I haven't played with lego - like really played with it - since I was a teenager. Lego was the number one toy in the house, and it took a lot of my time. When you are really playing with Lego, you're in a trance, and the world goes away. As a teenager I'd lose days at a time.
Yesterday I got sucked into this trance again at the City Gallery's Demented Architecture exhibition. There's this table with a million white lego brinks on in, and you just sit down and make whatever you want. Its a smart choice to make all the bricks white because that means your choices are limited and you're more inventive. Usually the issue with being inventive with lego is that there are two many choices, too many ways of doing things. You think you can make something that looks realistic, but it ends up falling short. Here, the choice of pieces encourages fast, vertical building. The towers look like they belong together even through they are all very different. They are usually topped by hearts or crosses. You can take bits of of other towers if you want, which is funny because you start to think about which buildings are worth preserving. The oldest ones? The biggest ones? The most architecturally significant ones? Not only do have a city being built, but a kind of society takes shape around it too.
It was great just to be at a big table full of people silently making stuff. A very rare environment to be in and a very comfortable one - kind of unreal. It's so unusual as an adult to be creative with strangers, so un-self-consciously. You share and you admire the work around you. You see kids at their best. One group of kids made me smile, because I remembered how when making a model, most of my time was spent on doing what I thought was the 'one last thing'. That's what these kids were saying to their mum, for at least half an hour - 'I just need to finish this'. Lies! I thought to myself. The X-wing, Y-wing and AT-AT I created at my peak as a lego engineer took days and days, and most of that time was 'finishing touches'. The cockpit could be slightly better- the shape of the wings is not quite right... Then you accidentally smash the whole thing, and scream a little, and then its a half hour's work just to get back to where you were before. Eating meals is real inconvenience at times like these. There's never just one more thing to do.
My favourite art and cultural experiences are those where you step outside afterwards and the world is a bit different. Having been part of group of architects, building and evolving a city, the real world buildings around me started to look like weird, provisional projects too. It made me see the city as an improvised project. Amazing really that it turned out so well.
More about Demented Architecture here
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