Thursday, 29 September 2011

Marischal Frontage Affront Outrage. Reconditioning and Conditioning


reader comments...

Johanna said...
Have you gone back now, that the building is totally finished and the brickwork is dry???

The reason it looks blotchy was when you took the photos,
it had not long finished raining and the facia [sic] was drying out, hence it being blotchy....

Firstly, Johanna thanks for your comment, but no; that's not right, it hadn't been raining. And yes; we have returned many times. Most recently on this beautiful dry hot bright Indian Summer afternoon today. Photos were taken - see below. The state of the facade has definitely not improved. If anything, the bright sunlight today threw the awful condition of the frontage into sharper relief than we'd seen before.

But that's old news now. What mostly surprises us about this matter is the denial which our fellow townspeople continue to exhibit when discussing the [botched] reconditioning of the Marischal College frontage and how [bad] it looks. As we said after our second visit: 
From a distance, or if you're passing through Broad Street in a vehicle, it looks OK-ish. Perhaps that's all that matters to whoever wrote the specification or managed the job on site. We prefer to take a slower, measured and more contemplative and up-close approach to our life within the urban realm, and it is this unhurried and ruminative attitude which has allowed us to notice problems at Marischal. We say that the standard of the work at Marischal is a scandal. We all should be outraged. But it seems we are at variance with the times, for when we try to discuss this issue with our fellow townsfolk, very few of them seem to have noticed. Or if they have, they deny that it's an issue.

While we were there this afternoon, we sat on one of the benches beside the risibly literal new statue of Robert the Bruce, taking the time to look carefully and allow the atrocious state of the frontage to sink into our consciousness; taking the time to think about it and to think about and discuss between us what it means. During this rumination, we couldn't help but overhear some of the comments of the passers-by, comments which struck us with the cognitive dissonance of their stark contrast to what was actually being looked at. "Lovely," said the passers-by... "stunning"... "pristine"... "former glory"; it was as if a press release was being read out loud. We felt like strangers in a strange land where up is down and black is white. Joanna's comment above is not the first contact of its kind we've received on this matter, but it is one of the more polite. The fact that Aberdonians are willing, indeed keen, to disbelieve demonstrable facts and are happy, in the face of incontrovertible evidence, to openly contradict those facts or to make improbable excuses for them says much more about the situation of these Aberdonians than it does about the uncomfortable actualities themselves.

This is epiphenomenal. Which is to say that what we can learn about Aberdeen's people through their willing and wilful self-delusion on this matter tells us more about how Aberdonians fit themselves into the wider societal context than it does about their abilities as architecture critics. It tells us about the perceptual filters which these people are happy to don rather than confront a disappointing or difficult truth. It tells us of a false consciousness and an almost Pavlovian conditioning to which these people have, willingly or unconsciously, submitted or been subjected. This conditioning has rendered the populace compliant, unquestioning, malleable and directable. We can't help but wonder if there are other matters, matters more serious than the mere fucking up of a building reconditioning project, about which the Aberdonian public are willingly misled and are happy to wilfully misunderstand.
And we can't help wondering, thinking of the future, what other obfuscations of inconvenient truths will this emperor's-new-cloths-blind population be happy to swallow whole? And what beliefs, however egregious and incorrect, might be planted in the conditioned-compliant group-consciousness? And, in defence of these beliefs, what actions will those people be happy - eager, even- to take?