Posts tagged with "LGBT":

Placeholder Alt Text

AN visits a Los Angeles LGBT Center designed to stand out

In recognition of the many services it has provided for its community for 50 years, the Los Angeles LGBT Center recently opened a brand new campus that was designed to stand out in May of this year. The Anita May Rosenstein Campus was collaboratively designed by Leong Leong and Killefer Flammang Architects to provide courses, space, and amenities for an estimated 42,000 lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning youths and seniors in Los Angeles each month. The 183,000-square-foot campus offers many much-needed programs for the local LGBTQ community, including youth, senior and drop-in centers, a youth academy and a homeless shelter for up to 100 people. The campus is sited on a relatively quiet intersection at Santa Monica Boulevard and North McCadden Place in Hollywood, built across the street from The Village at Ed Gould Plaza, another facility owned by the Los Angeles LGBT Center which houses a theater, offices, art galleries and community meeting spaces. The campus’s 12 programs were formally separated from one another across the four-acre site to create the visual complexity and porosity of a typical college campus. “Inspired by the mission of the Center,” said Dominic Leong, one of the partners of Leong Leong, “the architecture is a cohesive mosaic of identities and programs rather than a singular iconic gesture.” The rounded edges, fritted glass, and cylindrical skylights are all nods to the circular logo for the Los Angeles LGBT Center, while lending the campus the added benefit of proudly standing out among its boxy neighbors. “The Center’s leaders gave KFA and Leong Leong a clear vision: that the design of the new Anita May Rosenstein Campus must reflect the boldness, optimism, and absolute certainty of the Center’s mission to care for, champion, and celebrate LGBT individuals and families,” said Barbara Flammang, one of the partners of Killefer Flammang Architects. “We hope that the design and formal expression of these buildings and open, landscaped spaces contribute to the flourishing of the people who live in, work at, and visit this wonderful place.” Boldness and openness are apparent design intentions even at night, when the edges of the building’s exterior are highlighted in purple neon, and one can see from the street that even some of the interior spaces appear thick with a purple haze. The layout of many of the building’s living spaces is reflective of many of the gestures prevalent in the coliving spaces being built today, such as WeLive and Second Home. The communal kitchen and main activity room, for instance, can appear as a single large room when the large sliding doors between them are held open, while the lightness and transparency of the design throughout encourages interaction among its clients and staff. Though the campus is now open and has already begun serving its community, the completion of its second phase remains highly anticipated. Expected to be completed early next year, Phase II will include 98 units for seniors and 25 apartments for younger tenants. The intergenerational nature of the campus was intended to spur the commingling of its diverse clientele.
Placeholder Alt Text

Six LGBTQ-related sites could be landmarked in New York City

Six sites significant to LGBTQ history have been calendared by the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC), a significant step towards formal landmark designation. The Gay Activists Alliance Firehouse at 99 Wooster Street; the Women’s Liberation Center at 243 West 20th Street; the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center at 208 West 13th Street; the Caffe Cino at 31 Cornelia Street; the James Baldwin Residence at 137 West 71st Street; and the Audre Lorde Residence at 207 Saint Paul’s Avenue on Staten Island are all one step closer to greater protection. This official calendarization arrived four years after the groundbreaking 2015 designation of the Stonewall Inn, the long-standing Greenwich Village gay bar that witnessed the 1969 Stonewall riots, as an official New York landmark. However, this official protection came nearly a half-century after the riots immortalized the bar, illuminating the tepid pace at which the LPC has moved to acknowledge LGBTQ-related landmarks. This month's calendaring could be seen as a response to this, spearheaded by activists and advocates who see the potential for progress through the landmarking process. Many pioneers are encapsulated in the selections—Caffe Cino is considered a hotbed of early gay theater, and both James Baldwin and Audre Lorde, whose homes were recognized, revolutionized the possibilities for gay people of color. The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center, also known as The Center, has been a vital meeting place since the early days of the AIDS crisis. While many of these spaces are no longer actively serving their original purposes, the physical spaces are visual reminders of the struggles for justice that so many faced, and continue to face, today.  Now that the calendar process has been completed, the next step for the Commission is to hold a hearing on June 4, where the general public can testify before commission members. A formal vote will follow.
Placeholder Alt Text

