Friday, 5 August 2011

Aliens! Fetishists! Situationists! Psychopathic mice!

There's a bumper crop of stuff by me floating around in August, on a pleasingly wide array of subjects.

In this week's New Statesman (edition of 8 August) I review "Out of This World", the British Library's survey of science fiction ephemera - an exhibition well worth catching before it finishes on 25 September.

On the chunkier side, there are a hat trick of longer, thinkier essays approaching the newsstands. I'm in the first issue of new journal Transgressive Culture, published by Glyphi, reviewing Jonny Trunk's Dressing for Pleasure (FUEL), a compilation of classic fetish magazine AtomAge. I first reviewed Dressing for Pleasure last year for Icon - this is a much more in-depth look at the book, attempting to place it in a cultural context.

In issue 42 of American art quarterly Cabinet, there's an essay by me on the American ecologist John Calhoun. Calhoun was interested in the effects of overcrowding, a phenomenon he explored by building elaborate "utopias" for mice and rats. These "universes" were free of disease and predators and supplied with abundant food and water - all they lacked was space. Rodent populations inside the tanks boomed uncontrollably - and then collapsed into a vortex of rape, violence and social dysfunction. Enthusiastically taken up by the overpopulation doom-mongers of the 1960s and 1970s, Calhoun's research became the "proof" that crowded cities would mean disaster for mankind - but Calhoun's message is a little more complex than that.

More, better, utopias. Under/Current issue 06 has the theme "retro-future", a chance for me to talk about my favo world-that-never-was, Constant's New Babylon. The trouble with utopias is that they tend to be striving, efficiency-minded places. New Babylon was a reaction against that - a paradise for slackers, a world-spanning megastructure geared to wandering, idling and socialising.

And finally - Icon 099 is now on sale, featuring eight pages by me on one of the most exciting design studios in London, BERG. A conversation with BERG is like hearing a friend tell you about a brilliant concept from a science-fiction novel they just read. Only they didn't just read it, they're trying to build it. And look, here's a prototype. They're an interesting bunch, to say the least.


Kosmograd said...

Wil, is there a link to the Under/Current article? I think your hyperlink went missing. I'm fascinated by New Babylon too, with all the love fostered on Archigram it'd be good to see Constant getting more attention.

I was always amazed at how influential Calhoun's research was as evidence of the pathology of mass housing, a huge leap that the environmental determinists seemed to make with ease.

Will said...

Actually it doesn't seem to be out yet - I think I might have jumped the gun a fair distance. I don't like doing too many of these roundup posts so scooped a lot of stuff into this one ... I'm sure it will be out shortly.