I love innovation, so well done the RA both for an exhibition featuring truly amazing installations, all created by architects of international standing. They have also invited an array of shiny poets, to share their poetry on the theme of ‘Sensing Space’ or perhaps they invited themselves.
‘How do spaces make us feel’ says the blurb. Well I am a dab hand at enjoying small spaces, my camper van, my beach hut and my allotment shed, make me feel safe, happy, even creative! But what did I feel as I investigated the amazing installations at the RA with a friend? A mixture of curious, happy, surprised, intrigued, exhausted, despite the fact I did not even attempt to climb the neat flight of stairs to the roof of one of the installations.
Today there is a special event, where established poets situated in or around the installations that have inspired them, read their new poems.
We had spent a couple of hours in the exhibition already so this was a bonus. But it was quite difficult to locate who was reading where, and with no sound system, one or two of the poets appeared to be whispering in the dark.
Later we discovered Catherine Smith, who appeared to be hiding in a giant packing case reading ‘Sanctuary’ appropriate in the circumstances, and in response to the installation by Lia Xiaodong. She later joined two other poets in front of an impressive installation, (a huge wooden structure with secret stairways) where it was easier hear them.
We didn’t find Julie Maclean but enjoyed reading her poem ‘A Forest Went to Upton Cheney for a Walk.’
Abegail Morley read her poem ‘Brink’ inspired by Eduardo Souto de Moura, his quote ‘We design the thresholds and the limits’. Her memorable poem included the line ‘Tangled in fairy-tales, gagged by a buried moon’. She also had the wit to stand on a podium so we were able to hear her.
Luckily there was a beautifully produced book of the poems, entitled ‘Sensing Spaces’ ‘Wandering Words’ ‘Ekphrasis at the RA’. Published by Joy Lane Publishing and given away free! What a treat! Now we could read the poems on the train on the way home.
I spent ages trying to find Ian Duhig who wasn’t there, but no one seemed to know who was there and who wasn’t!
‘What does architecture do for our lives’, was another question. Well a great deal when walking exploring the exhibition and of course walking round London, looking at the buildings of the past, houses, markets, churches, pillars, arches, spires, stone carvings etc. Or in Paris, one of my favourite places is the Quai D’Orsay, a converted railway station full of wonderful works of art, where the architecture gives light, space, contrasts, makes me feel optimistic, part of the world.
However on the south coast where I live, near Brighton it seems that architects don’t seem to exist. Wonderful buildings are left to fall apart ready for the developers to make a quick buck, building flat- pack mouse-sized flats.
But this exhibition certainly gives a taste of how architecture if given a chance can enhance our lives. There is also a film about those who are responsible for the installations which is worth a taking a look.
I wonder if the RA can see the irony? This amazing exhibition is right next door to the much heralded completed facilities ‘The Keeper’s House’ for friends of the RA.
Last time I visited I wondered where are all those sumptuous leather couches had gone that my mother and I delighted to sit on over the years, drinking coffee, eating cake. Where I had sometimes struck up a conversation with a stranger, or attempted a new poem sitting in the window eating salad. What a memorable atmosphere that room had.
Regrettably, the space is now full of white plastic tables and black chairs, it could be a cafe just about anywhere. Today I discover there is a small adjacent room with small navy blue velveteen settees, regrettably the room looks and feels like an airport lounge.
I venture downstairs for the first time, where there is a soulless cocktail bar in bright red, (drinks at £9.50) and a very ornate and expensive restaurant, both empty! (but to be fair it was 3.30). I am not sure why my subscription should have been used for these facilities that are obviously for the rich, who surely could be called upon to support the RA anyway.
One could be forgiven for thinking the RA have taken on a new franchise and are no longer interested in the ‘old school’, people who have supported them over the years and still do. Some like me, who travel up to the RA on their Senior Rail Card. Even the food in the first Friends room has rocketed in price and where is the trolley with jugs of water? Gone!
Having got that off my chest, best not waste the feel good factor of ‘Sensing Spaces’ a minute longer. It is an epic exhibition and if you can get hold of that poetry book, you’ll also be able to enjoy a wealth of new poetry written by poets who were inspired in so many different ways.