Leong Leong and KFA finish new campus for the Los Angeles LGBT Center

Leong Leong and Killefer Flammang Architects (KFA) have finished the first phase Anita May Rosenstein Campus, a series of spaces for the Los Angeles LGBT Center. The 72,000-square-foot project in Hollywood, California, occupies nearly a full block and will house a variety of social services for LGBT youth, seniors, and general community. The three-story buildings are an aggregation of white and glass blocks irregularly stacked and carved by swooping curves. Anamorphic projections were used to create oval patterns in the fritted glass surfaces that appear as circles from certain vantage points in the area. Picking up on local Southern California building traditions, a series of courtyards and covered walkways open up the structures and bring the outside in. The new campus includes a youth center, a senior center, events spaces, 100 beds for homeless youth, the Ariadne Getty Foundation Youth Academy, retail and administrative spaces, along with an observation deck looking toward the Hollywood sign.
“The Center’s leaders gave KFA and Leong Leong a clear vision: that the design of the new Anita May Rosenstein Campus must reflect the boldness, optimism, and absolute certainty of the Center’s mission to care for, champion, and celebrate LGBT individuals and families,” said KFA Partner Barbara Flammang, AIA, in a statement. Dominic Leong, AIA, founding partner of Leong Leong said in a statement: “It is a symbol and an intersectional platform for social progress forged by the Los Angeles LGBT Center and comes at a moment when this progress must be relentlessly supported and sustained."
Placeholder Alt Text

Felix Gonzalez-Torres's black billboard returns for WorldPride NYC

This June, the Public Art Fund will install the seminal billboard, Untitled, 1989, by Cuban-American artist Felix Gonzalez-Torres in honor of the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Uprising and WorldPride New York City. Set to rise above Sheridan Square’s Village Cigars at the intersection of Christopher Street and 7th Avenue, the powerful project will be on view throughout the month. Untitled, 1989, the first of Gonzalez-Torres’s iconic billboard artworks, was originally commissioned by Public Art Fund 30 years ago for the exact location it will be placed this year. The piece commemorated the 20th anniversary of the historic 1969 riots that helped catalyze the gay rights movement. Gonzalez-Torres’s large-scale signs—all of which feature two lines of white text set across the bottom of a black background—were designed to look like non-artworks and non-ads. “Gonzalez-Torres had a deep belief in the right for individual viewers to experience and interpret the work on their own terms,” the Public Art Fund stated in a press release. There isn’t a single label or an artist’s signature accompanying the installation. Untitled, 1989 reads the following:
People With Aids Coalition 1985 Police Harassment 1969 Oscar Wilde 1895 Supreme Court 1986 Harvey Milk 1977 March on Washington 1987 Stonewall Rebellion 1969
As a series of moments and monumental figures with dates beside them, the text isn’t set up in chronological order. It also doesn’t distinguish between public and private histories. It’s open to interpretation by the viewer, but also stands as a “visual reference, an architectural sign of being, a monument for a community that has been ‘historically invisible,'” according to the statement which cites Gonzalez-Torres’s vision for the billboard. “Direct public engagement is fundamental to [Gonzalez-Torres’s] artistic practice, which expanded the possibilities for creative expression both within and beyond the museum walls,” said Public Art Fund Director and Chief Curator Nicholas Baume. “His integration of personal and political content that can bring about both awareness and action in the view has continued to inspire artists and audiences.” Untitled, 1989 is presented in collaboration with The Felix Gonzalez-Torres Foundation with support by Google. It will be on view from June 1 to 30, 2019, in Sheridan Square across the street from the historic Stonewall Inn.
Placeholder Alt Text

