Locations in The St Perpetuus Club of Buenos Aires

In Buenos Aires we followed in the footsteps of one of the characters of Eric Stener Carlson’s “The St Perpetuus Club of Buenos Aires”  as he made his way to the Institute for the Study and Resolution of Contested Glacier Frontiers (ISRCGF).

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“I’m sure you’ve seen that wonderful building while window-shopping in Bario Norte. Its eight floors perch just above the gaudy, red canopy of the ‘El Tolón’ Café.

 

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Up and up past all the other apartments until the cupola, a dome shingled like some ancient, grey fish. Mine is the apartment with the smallest window, all the way at the top.

 

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As I go towards the Bulnes subway station, I pass by the mouth of the Alto Palermo shopping centre.

 

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If you go down the steps on the shopping mall side and through the turnstile, there’s no option but taking the line towards ‘Catedral’.

 

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Ah, those colourful tiles by Cattaneo and Co. set into the walls of the ‘D’line’s stations back in 1938!

 

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In Bulnes, the mural ends just before that grey, metal, door recessed into the wall.

 

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On the other side of the tracks, there’s the door’s twin, also always locked.

 

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Within the mural, look for the zafra scene, a nondescript arrangement of sugarcane cutters, machetes held high. Within the scene, there is a picture of a large, brown pulley from which extends a cable going to a spar and a series of hooks.

 

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When you get off at Tribunales, turn right.

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At the other end of the platform, to your right, is another set of stairs going up. You must take these, because above them looms another Cattaneo mural dedicated to the conquistadores – shiny armor, rippling flags, proud ships and all.

 

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Then out the turnstiles and to your right, up the mechanical stairs.

 

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As a testament to Lavalle’s victory, a marble likeness of him thrusts skyward on a column just a block behind you…

 

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Look down at the concrete blocks that compose the walkway.

 

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Starting just where the ornamental fence begins to circle the plaza, you’ll see regular pattern of concrete rectangles 49 cm x 90 cm laid lengthwise.

 

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Hug close to the plumbing supply store but not too close to the terrible synagogue looming to your right.

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But it’s not until you reach the street corner up ahead that, all of a sudden, 9 de Julio Avenue opens up before you, like Machu Picchu rising from the mist…

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The sight of the obelisk, towering 67 metres over the intersection of 9 de Julio, Roque Saenz Pena and Corrientes Avenue, will steady your nerves, reassure you of your goal.

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As you reach Café Madeleine on the corner, you may be feeling rather giddy from the effort.

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Past the cheap bookstand. A little more, and there, you arrive at 719 Pellegrini.

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There was not, however, a squat, grey building encrusted with angels. There was not, for that matter, any building whatsoever.

Abandoned stations in Antarctica

Abandoned sites are found in (former) industrial areas, as highlighted in the post on the Monteponi mine in Sardinia and as photographed by Bernd and Hilla Becher, who are famous for their photographs of industrial buildings, or in cities, as highlighted in a previous post about Abandoned London Underground Stations.

And even Antarctica, although sparsely populated, turns out to have its own abandoned stations, including the camp built by Robert Scott and his party on Ross Island in 1911, an actual ghost town at Whaler’s Bay on Deception Island , and abandoned whaling outposts on South Georgia, another Antarctic Island. These abandoned South Pole sites, the  lonely landscapes, the grim sub-zero temperatures, and its Mountains of Madness, can evoke truly fascinating and haunting experiences.

HT Grim Reviews

Donald Judd’s minimalist art in Marfa, Texas

Minimalism was first recognized as an art and design movement in the 1960’s. The essence of minimalist art is the reduction of the art work to its bare essentials, which is expressed through simple geometric forms, repetition, neutral surfaces, and industrial materials. Minimal  art downplays self-expression  in favor of the object itself,  which is a departure from the abstract expressionistic art from the 1940’s and 1950’s and most of the art that preceded it.

