This week on Cultureteca, Katherine Mansfield’s short satirical drama ‘Stay-Laces’, published in The New Age a hundred years ago in early November 1915; the RIBA House of the Year award process gets underway in the United Kingdom on Channel 4; Natalia Stachon’s solo exhibition ‘Omitted Center’ opens at the Loock Galerie in Berlin; and the release of Fallout 4 awaits.
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‘Stay-Laces’ by Katherine Mansfield
From February 1910 until October 1917, Katherine Mansfield contributed more than thirty short pieces to The New Age, the British weekly review of politics, literature, and art which had been under the editorship of A. R. Orage since 1907. These ranged from letters, travelogues, reviews, satirical sketches, and pastiches to original works of poetry and short fiction. They included in 1910 the important early short story ‘Frau Brechenmacher Attends a Wedding’; and in 1917, ‘Mr Reginald Peacock’s Day’ and early versions of ‘Pictures’, ‘Feuille d’Album’, and ‘A Dill Pickle’, all of which would appear in the collection Bliss and Other Stories.
Mansfield began writing for The New Age shortly after a trip to Bavaria, during which she had been introduced to the work of Anton Chekhov. Returning to London, she became close to Orage and his then-partner Beatrice Hastings: she and Hastings were briefly lovers, while she credited Orage for encouraging her to edit her stories and introduce a starker, less sentimental form of realism.
Influenced by the First World War, and by emerging practises in drama and the cinema, from 1915 Mansfield wrote increasingly experimental dialogues for The New Age. One hundred years ago this week, 4 November 1915, The New Age published her short dramatic piece ‘Stay-Laces’, a text just two-and-a-half pages long.
By Katherine Mansfield (1915)
Mrs. Busk : I do hope I’m not late, dear, but I’ve just had my hair washed, and you know what that means for me. Even with that huge electric thing with the elephant’s trunk for the air to come through it takes hours and hours to dry. The man said to-day he had never seen longer or thicker hair.
Mrs. Bone : . . . !
Mrs. Busk : On the contrary. Good Heavens! I’d give anything on earth to get rid of it. You see, I can’t do it fashionably; I can’t pack it away and scrape it all up into a wisp like you can, darling. . . You’ve cut one little military side-whisker since I saw you. . . . Awfully dinky! But you ought to put a spot of spirit gum under it to make it lie flat on your cheek. Otherwise, it doesn’t look the real thing. I mean it doesn’t look intentional in the slightest. Well, you see, I didn’t notice it myself until just this moment, and I’m awfully observant, as you know. . . New hat, too, isn’t it?
Mrs. Bone : . . . ?
Mrs. Busk : Oh, sweet! Oh, perfectly sweet little absurdity! I love its weeness and the way it perches. Oh, my dear, imagine if we could have seen one of these hats two years ago. . . How we would have screamed! . . . Oughtn’t that one of yours be worn a little further over the face. I mean, rather more over one eye? Try it. Oh, no, darling, not as much as that. . . A little more to the right – a little tug to the left – now just a shade further off your head. That’s alright. I mean that will do until you get to a glass.
Mrs. Bone : . . . ! . . . !
Mrs. Busk : Oh, no, not a bit conspicuous. But if I were you, I’d try wearing it with the back to the front. That ducky little bird thing is lost at the back, and I believe you are one of those rare women who can wear a bird over your nose.
Mrs. Bone : . . .
Mrs. Busk : We had better take a penny ’bus. Oh, how I do loathe getting on ’buses – keep close to me. It’s no good your getting on if I don’t, dear. Look at that enormous man in front of me – just look. And he simply won’t move. He simply won’t make any effort to get out of my way. Don’t push so, please. Pushing won’t help you. Who is pushing like this?
Lady in Grey : Let me pass, please. Kindly move to one side, and let me assist my Mother on to the bus. My Mother is an in-va-leed. Carefully please. A lady wishes to get by. Move quite to one side, please. Do not suffocate an in-va-leed lady!
(The ’bus goes off).
Mrs. Busk : How ridiculous! How absurd – behaving as though it was a shipwreck. She should have waited for an empty ’bus. She can’t be in a hurry if the Mother really is an invalid. Which I’m not at all sure of. Look! What do you think? Right at the bottom of the ’bus. . . . Perfectly well and strong, I should say. Of course, her head wobbles; but, then, whose head wouldn’t at that age? No, I’m not suspicious by nature; in fact, I’m not suspicious enough; but, at the same time, women like that. . .
Stout Lady : You have heard about poor Muriel?
Friend : Oh, my dear, not another! Why the last is not more than ten months old. Why does she have them like this one after the other? And she is so young, and she was so pretty – such a sweet, slight figure. And that pokey little passage of her flat continually jammed up with a hideous pram. It is too bad and especially at a time like this, when everything is so frightfully expensive, and there is always the chance of the nurse failing you at the last moment. When does she expect?