The Cruising Pavilion, New York maps queer pasts and futures

On the blacked-out front door of Ludlow 38, the Goethe Institute’s downtown outpost, is a plaque. In simple, sans serif, white letters it says: "THIS GALLERY CONTAINS GRAPHIC IMAGERY. PARENT/ADULT DISCRETION IS ADVISED." Open the door and even before you cross the threshold you’ll hear moaning. Or at least I did. I suppose timing matters—not every moment of what turns out to be Shu Lea Cheang’s 2001 video I.K.U. - I robosex has moaning. Inside, with the windows blacked out and the overhead lamps turned off, purple LED strips hidden behind walls provide the only light in the gallery, and it’s hard to make things out clearly. It hardly feels like an art exhibition but there is still a gallery attendant at the front desk, which reminds you that you do have to behave. This is Cruising Pavilion, New York, the second of three iterations of the architectural exploration of gay sex and cruising originally presented to coincide with the 2018 Venice Architecture Biennale and created and curated by Pierre-Alexandre Mateos, Rasmus Myrup, Octave Perrault, and Charles Teyssou, and produced along with the Ludlow 38 curator, Franziska Sophie Wildförster. The third, and perhaps final, Cruising Pavilion will go up in Stockholm this fall. A friend and I often remark that there are no real gay bars on the east side below Delancey—or even below Houston, really—where we actually live and spend most of our time. The area is not and has never really been known as an epicenter of gay culture, the way the Village, Chelsea, Hell’s Kitchen, and, as unbelievable as it may be now, Times Square have been. As far as I know, there are no regularly operating backrooms, like those you can still find in the East Village, though I’m sure there are some private spaces where people have their share of fun. Even still, those rooms-behind-the-curtain have diminished—along with the theaters, the bathhouses, and certainly the piers—all things well before my time, my time being mostly post-Grindr and long after the first rounds of the mass sanitation of New York City. The powerwashing of our streets with money and moralism continues, as if there were anything less pornographic than New York’s extravagantly boring displays of wealth. There are few things more obscene and less stimulating than the recently opened Hudson Yards. Financial hedonism rarely breeds originality, and if cash is what gets you off, it’s probably because you’re bad in bed. At the opening, the exhibition did remind me a bit of moving about backrooms—bodies bouncing like so many pinballs, everything homogenizing into a swarm—but here I was less drunk and more clothed, and, of course, there was the fear, my fear, of damaging the art (some were less cautious—outside the show someone told me a bit of plexiglass had fallen victim to an errant elbow). Inside, I saw friends, former lovers, and former one night stands. Somebody told me there were poppers in the fog machine. I’m not sure if that’s true, nor if that’s safe, but either way the impression that there could’ve been some speaks to a sense of sensuality, danger, and seediness rarely seen in architecture exhibition. Like museums and galleries, sex and chemicals promise a trip to somewhere else. Perhaps the fog should remind us of the steam of the Continental Baths, long gone, which the curators cite in their release. The Cruising Pavilion highlights the historical entanglements of what the curators call "conflictual architectures." It mines the ineluctably intertwined histories of policing, neoliberalization, right-wing moralism, homonormalization, gentrification, the AIDS crisis, and so on, to map the real past and the gaps of the present, acting as a cartography of possibilities for the queer (mis)use of space. The exhibition is a blueprint towards performances of sexual dissidence, exposing the erotic potentials lurking in hidden dark corners, or maybe even out in the open, should you only try to catch someone—or be caught—in the act. A radical reframing of the notion of "architecture," Cruising Pavilion and the artists and architects it features interrogate sex and sexuality as a way of re- and dis-figuring buildings and cities the world over. Cruising, beyond being a sexual practice, is a spatial one—a phenomenological perversion that uses vision and touch to establish a set of relationships not just between individuals, but between individuals and the spaces they move through. Queer space is produced by its users as much if not more so than by its owners and architects. Sexuality is not just decoration, though it is that too, but, as Cruising Pavilion proposes, sex is a constitutive act of architecture. Museums and galleries make themselves by making rules. They regulate where bodies go, how close and how far from objects you can get, what you can and can’t touch (in general, you can’t touch much of anything). At the Cruising Pavilion it still probably isn’t advisable to touch (it is, after all, an art show) and I doubt getting it on is officially condoned. But for those compelled by the at-once exhibitionist and elusive acts of public sex or furtive hookups, isn’t breaking the rules part of the fun? But the fog and the psychedelic lush of lights evoke another space: The club. Of course, the club, too, can be sanitized and the curators point out the “de-sexualization of disco and house music and their mutations into the official anthem of ‘happy globalization.’” The neoliberal city, like Epcot, sounds better with a soundtrack. The point of the club was and is being together, increasingly important in the AirPod era. It’s hard not to think of the recent closing of the Dreamhouse, itself a veritable ad hoc architectural carnival, home to artist studios and to Spectrum, the favorite after-hours haunt of New York City’s artists, designers, DJs—weirdos and queerdos who came together to dance and talk and screw well past sunrise. One could presumably go to the gallery on drugs, but you’d still have to watch how you acted, lest you be kicked out. Perhaps the biggest queering of space is the simultaneous sensory overload and denial, the ocular S&M that plays out, at once enticing you and denying you. You can’t touch and you can’t see, but boy do you want to. This exhibition’s a tease, which is to say, it—like all art—is about desire and discipline. Cruising Pavilion Ludlow 38 New York, New York Through April 7
Placeholder Alt Text

