As the 20th anniversary of the hit HBO show Sex and the City approaches, Andrés Jaque of Madrid and New York-based Office for Political Innovation in collaboration with Miguel de Guzmán of Imagen Subliminal have turned their examination of the iconic series into an architectural exhibition. Sex and the So-Called City, on view until April 3rd at New York’s Storefront for Art and Architecture, displays how the iconic series remains a prescient and even seminal text on the cultural and physical evolution of New York City, perhaps the show’s most central protagonist.
As a vision of the city and those who live in it, the series Sex and the City traces over half a decade of social, political, and architectural changes through its narrative of sex, romance, friendship, and fashion. On the show, which obscured as much it revealed the psychosocial, bio-political, and architectural structures of Manhattan, Jaque/Office of Political Innovation uses “lifestyle forensics” to reconstruct the complex substructure that produces urban life and the way we choose to portray it.
The exhibition comprises a large multi-wall video installation, which creates a disorienting space of edited and manipulated clips from Sex and the City containing choice quotes from the show (“He gave Samantha the opportunity to combine her two greatest loves: sex and real estate”) along with an archive of objects, images, and diagrams, some of which are architectural while others are more esoteric, including movie posters, Manolo Blahniks, coffins, and fleshlights.
Sex and the So-Called City delves into how the city’s representation and the lifestyles we perform produce the urban landscape. Sex and its consequences on the city are central to the exhibit. Gay pornography is displayed alongside the latest in color-morphing architectural glass, highlighting how the generic luxury condos featured in popular porn videos produce a form of libidinal real estate aspiration. The entanglement of expensive reproductive technologies with architectural technology and urban development is elucidated through text, images and products, ranging from designer dresses to egg-freezing apparatuses.
By relying on the television show as its primary material, Sex and the So-Called City demonstrates how media about the city produces the city by conditioning new cultural and lifestyle visions and reproducing a mass cultural imaginary. It also exposes the ways in which visions of the city create the urban layout of New York itself.
Despite its whimsical, campy starting point, Sex and the So-Called City paints an uneasy vision of the new New York. Media, sex, and architecture have colluded to create an increasingly inaccessible breed of urban citizen, an entire class of people that accesses technology to avoid pregnancy and buys specially-hued glass to make their penthouse skies even bluer. Still, for all the (valid) outcry against sanitization and unaffordability, there remains an indisputable vibrancy to living in New York. For Sex and the So-Called City, the city is a palimpsest of the desires, choices, and imaginations of New Yorkers, fictional or not.
Sex and the So-Called City is on view at Storefront for Art and Architecture, at 97 Kenmare Street, New York, until April 3.