostly housing financial institution:
…which ends abruptly as you reach where the Liffey, Dodder, and the Grand Canal meet. The graffiti-strewn wasteland at the point is the site of a proposed bridge across to York Road, much needed but apparently a victim of the Recession:
After circling back via Hanover Quay - did I really walk past U2’s studio? - we’re back into the high-PoMo island of Grand Canal Square:
Which brings us back onto Pearse Street and directly back to the hotel:
Whilst in London last week I walked back from the South Bank to Victoria on two consecutive evenings. As I walked down Victoria Street the first night I was looking into the reception areas and foyers of the all-but-deserted office buildings, the shops, the restaurants, and it struck me how odd these places were at night.
Consequently, the next night I decided to do something about it and zig-zagged my way up the street, quickly shooting into the interiors. I say quickly, because the security guards did not look all that amused about being photographed, and there has been at least one incident in London of the Police demanding that images be deleted from cameras in the interests of “security.” I’m not just being paranoid: that night the whole place was crawling with Police because of political demos in Trafalgar Square.
Anyway, here are a few of these strange interiors:
All very shiny, all very bright, all very modern. Completely soulless. What on earth do these spaces say about us (apart from the fact we love wasting energy…)?
A couple of weeks ago went on one of our regular family visits to the lovely (and noticeably improving) National Botanic Garden of Wales. Here are a few of the pictures I took. Making no claim to be a great photographer—a point-and-click merchant at heart—I’m really only interested in composition and colour. Or maybe texture. Whatever:
Last week I attended the Designs On eLearning conference at the Fashion Retail Academy in Gresse Street, London W1. I hadn’t been aware of the Academy before and it’s hardly surprising: it’s brand new. According to The Guardian it was set up with money partly from the government and partly from industry, and provides education at FE level (Levels 2 and 3 on the national scale).
Anyway, it’s gorgeous. What a fabulous place to work and learn in. It’s cool and modern without being cold and detached. It’s stylish but utilitarian. It’s been designed. Here’s some pix I took whilst there:
Where I currently work the environment is quite poor: shabby, grey, drab, and with learning spaces laid out like factory floors. It’s completely out of date, both physically and conceptually. How are staff and students alike supposed to be inspired, enthusiastic, and empowered in such an environment? These days when I teach I want a multi-purpose space: perhaps I’ll start a session with a demo using the computer and projector before breaking off for small group work. Later you might find me scribbling madly on a whiteboard in answer to some questions that have come up. We might use cameras or video, and someone might bring in a laptop or a mobile phone with work on and we’ll need to see it and to share it. At the moment this means I often swap rooms in the middle of a session, or else I’ll have to arrive early and set up equipment borrowed from elsewhere. Sometimes—far too often—I can’t do what I would really like to do at all…
The modern learning space needs to be flexible, social, and egalitarian, with technology embedded into and integrated with the space. It needs to be wireless. It needs to be bold and stimulating, because in the 21st Century we really, really, really need to throw off the ball and chain of the 12th Century teaching methods we still use, and that we remain forced into using by the straightjacket of our archaic working environments. JISC published an excellent report last year called Designing Spaces For Effective Learning and in it they say:
A learning space should be able to motivate learners and promote learning as an activity, support collaborative as well as formal practice, provide a personalised and inclusive environment, and be flexible in the face of changing needs.
Well, at least The Fashion Retail Academy look like they’ve got most of the way there. There is hope for us all…