The Museum of Trans Hirstory & Art (MOTHA) queers monument design

A show now up at New York City’s New Museum has invited a collection of artists to probe the fluid nature of transgender history (or hirstory, a portmanteau using the gender-neutral pronoun “hir”), and the role of monuments in America today. Consciousness Razing—The Stonewall Re-Memorialization Project, organized by artist Chris E. Vargas and the Museum of Transgender Hirstory & Art (MOTHA), challenges how public monuments, even LGBTQ-oriented ones, can exclude or diminish the contributions of not only trans people, but of large and complex communities more generally. Rather than putting forward one design for a trans-oriented Stonewall memorial, the show invited a range of artists to propose monuments that would grow and evolve over time. This amorphous approach is a reaction to the concretization of transgender history as trans communities become more widely accepted in the U.S. In June of 2016, President Obama made the Stonewall Inn in New York City a National Monument, the first to specifically highlight the LGBTQ community. The Inn was the site of the 1969 Stonewall Riots, when a group of patrons at the bar fought back against a police raid on the establishment and demanded to be treated with respect. The riots are frequently cited as the beginning of the LGBTQ rights movement in the U.S. An existing memorial of the riots, the Gay Liberation Monument, sits in the park opposite the inn, but it, along with other public remembrances of the riots, have been accused of remembering only the roles of white, cisgender people in the LGBTQ rights movement and forgetting the role that trans women of color had in leading the riots. This perceived history of exclusion is part of what spurred Vargas to solicit a kaleidoscopic range of ideas. “Constructing one single monument is an inadequate way to represent this history,” Vargas said. “There are so many queer subjectivities that have a stake in this.” In the New Museum show, 13 different artists have contributed their ideas for a Stonewall monument, all of which are represented in a site model of Christopher Park in the center of the gallery. The proposals at the New Museum are all a far cry from the politely-posed statues of the Gay Liberation Monument. Thomas Lanigan-Schmidt designed gleaming rodents to remember the riots, “that night the ‘gutter rats’ shone like the brightest gold.” Nicki Green put forth a pile of bricks, both a humble building material and the weapon thrown by Stonewall rioters at the police. Jibz Cameron imagined various scenes: dancing feet, the Stonewall’s notoriously dysfunctional toilet, and a “stiletto heel being slammed into the eye of a cop.” Chris Bogia opted for an abstracted facade filled with color and dangling with pearls, saying: "I want to make something that reminds every passerby that there was a riot in this place for LOVE and that it was full of color, and that we won." Vargas started MOTHA in 2013 as trans celebrities, like Laverne Cox, Janet Mock, and Caitlyn Jenner started to rise to national prominence. While a new era of trans visibility appeared to be dawning, Vargas noted that not everybody was getting included in the uplift: “It didn’t universally make things better in the trans community.” The visibility also began to harden some definitions, taking a range of identities, some of which had been purposefully vague, and standardizing them for a mass audience. MOTHA was a riposte to the notion that there could be any stable definition of what it meant to be trans and that certain trans people were more worthy of visibility than others. The conceptual museum was intentionally tongue-in-cheek, as much of a lampooning of the self-seriousness and strictures of genteel art institutions as a celebration of the diversity and range of queer culture. The campy institutional critique falls in the vein of the Guerrilla Girls, the feminist activist artists who for decades have used surreal imagery and savvy design to point out the discrepancies between how art institutions treat men and women. MOTHA's mission statement drives its campy sensibilities home:
The Museum of Transgender Hirstory & Art (MOTHA) is dedicated to moving the hirstory and art of transgender people to the center of public life. The Museum insists on an expansive and unstable definition of transgender, one that is able to encompass all transgender and gender-nonconforming art and artists. MOTHA is committed to developing a robust exhibition and programming schedule that will enrich the transgender mythos by exhibiting works by living artists and honoring the hiroes and transcestors who have come before. Despite being forever under construction, MOTHA is already the preeminent institution of its kind.
The artists participating in The Stonewall Re-Memorialization Project take MOTHA’s subversive wit into the contemporary political climate, one in which trans communities are again both under attack and fighting back. President Trump recently announced that he is considering reversing rules protecting the 1.4 million Americans who identify as transgender, while at the same time a historic amount of LGBTQ candidates are running for office and are poised to hold greater political power. Trans entertainers and performers are achieving recognition even as transgender people in the U.S. are being killed in record numbers. “There were always limitations in accepting and inclusion," Vargas said. “This political moment has highlighted the limitations.” Monuments have become a particular flashpoint in the U.S.'s fraught political climate, and Vargas says that he began the Stonewall project questioning the role of monuments. "I went into it with a real critical lens, but to be honest, I’ve become more understanding of the importance they play…There’s a way they can evolve over time." Vargas cited the influence of the work of the artist Isa Genzken, whose Ground Zero sculpture series imagined for the World Trade Center site in New York City a series of kaleidoscopic churches and discos instead of drab office towers. Like Genzken's sculptures, the Stonewall proposals embrace messy emotionality and exuberant vitality over orderly construction. The carnivalesque approach reflects the overall strategy for MOTHA, a roving institution that Vargas says will never have a permanent physical home. “At the heart of my approach to this project is an acknowledgment that once you start you canonizing, once you start making an official history, you have to start policing boundaries of what is or isn't considered transgender, and I don't think the identity category lends itself to that approach." Vargas added, "I don’t think it makes sense to have a traditional institution…It makes sense to have it exist as an evolving parasitic entity.” Which is not to say that Vargas wouldn’t want architects to imagine what a home for MOTHA could look like. “It’s been a dream of mine to have an architectural design competition for the institution,” Vargas said. Architects, take note.  Consciousness Razing—The Stonewall Re-Memorialization Project will be on view at the New Museum in New York City through February 3, 2019.
Placeholder Alt Text

