in yesterday's (i think) new york times, there was an article about the re-building of biloxi, miss. the conversation that is going on right now in a lot of those hurricane-ravaged areas revolves, as the times put it, around "'re-building' not 're-creating'."

this is a particularly ripe area of artistic investigation for a lot reasons. most of that investigation is too boring, or too involved, or too mentally masturbatory, to go into. so, mostly, i guess the shorthand version is this: is an exact copy of the mona lisa a masterpiece, too?

in biloxi, the question is: the residents know that they can't re-create what they had, but how do they want it changed?

committees are being formed. the large steel wheels of bureaucracy are grinding into motion. inside these committees and amongst the bureaucrats are people that need a place to live. need is a powerful thing, but so is permanence--as in re-building a town is a serious undertaking. all those guys know this, and they're being serious about it. i wish them luck.

the townspeople are saying "we want it back." architects and thier ilk are saying "let's do it Right." and right there in the middle of it all is a five million pound word: Design.

i'm very skeptical of this word, Design. If you've ever seen me say it, i probably was fluttering my hands around my head while looking mock-doe-eyed and standing on my toes. i would put the emphasis on a wavering second syllable, like this: da-zIIGNnnn...

Design is scary to me because within its ruminations lie the future of humans on earth.

the farmer lays out a field, a village arranges the placement of houses, cities ponder a grid of parks and streets. these are all issues of design on a small scale. but, then, what has happened is that the farmer's field, the village's borders and the city's street have all bumped up against each other--literally and figurately. Design has stepped into the fray and has announced that it's gonna sort the whole thing out.

the mona lisa used to be a much larger painting. She used to have columns and greenery on either side of her. She was only a part of a bigger picture. Somewhere along the way, before the mona lisa was an icon for the word "masterpiece," someone cut off the sides of the painting so it would fit into a particular frame. My major question, when it comes to design, isn't the "exact copy question." My question is, "would it still be a masterpiece if those columns were still there?" Like the deal is, and what i hope Design figures out, is that the secret to human interaction
lies in the rough edges.

For the townspeople, i gotta say, that if ya don't let the Designers come in and do what they want, then another form of design, perhaps even more powerful, will lead the way: the Marketplace. (And you don't even wanna hear what i do with my body when i say that word.) wal-mart will pave your city over in a heartbeat, biloxi. please don't let them do that.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Walter, I love reading your posts! I agonize about what to say in a short little comment, but it "sounds" as if you just let it flow as you think. I really appreciate you and your inquiring/reacting mind. The Mom (Piepmeier, that is)