S K Y L I N E | Queer This Space
Pride Month and its limits, plus what queer discourse is up to…
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June is known affectionately as Pride Month. Meant to showcase queer joy, warmth, and visibility, this annual celebration has increasingly become overshadowed by hollow and downright humorous media grabs by corporations. I have been laughing heartily at the trend of memes that, in confessional Tweet format, narrate a snippet of trauma followed by the sarcastic, “and that’s why this month I’ve chosen to partner with [insert corporation].” I feel like these memes sum up much of the discord that exist between real emotional vulnerability and performative signaling. We know our social systems are products of a myriad of exclusive design decisions, and yet we are easily distracted. It seems Pride has become the time when those systems frost the dry, crumbling cake with superficial symbols (the rainbow on everyone’s IG). This is but a thin veil on a dour reality, one characterized by intense fear of gun violence, exclusionary bills and lawmaking, and ongoing regimes of suppression and genocide throughout the world.
In this week’s Skyline, and throughout the rest of June, we will foreground events that center queer voices and perspectives, as well as those of other marginalized communities that may or may not have their designated “month.” Much work is being done to highlight these narratives and the bleakness and hurt they all too often reveal. Still, I do wonder if you might also find solace and laughter in the effervescent and sharply intelligent world of queer memes after taking some time to read, watch, hear, and pay queer artists and designers.
— Emily Conklin
6/2: In a Vulgar Language: When Your Childhood Wasn’t Invited
Zazu Swistel at A.I.R. gallery
Last Thursday, the multi-hyphenate creative ZAZU SWISTEL unveiled a series of new works at A.I.R. Gallery, an artist-run organization based in DUMBO and dedicated to women and nonbinary artists. The exhibition, In a Vulgar Language: When Your Childhood Wasn’t Invited, is sandwiched between concurrent displays by YVETTE DRURY DUBINSKY and MAYA JEFFEREIS. (All three artists are current A.I.R. Fellows.) At the center of In a Vulgar Language are pieces from Swistel’s Spatial Portrait series of large-scale, diagrammatic wax-pastel drawings. Their imagery, while abstract, pulls on snippets of conversation Swistel had with participants, whom she asked to describe a space that triggered a personal memory.
“The portraits are just trying to create a third space—another point of access to what the candidate told me about their memory and what I pulled from it,” explained Swistel (a sometimes NYRA contributor). The spatial translations warp architectural conventions and linger in the esoteric “third space” of human connection.
Accompanying the drawings are textual and aural supplements, what Swistel calls “addictive additives.” A bank of headphones situated opposite the drawings allow visitors to listen to Swistel’s interviews, while the artist’s poetry is reproduced in pencil and on placards covertly embedded between the pastel planes.
— Cornelia Smith
6/4: Making Cüirtopia
A workshop with Regner Ramos at San Juan’s Museum of Contemporary Arts
Summer calls for beaches and island getaways, but last Saturday in San Juan, Puerto Rico, there were islands in the making. As part of his exhibition Cüirtopia: Soft Crash, now open at the Museum of Contemporary Arts, REGNER RAMOS invited the public to envision queer utopias in a future-Caribbean free from imposed gender norms. Ramos, who teaches at University of Puerto Rico’s architecture school, kicked off the afternoon with a guided tour of the exhibition, which continues his work of mapping queer spaces in San Juan and throughout the Caribbean at large. “There is a fragmentation of queer cultures in the Caribbean that have been split into territories with borders determined by their colonization,” he said, adding that vestiges of colonialism divide the region’s LGBTQ+ communities. “We’re all one region, yet we struggle to keep up with what our queer neighbors are doing.”
Following the tour, Ramos launched into a workshop outside the museum. Participants were given a kit of parts to complete their models—fragments of small islands that came together to form an archipelago. The narratives that assert subjective realities are often determined by the mapmaker—almost always a he—but in this archipelago, there is only they.
— Osvaldo Delbrey Ortiz
6/6: The Cross-Bronx Expressway: Back at the (round)table
A panel discussion at the Center for Architecture
On Monday, community organizers in the Bronx met with representatives from the Spitzer School of Architecture, as well as designers from Felixx, a Rotterdam-based landscape office, and ORG, a design and research group with offices in Brussels and New York, to discuss potential strategies for capping the Cross Bronx Expressway (CBE). The event came on the heels of a recent pledge made by the New York City Department of Transportation to “reimagine” the CBE with the help of federal investment. While the panel was informative, the urgency of the matter was only gotten across during the Q&A. “First and foremost, people want to breathe safe air,” a Bronx resident said in reference to the deleterious effects the seven-mile long, highly polluted corridor had on the health of approximately 220,000 predominantly Black and Brown people who live in the neighborhoods adjacent to the CBE. As one Spitzer alum reminded everyone, these areas have the “highest death and disease rates from asthma”, diabetes, obesity, and cardiovascular disease in the country. #LovingtheBronx and other local groups have been advocating for the CBE’s capping for years through initiatives such as #CaptheCrossBronx. When seen alongside similar projects currently underway in Antwerp and other parts of the world, these efforts inspire hope that the Bronx may be the next to bury its expressway and lift up its communities in the process.