Celebrate LGBTQ History Month with this interactive map of historic N.Y.C. sites

This month is LGBTQ History Month and to honor it The Municipal Art Society (MAS) of New York featured a panel about historic sites associated with the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender rights movement at this week's MAS Summit in New York City. Every year, the conference explores how present-day issues can be informed and challenged by historical advocacy. On Tuesday the ninth annual program featured a lecture led by the co-director of the NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project, Ken Lustbader, who, in his own words, is trying to put LGBT history on the map by “looking at it through a rainbow lens.” Next year marks the 50th anniversary of the 1969 Stonewall Riots, a police raid at the Stonewall Inn gay bar in New York's Greenwich Village. Lustbader recalled that the riot wasn’t the first at the Christopher Street institution, but one that is especially remembered for the days-long protest where patrons were inspired to fight back, forever marking the N.Y.C. neighborhood as the unofficial cradle of the LGBT rights movement. Stonewall Inn is just one of the places the NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project documents in its interactive map of historic and cultural sites associated with the community in all five boroughs. From the Angel of the Waters statue atop the Bethesda Fountain—an 1860s masterpiece by lesbian sculptor Emma Stebbins and the earliest public artwork by a woman in New York City—to Carnegie Hall—the venue famous for hosting countless performances and works by LGBT artists—the list of historic sites reaches way beyond bars and clubs. Continuously being added to, the network of hundreds of locations illustrates the richness of the movement’s history and its influence in the United States. Covering sites dating from the city’s founding in the 17th century to the year 2000, it currently lists 5 locations in Staten Island, 12 in Queens, 123 in Manhattan, 8 in Brooklyn, and 4 in The Bronx. The 150 pins presently live on the map can be filtered by cultural significance, neighborhood, era, and LGBT category. The organization also offers themed tours that rotate throughout the year, including ones on Jewish New York, Transgender History, and The AIDS Crisis. Many of the movement’s historic sites were unappreciated and a vast majority remain completely unknown. Landmarking LGBT sites comes with its own set of unique challenges. When a potential landmark cannot be evaluated on architectural grounds alone, a site's social history can be difficult to establish because of a lack of proper documentation of LGBT sites. According to Lustbader, there’s historically been almost no record of various sites keeping because of stigma and fear of exposure. There’s another caveat: proving identity and gender can be difficult for LGBT people. Today, there are now 17 LGBT-related sites of the more than 93,000 listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Lustbader and fellow project directors Andrew S. Dolkart and Jay Shockley confronted these challenges with 25 years of LGBT-specific research conducted by historic preservation professionals and numerous outreach events and crowdsourcing opportunities to develop a step-by-step guide to evaluate state and national LGBT register listings. The guide and all of their research can be accessed in the Historic Context Statement for LGBT History in New York. Discover hundreds of places that represent NYC’s LGBT past on nyclgbtsites.org. Each site contains descriptive historical accounts, contemporary and archival photographs, related ephemera, and multimedia presentations. Happy cruising!
Placeholder Alt Text

