By way of introduction, I wondered how I should present myself and my blog. I decided then to conduct a little interview with myself. There are so many questions that need putting straight, in my own head as well, that can only be satisfied by answering in the third person. Right? Step forward. Let’s commence this thing…

Q: Why are you starting a blog now? Did I miss something or is it 2005 again…?
A: Good point! The answer is no, it’s not 2005 but alas, let us bathe in the nostalgia from that golden age of internet for a moment. Back in my teens I used to be an avid blogger. This was in common with most of the nerds, and especially female ones I think. Livejournal communities were all the rage at that time. There were a bunch of other communities too that I no longer remember. It was a peculiar time. On the cusp of something huge, before Facebook and Twitter and when there were still multiple search engines to choose from (Altavista, AskJeeves, Lycos, anyone?) and “to google” had not yet verbed its way into every living language (and probably some dead ones too, how do you say “google” in Latin?) under the sun. The internet was still wet and half-formed, full of holes and blank spaces and bad fonts. Looking back, everything on the Old Internet feels embryonic. Forums and blogs were still written in long-form, in the manner with which we wrote emails, and letters before that.

In truth, I miss long form. I love words. And lots of them. I don’t like shortcuts. I don’t trust people who take shortcuts. I don’t endorse the move from words to images and all of the shortcuts encouraged by the format of social media on the New Internet. The condensing of text into a limited number of characters in Twitter is bad enough, but the absence of text entirely in Instagram, and Snapchat, and now TikTok I think makes our brains function differently. It’s like we’re all high on speed, all of the time. It’s draining. Everything has to be instantaneous on the New Internet, and I see that bleed out into real life too. I’m sure the average human attention span and patience thresholds have been dramatically lowered over the past decade.  

The Old Internet was full of oddly intimate spaces, real virtual community and solidarity. There were creeps, sure, but people had not yet grasped that the virtual space was any different to real life so could hold their tongue (or, more accurately, typey fingers). The blogosphere, as it was called then, was filled with people spilling their innermost thoughts and feelings to an audience of complete strangers without the restraint that comes with the New Internet and the evolving etiquette and the need for privacy. In some ways, it felt far more private back then. Now the average human’s entire life is laid bare for all to see, or at least some form of virtual replication, controlled and edited to varying degrees. Back then, those of us who had an emergent digital footprint felt like we belonged to some sort of elite club which our parents’ generation were certainly not privy to.  Blogs today still exist, of course, but they are mostly bland, heavily censored and depersonalised in today’s external-image-savvy (and, let’s face it, increasingly authoritarian) internet world. They are also tiresomely littered with product placement and are wrapped around the influencer culture for which they helped create the conditions in the first place. After reading most blogs today I feel dirty and manipulated, usually followed by a strange compulsion to buy pointless stuff that I really don’t need.

My activities on the Old Internet revolved mostly around music forums, trading bootleg CDs and cassettes (!) of illegally recorded concerts (I still have them somewhere, must dig out my archive) with an accompanying Geocities website, emailing, instant messaging, and blogging. This feeling of colluding in a secretive and collective liminal world was very vividly portrayed in Jenny Hval’s excellent novel Girls Against God – in reminiscing about this strange between-time, she refers to a downloadable word version of George Batailles’ surrealist erotic novel The Story of the Eye that someone, somewhere, had lovingly typed out, manually, word for word, to share with others for free. Reading Hval’s account of this I was ectastic – I downloaded and read the exact same file! I recognised the moment and the feeling of this time described by Hval. Wonderful. I want to recreate it, but I know that the world is a very different place now.

Q: Ok great. But what does this have to do with housing?
A: So, unlike in 2005 my blog is not about music. It’s about my other love: the space around us. A bit general right? I just told you that my blog is about stuff. Let’s be more specific. It’s about the physical environment which encompasses everything from urban design, architectural style, forms and shapes within the cities we inhabit. It also includes the natural environment. And finally, it will include the social environment, and this will probably be mostly where the housing bits fit in.

Q: Right. Why so?
A: Another good question! I’ve been thinking about undertaking this project for quite some time. The final push was the most recent U-turn in my career. On this I joined  millions of others across the world who during the 2020-2021 lockdowns had too much time to think (a fortunate position to be in, I realise this) about the future and what a strange world we inhabit, and one that is becoming stranger by the day. Having studied a bunch of foreign languages and started my career as a translator, and then shifting into public administration supplemented by night school and a Masters degree, and then a stint in the private sector and consultancy, I think I have finally – finally! – found my vocation: Urban design and town planning.

It’s something I’ve skirted around since undergrad days. Following this came a 4-year job in public spatial management in London, then renewable energy related activities including wind farm consents and planning process, and much more deeply through my consultancy work in urban economic development. It was this final stint that persuaded me: I felt like I was circling around experts, but did not possess the dedicated knowledge or ability to devote myself to achieve any level of mastery in a specific field.

Cue starting the journey to a theoretical and then technical training: I signed up for a second Masters in nightschool, this time in Urban and Regional Planning, accredited by the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI). Armed with student membership, I am reaping the benefits through attending as many events as possible alongside my studies. I am also reading as much as possible on everything I can get my hands on related to planning and urban design. And this is where the blog comes to the fore: I see it as a record of my thoughts and part of the learning process as I acquire more knowledge along my journey. I hope it’s also a space for me to explore concepts and ideas through dialogue with other interested parties. Hello! Please leave a comment if that’s you.

Q. Hmm this is getting boring now. Tell me 3 interesting facts about yourself!
A: Uuuh, I hate these awkward ice-breaker-y questions. Next!

Q: Why does the blog have such a stupid name?
A: As mentioned, I’ve been thinking about undertaking this blog project for a while. Although, originally, my idea was to track the history of old modernist cinemas. They were usually intriguing buildings. I know of three such examples within walking distance from the home in which I grew up. One was a beautiful and angular modernist 1920s building, since turned into a car garage. The second was transformed into a bingo hall at some point in the 1980s and is now a retirement home. And the third was turned into – lo! luxury flats.

The most notable North East example was also the old Odeon in Newcastle City Centre’s Pilgrim Street. This was a gorgeous art deco building which opened in 1931 and was still in use as a cinema up until the early 1990s. I remember going there as a tiny kid, probably my first ever cinema visit was there. It stood derelict until maybe 2015 (?), when it was (clumsily and sooner than planned, but that’s another story) dynamited. I watched the thing come down – unexpectedly, over a cup of coffee in the Tyneside Cinema café directly opposite.

So – this is the kino bit. Kino as in kinematograph, cinema. The sthetica is just a portmanteau (ish) from aesthetic, concerned with beauty or a set of principles in a stylistic movement. While this project is largely focused on the social, political, and environmental context of our urban surroundings, I also document things that I consider objects of beauty.  

The whole project was also supposed to be a way to get me out of the house and walking around again, after a year of lockdown and all of the kilos and pent-up mental energy that have built up since our lives got put on hold. Things are starting to bloom again, in strange and uneven ways, so it seems like a good time to start afresh. And so, kinetics, movement – kinosthetica.

Anyone who has tried to find an unclaimed pseudonym, a pen name or a bandname or similar, will understand how cramped and crowded the digital world is these days. Over the decades layers and layers of fleeting ideas, ghosts, failed projects, and some that have even flourished have amassed on the internet, like space junk. Happily, I googled Kinosthetica and just one – one! hit came up. Just a faint trace. The word was included somewhere on a Russian pornsite called Kinkfish. I’ll take that.

Nice to meet you all.

Author: marianne

Urban design, planning, housing, buildings, music

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