Stout Lady : Nothing of the kind.
Friend : What do you mean, dear? I thought you said quite definitely a moment ago.
Stout Lady : Nothing of the kind. (Mysteriously.) She was operated on yesterday morning.
Friend : Oh, how dreadful! Oh, what ever for?
Stout Lady : A frightful operation. She was two hours under the chloroform, and the surgeon had to Stand On A Chair.
Friend : But what ever was it, dear?
Stout Lady : Internal, of course.
Friend : But, what, love?
Stout Lady (triumphant) : I cannot possibly tell you in a ‘bus.
Friend : How too frightful. Whisper!
Stout Lady : Im-possible!
Conductor : Selfridge’s! Sel-fridges.
Mrs. Busk : Jump, dear, jump. It’s easy to see you’re not a Londoner. Wasn’t that fearfully interesting? I wonder what it really was. But such extraordinary things do happen nowadays, that I don’t see why she couldn’t say it, even in a ’bus. I thought the war had done away with the idea that there was anything you couldn’t speak about. I mean the things one reads in the papers, and the wounded that one even sees in the streets have made such a difference haven’t they? I love the wounded, don’t you? Oh, I simply love them. And their sweet blue and red uniforms are so cheerful and awfully effective, aren’t they? I can’t think who thought of that bright red tie against that bright blue. It’s such a note, isn’t it? . . . Let me see, what is it I really do want to see first!
Mrs. Bone : . . . !
Mrs. Busk : It’s always the same at this shop. It’s always packed. I was only saying to Cecil at breakfast this morning that I redly think it’s awfully bad taste to go on buying just as usual at a time like this. Don’t you? He absolutely agreed. Of course, there are necessary things that you simply can’t do without – like corsets, for instance. Do you know where the corset department is in this place? Ask that woman in blue with the earrings. Aren’t the assistants extraordinary here? I mean lots of them are university women, or daughters of very wealthy men – stockbrokers, you know, whose thing-ma-bobs have fallen so dreadfully since the war started. That woman in blue – really – you might see her photograph in the “Sketch.” Which is the Corset Department, please?
Acid Lady : Ask an assistant. I am trying on a hat.
Mrs. Busk : Good Heavens! What an awful mistake! But, really, she had something of the shop assistant about her, hadn’t she? The earrings – and that enormous coloured comb. . . .
Sweet Thing : Corsets, madam?
Mrs. Busk : Yes. I want to see some corsets that faster down in the front.
Mrs. Bone : . . . !
Mrs. Busk : Oh, my dear, haven’t you seen them? They’ve been in the newspapers for weeks. They lace down the front with just a little bit of elastic to give you a grip just where you want it. I should think they would be a very good idea, and so easy to get in and out of.
Sweet Thing : We are selling a lot of this model madam. You see it has the slashed hip as well, and it washes beautifully. In fact, it is far better after it has been washed. Some of our clients wash them even before they put them on. They wash so beautifully.
Mrs. Busk : Really! But is there any advantage in washing them immediately?
Sweet Thing : Oh. no advantage of course madam, except, of course, that they do, as I say – wash beautifully. And here is another style a little higher, to grip the bust as well as the hips and the back.
Mrs. Busk : Does that wash, too?
Sweet Thing : Well, not as well as the first I showed you. And here is a French model, madam. Sweet, isn’t it, with two little forget-me-nots on each side of the front.
Mrs. Rusk : How is that for washing?
Sweet Thing : We couldn’t guarantee the flowers from fading, madam.
Mrs. Busk : Oh, wouldn’t you, really? What a pity. It’s the only pair that I really like very much. I think, then, I’d better leave it and think it over. Thank you. It’s no good getting them if they are really not reliable. Good-morning.
Mrs. Bone : . . . !
Mrs. Busk : Neither do I, my dear I’ve never had a pair washed in my life. How extraordinary! I never thought of that. But perhaps it is just as well I don’t think it is a good idea to have them fastening down the front. You see, I don’t see what is to prevent little blobs of flesh from poking through the holes. One is so much softer in front than at the back.
Mrs. Bone : . . . !
Mrs Busk : Yes, that’s what I thought. The port would be a great comfort. Shall we go back and have another look? I didn’t feel we exhausted the problem a bit, did you? The girl wasn’t really helpful – with all that rubbish about washing or not washing.
Mrs. Bone : . . .
Mrs. Busk : A very good idea. We’ll go up to the palm court, have a quiet lunch, and go back after. The thing to do at lunch is to order two sixpenny dishes, and each have half of the other’s. . . Look at that enormous Indian creature in khaki. . . . Do you think you could ever be attracted by a dark man? I mean. Oh, you know. . . .