Monument to LGBTQI community to open this June in Hudson River Park

A monument to the LGBTQI community is expected to be completed this June along Hudson River Park. The anticipated unveiling coincides with Pride month, which celebrates the 1969 Stonewall uprising that took place just half a mile away. The monument, designed by Brooklyn-based artist Anthony Goicolea, is an arrangement of nine boulders that have been incised with glass prisms that display the rainbow when lit. The project was in part spurred on by the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando that left 49 dead which motivated Governor Andrew Cuomo to appoint an LGBT Memorial Commission. While a celebration of the present queer community, the monument’s site is also a testament to LGBTQI history near both the thriving gayborhood of the West Village and the West Side Piers, which in New York’s history served as a gay meeting (and cruising) ground. It is also not far from the 2016 New York City AIDS Memorial, which is dedicated to the over 100,000 New Yorkers who have died from AIDS-related illnesses and the many who acted as caregivers during the crisis and who continue to fight as activists. The monument is designed to be a meeting ground that both blends in with the environment yet maintains a distinct character. As Goicolea told The New York Times last year when the project was announced, “I wanted to communicate with the river and the piers. I really want it to be part of the area.” For Goicolea, the boulders act not as the memorial itself, but, as reported in Urban Omnibus, as “pedestals for the true memorial, which is the people that are sitting there”
Placeholder Alt Text