Donald Judd is one of the artists associated with the minimalist movement, although he did not embrace the term minimalism himself. He is perhaps most famous for his simple but powerful objects for which he used materials such as metals, industrial plywood, concrete and color-impregnated Plexiglas.


Judd started out as an artist in New York City, where he purchased 101 Spring Street in 1968, a 5 story cast-iron building in the middle of Soho, that was both his studio and living space.  It is still owned by the Donald Judd foundation and has several of Judd’s permanent installations and a permanent installation by Dan Flavin.

After years in NYC, Judd felt increasingly drawn to the Texas landscape and in 1971 rented a house in Marfa, Texas, where he also purchased several properties and established The Chinati Foundation.

Being an admirer of Judd’s work, I decided to visit Marfa, but considering that the nearest major airport is a few hours away, and since we never had visited Texas, we decided to embark on a road trip through Texas, starting in Houston and ending up in El Paso, passing Marfa on our way.

Our road trip brought us to cities such as Austin, San Antonio and Del Rio, but also included several sites that were used in the classic horror movie The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, including the actual house where the movie was filmed.

Along the road we passed small deserted towns, with a certain authenticity that I have not been able to find outside Texas.

 


And throughout our trip there were beautiful views of the Texas landscape.

Upon our arrival in Marfa, we started with a visit of the Chinati Foundation. The Chinati Foundation is located on 340 acres of land on the site of former Fort D.A. Russell. The collection is open to the public and includes 15 outdoor concrete works by Donald Judd, 100 aluminum works by Judd housed in two converted artillery sheds, sculptures by John Chamberlain, an installation by Dan Flavin occupying former army barracks, and works by several other artists including Carl Andre and Richard Long, with each artist’s work installed in a separate building on the museum’s grounds.

The grounds are accessible by guided tour only with a morning tour of the permanent installations by John Chamberlain, Donald Judd, Ilya Kabakov, Richard Long, and David Rabinowitch and an afternoon tour that includes permanent installations by Carl Andre, Ingólfur Arnarsson, Dan Flavin, Roni Horn, Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen, and John Wesley, as well as the museum’s current temporary exhibition.

The Donald Judd Foundation also has several properties in Marfa that you can visit comprising of a total of 15 spaces. These include the studios installed with artwork—by Judd and others—living quarters, ranch and architecture offices, and libraries.

Besides these impressive locations Marfa also has galleries, several restaurants, a decent bookstore, and interesting other buildings such as the building in the picture below.

In the evening you can either visit the local bar or try your luck with the Marfa Lights, which may be visible near US Route 67, although we have not been able to confirm the existence of these lights.

While staying in Marfa,  The Thunderbird Hotel is an attractive place to spend the night and it also has the option to rent bikes, which is a good alternative to the car when you want to explore the various sights in town.


The Prisoner in Portmeirion

The Prisoner is a British television series from the 1960’s which over the years has reached cult status because of its intriguing story line,  themes such as mind control, dream manipulation and various forms of social indoctrination, and ultimately, a lot of unanswered questions as to the meaning of the series.

The series is about a former British intelligence agent who, after resigning from his position, has been kidnapped and held captive by an unidentified power in an unknown Village. The episodes feature the prisoner, called “Number Six,” who week after week tries to find ways to escape from the island and discover who is behind his imprisonment, only to be disappointed again and again and always ending up back in the Village.

The series is co-created by Patrick McGoohan who also plays Number Six, and almost all episodes start with the classic lines between Number Six and Number Two, the person in charge of the Village, that have become ingrained in my mind:

“Where am I?”
“In the Village.”
“What do you want?”
“Information.”
“Whose side are you on?”
“That would be telling…. We want information. Information! INFORMATION!”
“You won’t get it.”
“By hook or by crook, we will.”
“Who are you?”
“The new Number Two.”
“Who is Number One?”
“You are Number Six.”
“I am not a number — I am a free man!”
(Laughter from Number Two.)