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Grand Designs: RIBA House of the Year
The process for determining the RIBA House of the Year 2015 began its slow march on Wednesday. RIBA – the Royal Institute of British Architects – and Channel 4 have teamed up to present a new television series called ‘Grand Designs: RIBA House of the Year’, fronted by Kevin McCloud, which over the course of four weeks will whittle down a longlist of twenty domestic spaces to a shortlist of seven. Finally on 25 November, the winner will be announced live on air.
The RIBA House of the Year replaces the previous RIBA Manser Medal, which was established in 2001. As with its predecessor, the award is given to the best home designed by an architect in the United Kingdom. The judges for 2015 consist of chairperson Jonathan Manser, of Manser Practice; Mary Duggan, of Duggan Morris Architects; Chris Loyn, of Loyn & Co, the Manser Medal winner in 2014 for Stormy Castle, a contemporary house built on a hillside in Gower, Wales; James Standen, of Hiscox, the special insurance firm which is this year’s sponsor; and Tony Chapman, RIBA Head of Awards.
‘Grand Designs: RIBA House of the Year’ comes after Burntwood School in Wandsworth, London, was last month declared the winner of the RIBA Stirling Prize 2015, the most prestigious architecture award in the United Kingdom. The first two shortlisted houses announced on Wednesday were Sussex House, a barn of cross-laminated timber stands overlooking the Sussex Downs, designed by Wilkinson King Architects; and Flint House in Buckinghamshire, with flint cladding and a small rivulet cutting through its interior, designed by Skene Catling de la Peña.
Cefn Castell, Cricieth, Wales. Architect: Stephenson Studio
House on Church Road, Belfast, Northern Ireland. Architect: Hall McKnight Architects
Cliff House, Gower, Wales. Architect: Hyde + Hyde Architects
Courtyard House, London, England. Architect: Dallas Pierce Quintero
Dundon Passivhaus, Compton Dundon, England. Architect: Prewett Bizley Architects
Fitzroy Park House, London, England. Architect: Stanton Williams
Flint House, Buckinghamshire, England. Architect: Skene Catling de la Peña
Folly Farm, Berkshire, England. Architect: Frances and Michael Edwards Architects
House in Formby, Merseyside, England. Architect: shedkm
Grillagh Water, Londonderry, Northern Ireland. Architect: Patrick Bradley Architects
Kew House, London, England. Architect: Piercy & Company
Levring House, London, England. Architect: Jamie Fobert Architects
House at Maghera, County Down, Northern Ireland. Architect: McGonigle McGrath
The Mill, Scottish Borders, Scotland. Architect: WT Architecture
Pobble House, Dungeness, England. Architect: Guy Hollaway Architects
Stackyard, Diss, England. Architect: Mole Architects
Sussex House, West Sussex, England. Architect: Wilkinson King Architects
Vaulted House, London, England. Architect: vPPR Architects
Victoria Road, Belfast, Northern Ireland. Architect: Hall McKnight Architects
Westmorland, Liverpool, England. Architect: Snook Architects
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Natalia Stachon: Omitted Center at the Loock Galerie
Born in Katowice, Poland in 1976 and currently living and working in Berlin, Natalia Stachon’s minimal art conjures architecture grown dilapidated, uprooted, still in progress, or never used. Her sculptures, spacious yet tentative, their polished and transparent surfaces in ceaseless interplay with the natural light, utilise the clean lines of galvanised and stainless steel, rubber, plexiglass cylinders, crumpled copper sheets, pulleys and ropes. A recent series of signs also incorporated aluminium and neon; and beyond sculpture, her art includes photorealistic drawings in charcoal and pencil.
‘Omitted Center’ will see Stachon’s first foray into film, alongside new sculptural works. Stachon cites the cut-up texts of William Burroughs and the poetry of Emily Dickinson as the twin inspirations of ‘Omitted Center’. In particular, she dwells on the idea of ‘circumference’: a term used by Dickinson in an early 1862 letter to Thomas Higginson, in which she encapsulated her poetry with the suggestion ‘My Business is Circumference -‘.
Stachon prefaces her exhibition with the following lines:
‘Of nearness to her sundered Things
The Soul has special times –
When Dimness – looks the Oddity –
Distinctness – easy – seems –
(Emily Dickinson, 1862)
But I am not one in space I am one in time—Metal time—Radioactive time—So of course I tried to keep you all out of space—
That is the end of time—
(William S. Burroughs, 1964)’
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With the release of Bethesda’s Fallout 4 imminent, here in anticipation is the game’s announcement trailer from back in June; the launch trailer released on Thursday; and a compilation of trailers reaching across the series’ four numbered installments.