Architecture is a sexual practice at the Cruising Pavilion in Venice

The weekend before I left for Venice, I caught the eye of a guy on the street near my apartment in Brooklyn. After we passed each other, we turned around to check each other out. It wasn’t until I got home minutes later, and logged onto one of my geo-social “dating” apps, that I received a confirmation of our interaction: “What were you looking at, boy?” typed the same guy on his phone, now 700 feet away from my house. This encounter collapses two different modes of cruising, the historically perambulatory practice of searching for sexual encounters, which, in the digital age, is shifting more and more to mobile devices. The variant practices and habits of cruising form the subject of the Cruising Pavilion, an off-site group exhibition curated by Pierre-Alexandre Mateos, Rasmus Myrup, Octave Perrault, and Charles Teyssou held during the vernissage of the 16th Venice Architecture Biennale. Cruising is a covert act that takes place in plain sight. Cues like locked eyes, a turnaround glance, winks, gropes, all signify consent to approach one another. Its signals formed in reaction to bourgeois fears that homosexuals openly forging social connections would upend normative gender relations and, thus the reproductive order. Public restrooms and parks, historically and to this day, are examples of cruising sites: arenas charged with intrigue and hormones. Cruising Pavilion’s curators contend, however, that the parameters of these spaces are evolving due to the advent of apps like Grindr, which use mobile devices to map sexual partners by proximity. At the same time, cities like Berlin have become destinations for sex tourism where clubs and bars recreate the cruising experience in “dark rooms” or bath houses designed with labyrinths and other programmatic devices intended to provoke drifting, encounter, and niches for physical activity. Frequent cruisers shape their physical environment to encourage interaction and to evade persecution. In this way, the story of cruising space is one of persistence, something that the works in the show touch on through the artists’ and architects’ range of interpretation and representation. The Cruising Pavilion curators designed their exhibition space as a dark room to sexually frame the works on display–a tactic that is sometimes successful, but in others, doesn’t facilitate more erotically nuanced reads of conventionally presented works, especially in absence of wall text. But to over-explain and force a singular narrative would hush the pluralistic modes of sexual communication that this exhibition celebrates. It’s a jolting counterpoint to the official Biennale program, curated by Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara of Grafton Architects, whose chosen theme, Freespace, came with a manifesto that omits sex altogether. The Cruising Pavilion is located in Giudecca, a southwestern spit of land known for Il Redentore, Palladio’s 16th-century Catholic church. Some 100 yards away is a less well-known site: the Garden of Eden, named after Frederic Eden, an Englishman who founded it in 1884. By the early 1900s, it had become Venice’s premier cruising grounds, frequented by the likes of Jean Genet. It’s now in private hands and serves as a progenitor to the Cruising Pavilion, located along the same shoreline in a double-height warehouse. It takes a while for your eyes to adjust when you walk into the space from the unsympathetic Venetian sun: it’s pitch black—save for low-lit red light bulbs, a nod to the lighting design often used in dark rooms. The exhibition opens with a wheat-pasted sign reproduced from the defunct New York BDSM club Mineshaft, open from the mid ‘70s to ‘80s. This dress code was posted on the club’s door alerting patrons to the rules to follow when inside: No cologne, no suits, no ties, and no dress pants, among other maxims. Even the Cruising Pavilion’s original font is derived from scrawls in cedar planks in the West Side Club, a former New York sauna, a gentle nod to past sites of cruising. The curators made full use of the leftover Icelandic pavilion from a past biennale. Luckily, it fits with their theme. Two giant towers – each two stories and made from standard issue lumber – rise from floor to ceiling. Narrow stairs take viewers up and down different platforms where work is on display. The tight turning radius to transfer from stair to platform reminded me of one of the devices used in dark room labyrinths to generate encounter between patrons. In one such instance, I was confronted by Ian Wooldridge’s readymade sculptures. Square, tubular brackets made mostly of steel rise from the floor like little automatons. They’re braces used to anchor urinals in drywall, but formally, and under the glow of the red light, they read like sex dungeon infrastructure. Each is tricked out with a cross-brace to support a suspended metal ring used to guide pipe conduit. Located waist high, the rings suggest other potential functions. Speaking of holes, Andreas Angelikdakis presents what could be considered an IKEA of dark room design. His sculpture Cruising Labyrinth, is a sheet of ¾” plywood painted black with a simple glory-hole cut out. Takeaway instruction sheets advertise “Every hole has a goal!” so one can make and install their own dark room configurations. Sex is more difficult to read in works that, at first, seem like pin-ups of simple architectural plans. Etienne Descloux’s drawings, DR01 – DR07, could be mistaken for banal axonometric studies of small pavilions, but he drew these dark room studies as portraits of his friends with whom he collaborated–a gesture that renders the client-architect relationship more intimate and erotic. Another axonometric diagram for a speculative bathhouse to accommodate gender-neutral patrons called S H U Í, accompanies a video used to pitch it to investors. The video subverts the derivative hetero-normative narrative common in advertising for luxury condos, in which straight, white couples gaze out from their new 40th-floor balcony at the city below. S H U Í Bathhouse User 1: Ylang Ylang, by Jon Wang and Sean Roland, instead, presents a gender non-specific Geisha wandering a city at night and into/out of staged wellness environments. It’s a bit of a myth that Grindr and other dating apps are the first technologically disruptive forces for cruising. Emergent technologies have been creatively co-opted for sexual functions for years. These “hacks” and innovations are evident in the show, if not explicitly stated. A vintage French Minitel machine is installed in Cruising Pavilion’s entry in an incoherent timeline of cruising communications. France’s telephone modem-driven computer device launched in the 1980s was the site of gay chat rooms and two-way communication. Diller Scofidio + Renfro offer a conceptual predecessor to GPS-driven cruising in their Blur & Blush book printed to document their Blur building, a pavilion in the 2002 Swiss EXPO cloaked in a mass of fog. The “Blush” portion of the project was never realized, but the architects proposed that visitors wear coats outfitted with electronic lighting and vibrating sensors that responded, algorithmically, to the proximity of others who had given similar answers to a questionnaire. The architects thus engineer connection between strangers in an obscured environment not unlike cruising grounds. Andrés Jaque’s Intimate Strangers documentary picks up the torch and traces the rise of Grindr from its early days in 2009 as “Near Buddy Finder” to its present platform where users have splintered into hyper-specific “tribes” of interest and identity in an app now crowded with advertising. Visitors can watch it on a laptop on an inflatable mattress, one more nod to the raw interior spaces of dark rooms. Nearby, Prem Sahib and Mark Blower document similar spaces in a series of photographs of Chariots, a London gay bathhouse that was closed and demolished to make way for a 30-storey luxury hotel, a common tale in rapidly gentrifying neighborhoods like the city’s newly tony Shoreditch neighborhood. It turns out that both the digital space of Grindr and the urban spaces of historically queer neighborhoods are both becoming highly commercialized, perhaps at the expense of a community who can no longer afford, but will always find, its freespace. Aestheticizing the cruising experience, as the curators have done with their dark room-inspired installation, risks a similar commodification. But Cruising Pavilion’s mirage-like appearance at this year’s Biennale would have had less public visibility under white fluorescent lights, and its presence filled a void at the official exhibition that, surprisingly, lacked explorations of queer space. Where the project drifts next is unclear, but let’s hope it brings more people into the dark.
Placeholder Alt Text

Orlando approves permanent Pulse nightclub memorial

The Orlando, Florida city council has unanimously approved a permanent memorial to the victims of the June 2016 Pulse nightclub shooting. The just-approved labyrinthine memorial builds on a design in Colonialtown Square Park that was already in-progress at the time of the massacre. Forty-nine pavers, one for each of the victims, will coalesce around a shattered heart that shares a rainbow color palette with the #OrlandoUnited symbol. Plans on file with the city list local firm KZF Design (also known as KMF Architects) as the architect. Installation will be complete by next week, and the city plans to hold a dedication on December 20. In October, city officials approved benches, a fence, and new landscaping on Pulse's property, the first step towards another permanent commemoration. Pulse owner Barbara Poma's onePULSE Foundation is behind that project.
Placeholder Alt Text