— Daniel Roche
6/7: Aging, Independently
Case studies within Asian cities, presented at AIA New York
AIA New York’s Design for Aging committee hosted urbanists and architects MELISSA Q. NAVARRA, TAI-LI LEE, and DR. ESTEBAN BEITA SOLANO to explore the living patterns of senior citizens in Manila, Taipei, and Tokyo. Navarra, whose work focuses on urban poverty, explained that existing government programs to move residents of informal settlements into more secure housing are not designed with multigenerational households in mind. Lee built on the ways that urban development regimes have historically managed senior living, where postwar apartments in Taipei offer housing security but lack elevators and other amenities. Facing high costs of living and lacking better options, many residents remain in such imperfect situations. Solano agreed that high costs of land and housing are also problems for seniors in Tokyo, but he sees the ubiquity and reliability of transit as well as a culture of respect and assistance as factors in the high quality of living enjoyed by the elderly there. The Q&A pivoted the focus of the discussion to New York City: in the words of moderator RUTH FINKELSTEIN, “We have a lot to learn from each other if we stop exoticizing each other’s approaches.”
— Xio Alvarez
6/2: The Black Atlantic
A panel discussion with New York’s Public Art Fund at The Cooper Union
An illuminating exhibition at Brooklyn Bridge Park (BBP) details how the Black experience in America is a multifaceted one, to say the least. In a panel discussion hosted at the Cooper Union to coincide with the opening of The Black Atlantic, participating artists LEILAH BABIRYE, HUGH HAYDEN, DOZIE KANU, and KIYAN WILLIAMS shared and discussed their work with adjunct curator DANIEL S. PALMER.
Particularly moving were Kanu’s comments on his experience as “not only [being] Black in America, but being a first generation American from Africa.” Kanu, who has Nigerian roots, reflected on the responsibility of lifting loved ones back home out of poverty, and poignantly, how his work is received there. As he put it, “sculptures in the U.S. are real, used objects in Africa.”
Among the highlights of the discussion was the way the artists conveyed the freedom they found in the BBP venue, as opposed to a traditional gallery. They spoke fondly of seeing visitors engaging freely with the pieces—not only seeing the sculptures, but also touching them. “You can’t really do that with a painting,” said Hayden, quickly followed by Palmer’s emphasis: “Or in a museum.”
— Randa Omar
EYES ON SKYLINE
In Skyline 72, readers were interested in Nathan Robinson’s tribute to the late Christopher Alexander.
IN THE NEWS
… DALLᐧE mini is the first-ever public AI image generator and it’s… pretty good
… 60 Wall Street’s iconic Po-Mo lobby and PoP is set to close this month
… Thomas Heatherwick’s Tree of Trees isn’t architecture, nor is it an object. Which raises the question: what is it?
… Reebok launches the first adaptive training shoe for disabled athletes
… Revisiting all the buildings “opened” by the Queen, on her Jubilee
… In the wake of Uvalde, an outlawing not of guns, but of … drag queens?
We are still looking for illustrators! Deadline is June 20. More information and application at nyra.nyc/illo. Cool gif here:
Don’t miss the upcoming week’s events, which touch on queer perspectives, Afrofuturism, critical modernisms, and more.
FF – Distance Edition: Workshop with Ken Smith
1:00 PM | The Architectural League of New York
Rubacha Featured Speakers Lecture Series: Peter Eisenman (B.Arch. '54) and Shelly Silver (B.F.A. ’80)
5:30 PM | Cornell Architecture Art Planning
Queer Perspectives in Architecture with Evaline Wu Huang, Enrique Agudo, John Ira Palmer, Ruben Esparza, Natania Meeker, Tag Christoff, Jaffer Kolb, Hernán Díaz Alonso, David Eskenazi
9:00 PM | SCI-Arc
The World Around presents In Focus: Precarity
6/11, 5am–11am | Het Nieuwe Instituut
ᐊᖏᕐᕋᒧᑦ / Ruovttu Guvlui / Towards Home
6/11, 11am–9pm | Canadian Centre for Architecture
Cornell Reunion Olin Lecture with Olalekan Jeyifous
6/11, 3pm | Cornell AAP
The Secret Wars of Josephine Baker with Ines Weizman
6/15, 11:15am | Columbia GSAPP
League Prize 2022: Night 1
6/15, 6:30pm | The Architectural League
Modernism in Mud
6/16, 7pm | MAK Center for Art and Architecture, Los Angeles
“A compendium of queer place-making”: Queer spaces in Argentina, India, and Nicaragua
6/16 2:30pm | The Society of Architectural Historians of Great Britain
I Would Prefer Not To: Live Broadcast
6/17 12pm | The Architectural League of New York (online)
Duet + Duet with Jennifer Chen + Damjan Jovanovic
6/17 7pm | SCI-Arc
Our listings are constantly being updated. Check the events page regularly for up-to-date listings and submit events through this link.
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