Sunday 19 February 2012

Devo Max

A very active weekend comprising three good walks and a vigorous session at the gym this morning including a few lengths of the outside pool in bright sunshine and intermittent shower bursts - most invigorating.

Like the Roman (or Muslims in many parts of the world today) I like to exercise, steam, bath and finish with a cold dip. Today this doesn't quite go to plan. I mentioned before that little Richard Branson has taken over running my gym and, while I'm in the steam room, he nips out of his office and closes the hot tub with an officious sign that there is too much chlorine in the water. He's gone by the time I emerge from the steam and I can't find him to suggest he runs some fresh water into the tub until balance is restored. I expect he's too busy with his trains and planes.

Later in the morning I visit the Mission Gallery where there is a remarkable installation by Keith Bayliss called "Hortus Conclusus" (picture above and more on the gallery link I've given). This is Latin for enclosed garden and is a term I recognise as a late Mediaeval metaphor for the Virgin Mary - and reading the blurb it isn't clear but that does seem to be the artist's inspiration.

But to me the piece is distinctly classical and pagan, reminiscent of the cosy little enclosed courtyards in Roman villas (peristyles is the technical term) with water features and pagan religious statuary, painting and mosaics referencing household and more universal deities. I always find them very seductive and mysterious just like Mr Bayliss' piece.

You can see peristyles of course at ground level in excavated villas in Britain, in fossilised "3D" at Pompeii and Herculaneum, and in full working order (though shorn of the pagan bits) in the Islamic world in examples from over 1,000 years ago and up to the present - alongside the bathing arrangements (see above) which that culture sensibly also inherited from the Romans while Christendom chose to stink until about 1960 when we grudgingly started to take the odd bath or shower.


Radio 4's Today programme has noted (as I had) that the term "Devo Max" (the concept of independence short of defence and foreign affairs which some Scots including their wily First Minister are looking at) reminds us of the USA's only authentic punk band Devo. I was a fan for a few weeks in 1978 during which I could be found dancing in disturbing, robotic fashion to this finest piece from their slender oeuvre Are We Not Men? We Are Devo!

Today managed to get ageing lead singer Mark Mothersbaugh on the phone to comment on the current Scottish political situation. I think I heard him say rather profoundly that Devo Max wouldn't satisfy "coz you're still in a cage - you just have to travel further to find the bars" - Alex Salmond should get them over to support his referendum campaign.