The cult status that the Prisoner has achieved is reflected in the influence the series and its themes have on popular and underground culture. The Iron Maiden album The Number of The Beast features a song called “The Prisoner” with samples from the series. The band Death in June also makes a generous use of Prisoner samples in the remix of “She Said Destroy” on the 93 Dead Sunwheels album. The 1994 movie Killing Zoe features a scene where the bank robbers discuss the Prisoner episode “A. B. and C.”

The Village, with its quaint architectural bricolage, is supposedly an island somewhere in Southern Europe. However, in reality it is the village of Portmeirion, a resort on the coast of Snowdonia in north Wales, created by visionary architect Clough Williams-Ellis from 1925 to 1973.

Over the years, Six of One, the Prisoner Appreciation Society, has held its (almost) annual convention, PortmeiriCon, in Portmeirion, turning Portmeirion back into the Village, including re-enactments of characteristic scenes from the series, such as the human chessboard (“Checkmate”) and the ‘six for two’ election march (“Free for All”).

In 2007, after moving to the UK, I finally had the opportunity to attend a PortmeiriCon convention, and I must say, the trip was worth it. After more than 40 years the Village does not seem to have changed much. Yes, the green dome is no longer green but there are plenty of sights that bring you back to one of the episodes.

During the convention Portmeirion is ‘dressed’ up to portray the Village. Among the reminders  of the series are the signs to find your way around the Village.

They may bring you to the Old Peoples Home along the water with the boat in front of it,  which in reality is the main hotel. In the series the ‘Old People’ are sitting on the deck with the Prisoner visiting them on several occasions.

Or the characteristic Taxi which brings the Prisoner around the Village.

And even Rover, the menacing guard of the Village, is brought back to life.

In addition, there are several indoor events with special guests from the series, the opportunity to see rare Prisoner footage, special lectures, and outdoor re-enactments of scenes. This combined with people dressed in the classic Village wear such as the outfit worn by the Prisoner, which is a black jacket with white piping trim, a dark blue mock-turtleneck shirt, tan slacks and dark blue boating shoes with white soles, makes for a unique, yet geeky, event.

The appeal may be different for everyone but for me the idea of an individual up against an unknown power, unwilling to give up on his principles and continuing his fight to achieve freedom is something that remains inspiring and makes it for me one of the best television series ever.

And although Portmeirion itself is very small, it is an attractive area to visit with beautiful views when the tides set in.


Nowadays Portmeirion is owned by a charitable trust, which uses the majority of the buildings as hotel rooms or self-catering cottages, together with shops, a cafe and restaurant. You can either stay in the hotel, or in one of the self-catering cottages, or visit for the day, but for a true Prisoner fan, the convention is a great attraction making the trip to North Wales even more unique.

Be seeing you.

The Monteponi mine in Sardinia

The Italian Island Sardinia is known for its beautiful beaches, wild countryside, rugged mountains, valleys and plains that formed the background for some of Sergio Leone’s ‘spaghetti western‘ films, but also offers a rich history dating back to the nuragic age circa 1500 BC and is famous in the mining world for the richness of its geology. The mining tradition on Sardinia dates back to prehistoric times, continued through the middle ages until the present day and remnants of this mining past are visible all over the island.

The Monteponi mine near Iglesias is one of these remnants. This lead, zinc and silver mine was for a long time one of the most important mines in Italy, with some of its oldest installations dating back to 1869. It was abandoned decades ago and the abandoned buildings are now left, which is, for the aficionado of old industrial buildings, a gem waiting to be explored.

During the summer season tours are given of the complex, but during our visit in December 2006 we were lucky enough to find the site open for visitors and although we were not able to access any of the buildings, we did have the opportunity to wander around by ourselves and marvel at times gone by.

The site it not enormous and it will not take you too much time to explore it, but it is a nice day trip when you are staying in Cagliari or a nice stop when you are touring the island.