Art and Architecture in Denver

Robin Ince's Horizons Tour Diary

Today, I applied my underarm deodorant so vigorously that the ball came out of the socket.


Fortunately, this was not the pinnacle of my day, but I smelt lovely. 

Unfortunately, I also briefly engaged in a conversation about lobsters, ethics and misogyny. 

Jordan Peterson weeps with sadness about children being made aware of climate change as he fears it will make them depressed.

Jordan Peterson tells you exactly what size of woman is sexually appealing and makes it publicly clear that one woman in particular is objectively not and there is some kind of insidious authoritarian plot to force women that are not thin enough on a terrified and subjugated public.

That his condemnation of body size may also make some young people depressed doesn’t bother him, no need for him to weep for youth this time, 

What the hell is “authoritarian tolerance”?

It is an alibi for someone who has no ability to imagine that there is a room for any other thinking than what happens in their own mind. 

This issue shows up one of the many problems of Peterson and those who idolise him. 

He lacks the imagination or insight to realise that the authoritarian side of this issue may be the singular shape a woman has had to be in adverts, films and commercial imagery. He sees the broadening of possibilities, the extending of any visibility as an oppression on the status quo. Whenever he sees anything beyond his tastes, he sees that as a plot against him. 

It’s almost as if he only cares about people’s feelings as long as their feelings match his.

Whenever I see him, he cuts a very melancholy figure to me that hints at an internal battle he is fighting with himself and trying to drag us all into it, too. 

I am told he cares about the young, but again, it seems there is a specific group of young males he cares about, but there also seem to be a large numbers of progressive young people who rails against. Again, he cares about some young people. 

I notice if I ever comment on him, which is rarely, the language his admirers use is immediately that combative , “Has he triggered you!” Etc etc that a certain type of man likes as it makes them feel that everyone will admire their penis. 

Anyway, that was a very small part of my day in Denver (a brief argument about Jordan Peterson, not going to the Incel Genitalia Admiration club and can I make it clear how furious I am that my name makes any part of the word Incel). 

Walking through Denver, I have been trying to piece together what it looked like to me in 1988. Usually, however much somewhere has changed, I can piece together some shoddy semblance of my past experience, but the relentless growth of gleaming office blocks leaves little to jolt a memory. The best I could manage was the lone house that sits in a car park and looks somewhere between the house in Up and something pen and inked by Edward Gorey.

Curry-Chucovich House

This is the Curry-Chucovich house – lean, red-bricked and enigmatic. It was a law firm, more recently an airbnb and now it is up for lease. In 1988, it was more alone than now, but a house like this always looks like it holds a story and, if there is not one within it, it is the perfect structure to project one of your own.

I find out about Denver’s International Church of Cannabis too late for a visit. 

“Members of the International Church of Cannabis are known as Elevationists. Through ritual, guided by spiritual practice, church members use the sacred flower to reveal the best version of self, discover a creative voice and enrich their community with the fruits of that creativity. Unlike other belief systems, there is no need to convert to Elevationism. It claims no divine law, no unquestionable doctrine, and no authoritarian structure.”

Instead, I spend the morning in Denver’s Museum of Art. It has a very interesting collection of first nation art spread over floors. Whenever I wander around galleries like this I realise just how parochial the art we grow up with is. By the time we first see art from other cultures, we can already feel that it is so alien to our experience that we walk away. The older I am, the more I have come to realise how important, fascinating and enlightening the stories that live within it are. For too long we dismissed things as primitive because they were not as us (and still do on many issues). I realise how naive I have been not to see how much casual white supremacy there is in so many places. I look back at the atheist boom a few years back and I now see something in certain corners that smacks off racial superiority, even more so now some of the spokespeople have become a brand beyond their godlessness alone. 

“I really believe there are things nobody would see unless I photographed them” – Diane Arbus

The museum has an exhibition of women photographers the is filled with gems, some I know, Diane Arbus, Lisette Model, Dorothea Lange, and some I am made aware of for the first time. 

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Tomoko Sawada’s ID400 is a series of passport photos of herself. In each one, she projects a different sense of identity. What she wanted to show was that her appearance could be changed easily, but her personality could not. What we project onto a photograph of a person may be wide of the mark. It reminded me of the gloomy photograph of Kafka that is so often used and projects the sense of anxiety and alienation we expect from him (and which is why sometimes we miss the jokes an humour in his stories). That photograph is actually the id photograph for his job in insurance.

A selection from Tomoko Sawada’s ID400

Ruth Orkin said of her work, “if my photographs make the viewer feel what I did when I first took them, ‘isn’t this funny, terrible, moving , beautiful’, then I’ve accomplished my purpose”.

For me, this is an important part of public self-expression. I also see an astonishing photograph of Martha Graham by Barbara Morgan, Graciela Iturbide’s images of the the women of the Zapotec, “big, strong, politicised, emancipated, wonderful women”, and Marina Yampolsky’s Death also Drinks Coffee.

I also had time to go to the Disruption exhibition. Each room had a different song playing including work by the New York Dolls, Public Enemy and Lady Gaga, combined with artworks that linked with theme of those songs. Michael Joo’s headless made a particularly strong impression on me. It is a room full of headless Buddha statues, hovering above them dolls’ heads of Pee Wee Herman, Sesame Street characters and other symbols of western pop culture. It is to highlight that many Buddha figures were desecrated by colonisers. They decapitated them as the Buddha head was an easy piece of booty to take with you. There was much else besides. Agustina Woodgate’s No Rain No Rainbows is stitched pelts of secondhand soft toys made into a kaleidoscopic quilt.

No Rain No Rainbows by Agustina Woodgate

I had an appointment with the Brian, Steph and the gym. We all had our alibi prepared for any athletic failure, “the air is thin and high here, so we many not be able to combat the curvature of spacetime with the usual aplomb”.

Brian is not competitive, but if I ever lift the same weights as him, he will have to move up a few KGs. I do manage to go higher than him on one machine, but that must be because I am lower to the ground than him and therefore not as affected by altitude.

At the Paramount Theatre, one of the crew tells me how pleased OMD were to meet us last night. Brian hastily butts in and says that it wasn’t me they were pleased to meet, but him, and then explains how famous he is (I should never have lifted that heavier weight).

The Denver audience are lovely, though Brian has not yet managed to achieve his goal of getting them to clap along to the equation for the Schwarzschild radius in the same way as last night’s audience clapped along with Andy McCluckey to Tesla Girls.

Tonight’s audience questions include –

Brian Cox, if we had the technology to fly into a black hole with what we know today would you take the trip?

Listening to Brian discuss the idea that we all are a part of the quantum entanglement … it made me think of Joseph Campbell’s theory of the archetypal imagination.  Can Dr. Cox discuss these two theories in terms of human relationships to the universe.


My little brother wants to know what your favorite color is!

(spoiler alert – it was green)


Listen to the Horizons tour podcast, Taking the Universe Around the World HERE

Robin Ince is a multi-award winning comedian, writer and broadcaster.  As well as spending decades as one the UK’s most respected stand-ups, Robin is perhaps best known for co-hosting The Infinite Monkey Cage radio show with Brian Cox.  For his work on projects like Cosmic Shambles he was made an Honorary Doctor of Science by Royal Holloway, University of London. His latest book, The Importance of Being Interested is out now.

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