Fernand Pouillon, Les Pierres Sauvages (Translated as: The Stones of Le Thoronet or The Stones of the Abbey),
The author's biographical note in my English translation describes Pouillon's writing of the book due to 'temporary retirement' under 'special circumstances.' The architect— who designed the Diar el Mahçoul district of Algiers, André Masson's studio near Aix en Provence, and was involved in the post-war reconstruction of Marseille's Vieux Port—was actually in prison. In the early 1960s he was imprisoned on corruption charges (most likely inflated and politically motivated), dramatically escaped, fled to North Africa (with the aid of groups sympathetic to the liberation of Algeria), returned for a second trial where he was exonerated of the original crimes but sentenced for a lesser period for his escape. It was during this second incarceration when he wrote Les Pierres Sauvages, a fictionalized diary of a monk involved in the construction of the medieval Cistercian monastery Le Thoronet in Provence. The writing is lucid and descriptive. There's no need to know of Pouillon's 'special circumstances', but if you do, then the echoing of his personal confinement and architectural idealism throughout the novel makes into a sort of gloriously knotted metaphoric autobiography.
Dorothy Iannone: A Cookbook
Dorothy Iannone is an incredible artist and probably an accomplished chef. While her cookbook does include recipes and culinary techniques—there are instructions for how to prepare a salade nicçoise and suggestions for the arrangement of a kitchen—it is an epistle of love and its complications. Through the weaving of colourful handwritten texts and drawings, the book records feelings fleeting and profound and is dedicated to her partner at the time, the Swiss artist Dieter Roth. Iannone and Roth shared attention to the universal found in the immediate and mundane. The integration of eating, drinking, socialising and art was fundamental for Roth, too. Iannone and Roth lived in Iceland (as well as Germany and Switzerland) until the mid-1970s. Later in life, Roth acquired a home in the town of Seyðisfjörður in the east of Iceland where he was instrumental in establishing Skaftfell: Center for Visual Art, a place which combines a gallery and a bistro (designed by Bjorn Roth, Dieter's son). I'm very proud to be the director of an institution for which food and culture are instruments of social cohesion.
James Scott Art films
From the 1960s, the English artist and filmmaker James Scott created a series of films about and with artists. Each week during the global quarantine, he has been releasing a different film through vimeo.com. So far films with David Hockney and Richard Hamilton have been released. This week's film is Fragments (2019), a portrait of the English artist Derek Boshier who now lives in LA. Not only are Scott and Boshier of the same generation but being English and in LA are further biographical facts they share. Perhaps it is from being an artist himself that Scott appears to allow a casualness between his subjects and the camera. It obviously isn't the intent of the filmmaker to chase the philosophical imperative of the artists' work but rather watch them as they make, talk and think about what it is to make art.
Enzo Mari, Autoprogettazione
The imposition of a housebound existence created a need of more tables for our family, more places from which to homeschool and home-work. We turned to the Italian designer Enzo Mari's Autoprogettazione from 1974, a manual for the furniture maker driven by necessity but limited in tools, materials and skill. The book is a type of open-source, offering designs of all the basics a home would need: beds, tables, chairs, shelves, etc., which can be made with standard dimension lumber, a saw, hammer and bag of nails. Mari has long been a committed communist and the book feels like a socially generous invitation, its straightforward approach mirrored in the functional brutalism of the designs, and particularly apposite that now there is no longer any compulsion to buy the book, as pirated scanned versions are available as PDFs online.
I lived in Marseille for a number of years and miss its cacophonous, lawless energy. It is a noisy city, and those sounds often contain the harmonies of the places from which the city's inhabitants originate. It can make the city feel only nominally French. I often listen to the Marseille radio station Radio Grenouille. Its repertoire mirrors the many of the facets of the city and its people. And there's a sense of community with radio; listening alone from somewhere distant you can feel part of an unknown public, a community of sound, on the edge of the Mediterranean.