Saturday, December 29, 2007

Expo Da Vinci

Back in Brussels, and with the town empty, what to do of a Saturday? The Expo Da Vinci, that's what, at the infamously ugly sixth largest building in Christendom, the carbuncular Koekelique de Basilberg with its throbbing neon cross on top. (You can visit it interactively, if you must.) A cross between the Battersea Power Station and a London Underground urinal, it lowers on the northern Brussels skyline like a boil. It is a testament to the architectural horrors of the industrial age, Art Deco en masse as its tiled fluted concrete pillars between brick vaulting mimic the fluted columns of its medieval forebears. It's worth a visit in itself. Every Gotham should have one.

However, at the year ends the Basilberg generally hosts an exhibition of quality. On the Millenium, my mother and I went to see a prospective exhibition on what life might be like in a thousand years' time. It tackled biology, society, religion and lots of other aspects that didn't only involve trying to predict what gadgetry might be invented in the next thousand years. But the highlight of this year's exhibition, for me, was gadgetry itself. Several of Leonardo's machines had been built in scale models. We saw an excavator, a multiple cannon array, two or three of the flying machines including the 'aerial screw' or ornithoper, the balista, a bicycle, and two types of tank. Somehow seeing them built was much clearer than reading Leonardo's sketches. An initial biographical timeline, was followed by thematic sections on several of his foci, including anatomy which forcibly recalled the Bodyworlds poses Gunter von Hagen took from illustrations of the time, and a further dissection of the cartoons and studies for some of his best-known paintings.

If you get a chance to see this exhibition, do.

Below; turn it upside down and it won't be able to right itself. You'd think da Vinci would have spotted that flaw, wouldn't you?

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