Orlando is installing a temporary memorial at the Pulse nightclub

On June 12, 2016, 49 lives were lost on Latinx night at Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida when gunman Omar Mateen targeted LGBT club-goers out for a night of dancing. Now, the city and a private foundation are making steps toward honoring them in a public memorial. This Monday, plans for an interim memorial were approved at Orlando's town hall meeting. The plans are spearheaded by the onePULSE Foundation, a nonprofit incorporated by the owners of Pulse to honor the victims of the shooting and provide support to survivors and the families of the deceased. The Foundation has created a fund to support scholarships in each of the victims' names. They are also planning a museum that will showcase the narratives of those affected as well as a permanent memorial for the site. The temporary memorial is meant to make the site more welcoming while the Foundation develops the permanent memorial. The approved measures include a rainbow-painted crosswalk, illuminated benches, a new fence painted with murals, landscaping features on the otherwise concrete curbside, and areas for reflection and walking around the site, which has been closed off to the public for over a year now. https://twitter.com/eric_adelson/status/918084055417151488 The City has already completed the crosswalk painting portion of the memorial on Esther Street leading up to the nightclub, much like the rainbow flag being permanently installed today in front of New York's Stonewall National Monument as an homage to early LGBT and HIV/AIDS activists. Both installations have been timed to coincide with National Coming Out Day, held yearly on October 11. Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer praised the plan for the temporary memorial, which he said would be "much more friendly ... to the public that are coming there." Since the shooting, the site has attracted visitors from around the world who pay their respects to the souls lost that night, leaving behind flowers, balloons, photographs, advocacy posters, and other personal tributes. At the Orlando town hall meeting, a panel of experts also discussed the site's eventual fate. One panelist, the vice president of New York's National September 11th Memorial, argued that some or all of the original structure should be kept intact rather than demolished, preserving the survivors' and families' connection to the space where their loved ones experienced their last moments. At the meeting, an audience member remarked on the lack of diversity of the all-white panel, which she felt was not representative of the community most impacted by the tragic event, which was largely Latinx, Black, and queer. "There were nine black, African-American," the audience member continued. "There were single mothers, low-wage workers … you have to be inclusive.”
Placeholder Alt Text

World's first museum of queer art debuts new Soho gallery space

Yesterday the world's first museum of queer art celebrated the opening of its inaugural exhibition in a newly expanded space. The Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art, founded thirty years ago in Soho, has spread out from its longtime storefront space on Wooster Street into an adjacent property. Inside, visitors are greeted by Expanded Visions: Fifty Years of Collecting, staged in a bright and airy gallery designed by architect Steven Keith. As the title suggests, Expanded Visions digs into the Leslie-Lohman archives to showcase work by and for queer people, many of them New Yorkers. The 250 sculptures, paintings, and photographs on display are drawn from 30,000 works in the permanent collection that span over 500 years of history. Museum founders Charles Leslie and Fritz Lohman (1922-2009) have spent more than a half-century collecting art that reflects the LGBT experience; their efforts and networks helped preserve work that would have otherwise been lost to history. New acquisitions will both represent lesbian and trans artists and honor the founders' collecting interest in works that depict gay male life.

Expanded Visions, said executive director Gonzalo Casals, is meant to be both a mirror and a window. "If you're queer, we hope you see yourself represented in this work," he said."If you're not, this is a window to understand the other—to create empathy to empower and inspire."

Pieces by well-known artists like Robert Mapplethorpe and Andy Warhol are displayed near Grey James and Cathy Cade to celebrate queer identity and tell stories about censorship, the HIV/AIDS crisis, beauty, body image, and queer social spaces that sustain community. Although much of the work on view is from the 20th century, and depicts familiar New York moments and places, the exhibition is a survey featuring work from artists as far back as the 19th and 18th centuries. Movable beveled paneled walls in standard-issue gallery white open up a room that, due to a bisecting row of cast iron columns, could otherwise feel too crowded.

The Leslie-Lohman Museum commissioned Keith, who's based in New York, to realize an expansion that includes new staff offices, storage space, and a gift shop. The larger space will be an asset to its mission: The museum's small size, explained former interim director Meryl A. Allison, would force it to close during installation and de-installation, but the 2,300 square feet of new space allows the museum to welcome visitors even as shows change over. Keith's work, which started in October 2016 and finished last week, increased Leslie-Lohman's total footprint to 5,600 square feet. The new space, at 26 Wooster Street in Manhattan, officially opens tomorrow, March 10. More information about exhibitions, programming, and hours of operation can be found here.