A Marriage of Two Minds

“A Marriage of Two Minds” is not a love poem. It is a marriage between two culture-worshiping traditions of modernism, says Jacquelynn Baas[1], from an architect’s eye, Reyner Banham. The groom is the classical and totalitarian approach, ‘ideal conception of spiritual harmony under single godlike mind’, Leonardo da Vinci as the culture hero. The bride is romantic and medieval approach, ‘dream of willing collaborators under scriptorium conditions AMDG[2]’, Gothic cathedral as the cult object. This marriage is against the ‘self imposed leaders of free collaborators’, AEG being the cult object and Walter Gropius being the culture hero of ‘Orwellian consequence’. And there is a great lie, a cube, a ‘mondiraan in 3D on the scale of man’ which tends to discipline the fields of art, such as architecture, painting and sculpture in a space frame of monochromic logic and esthetic. However there is a ‘growing lad’ in this frame, an Independent Group, trying to break the barriers of cult objects, heroes and products. And this lad grows, becomes a man and sets the borders of art ‘wherever you like










There is no longer a culture hero, object nor product but ‘symbols of human interests’ from all social contexts; cybernetics, Kilroy Was Here (a doodle popular in America during World War II), Jackson Pollack (American painter), Dirty Dick Godot (from the play of Samuel Beckett, Waiting for Godot), Kwame Nkrumah (leader of Ghana during 1951-1966). It is ‘you’ who rates, likes and dislikes, ‘you’ are the context, the cult object, culture hero and the end product.


The “Marriage of Two Minds” was written for “This Is Tomorrow” exhibition by Independent Group in 1956. It was not long time ago when Britain faced severe damage by the WWII air-raids. After the war was over, it was time for the reconstruction of the nation. However it was not just a question of rebuilding the cities, but as Nicholas Bullock[3] writes, “Above all, it shows  how hopes for a new and better society became linked to the fortunes of the new architecture.” Between 1939 and 1942 debates on postwar constructions took place, those were the times when Army Bureau of Current Affairs’ “Your Britain. Fight For It Now” posters produced, and “Rebuilding Britain” exhibition happened. The aim was to call out to citizens, unify them to wipe out the marks of war and create a strong image of Britain. However this process of reconstruction was disregarding an essential aspect; art and architecture. When the reconstruction process started in the summer of 1942 with a promise of new and better Britain, Bullock states, the vision still lacked specificity. Modern architecture was already becoming a commonly accepted and adopted movement by the works of architects like Le Corbusier, Mies Van Der Rohe and Frank Lloyd Wright across Europe and America, but in Britain it was still an interest of a small group of intellectuals. It was then when architectural concerns started to be argued and rethought. In 1952, when the debates were still ongoing and effect of art agenda in America slowly started to influence Europe, the Independent Group started its first meetings with artist and sculpture Eduardo Paolozzi presenting images from American pop-culture. With the contributions of artists from various fields of art, such as painting, architecture and photography, the group started to question the ongoing reconstruction process and came to a point where they believed in an art “without any distinction between high and low. (…) They took delight in the diversity and the strength of the images of popular culture, the magazines and science fiction, comics and those key symbols of consumer desirability, advertisement.” Between 1952 and 1953, the meetings started to be chaired by Banham, with the contributions of artists like Richard Hamilton, Nigel Henderson, John McHale and Lawrence Alloway. After a year break, they continued their sessions including the architects Alison and Peter Smithson, focusing on various subjects such as technology, machinery and American mass culture. Later in one of his article Alloway  called on, “Our definition of culture is being stretched beyond the fine-art limits imposed on it by Renaissance theory, and refers now increasingly to the whole complex of human activities.[4]” In 1956 August, “This Is Tomorrow” exhibition opened, gathering different forms of art under the same roof. It became a big public event, a meeting point for artists and a stepping stone to the world of Pop-Art in Britain.


Along with the exhibition, also a catalogue was published with a new typography by Ed Wright and three introductions by Lawrence Alloway, Reyner Banham and David Lewis. In the introductions, Alloway and Lewis had written short essays focusing on the day’s obstacles, oppositions and contemporary agenda of art, meanwhile Banham poetized all these subjects in a new typographical and linguistic way, making not-so-clear references and centralizing “you” in the core of it. The influence of American culture -in this case, popular Beat poems and pop-art- on Banham can be easily recognized by not only the choice of words but also in the presentation of the poem. As an important member of the Independent Group, in the times of globalization and national reconstruction, Banham, placing himself against “Orwellian consequences”, aimed a global equivalence in all fields of art. And elements and icons of popular culture becomes his weapon of choice. As Bullock states, he was presenting the direct continuation of developments that had started with Pevsner, through important figures and found objects of popular culture. By giving the the cult object, culture hero and end product back to ‘you’, he called for an independent and critical judgment of individuals with a “collective discovery” and “liberating excitement[5]”.

[1] D. Robbins, Independent Group: Postwar Britain and The Aesthetics of Plenty, 1990, Cambridge

[2] AMDG: Ad Maiorem Dei Gloriam. For The Greater Glory of God. Latin motto of the Society of Jesus

[3] N. Bullock, Building The Post-War Worlds: Modern Architecture and Reconstruction in Britain, 2002, London

[4] L. Alloway, Thoughts in Progress: the New Brutalism, Architectural Design, April 1957

[5] D. Robbins, Independent Group: Postwar Britain and The Aesthetics of Plenty, 1990, Cambridge

Categorized as 2012

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *