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Concrete Fetishes

20 March 18:30 - 20:00
Organized by: Royal Academy of Arts
Burlington House

Today, although its monuments are vanishing, Brutalism enjoys a ghostly afterlife. Following decades of official and public contempt, its rehabilitation began when concrete tower blocks featured prominently in 1990s music videos by Britpop groups such as Blur and Suede. This revival continued in blogs in the mid-2000s by writers such as Owen Hatherley, and today it flourishes in Instagram accounts, soft furnishings, art galleries and coffee-table books.


Meanwhile the buildings themselves have become hot property, changing hands for sums that are far beyond the means of their intended inhabitants. What are the causes of this strange resurgence in Brutalism’s popularity? Is it simply nostalgia, or does it represent a form of opposition to the politics that caused the demolition of so many of its exemplars?


Why does Brutalism seem so at home in new media that are the very opposite of its material ideals? Are its fans interested in the ethic or just the aesthetic, to appropriate the terms that Reyner Banham used to interrogate Brutalism in the 1950s? If it’s the latter, what does this fetishism tell us about our current situation?


Part of the Lost Futures / Futures Found series