Posts tagged with "LGBT":
French firm Coldefy & Associés with RDAI and the Orlando-based HHCP Architects have won the international competition to design the National Pulse Memorial & Museum in Florida. The tripartite design beat out the other five shortlisted entries which included heavy-hitting global firms like MVRDV, MASS Design Group, and Diller Scofidio + Renfro. Announced today by the onePULSE Foundation, team Coldefy’s memorial and museum master plan will be dedicated to the 49 angels—those who lost their lives—and survivors of the horrific shooting that occurred at the LGBTQ+ PULSE nightclub in Orlando on June 12, 2016. French artist Xavier Veilhan, dUCKs scéno, and landscape design practice Agence TER will collaborate as part of the design team, while Laila Farah, professor of women’s and gender studies, as well as peace, justice and conflict studies at DePaul University, will serve as a consultant on the project. Thomas Coldefy, principal of Coldefy & Associés, called the opportunity a beautiful, collective adventure. “This is a deeply meaningful project that reminds us how much architecture and landscape can influence our behavior and have an impact on our community,” he said in a statement. “Together, we have an opportunity to reclaim a place from terror and darkness and create a new reality, one that brings people together in celebration of joy and love.” The decision to choose Coldefy’s design, which was selected by a jury of onePULSE community members and civic leaders, was based on a month-long commentary period in which victims' families, survivors, first responders, and the public expressed their views on each entry. Led by Dovetail Design Strategies, the competition was launched in March and concluded with today’s design release. A father of a Pulse angel noted how Coldefy’s vision for the masterplan physically lit up what’s been—for three years—a dark part of the city. “The Museum has a lightness in design, but captures what the Pulse museum should be: A place to educate and bring a message of hope to the world,” he said. “...That protruding light up to the sky sends a signal to the world inviting them to come see what Pulse represented.” Towering above Orlando’s upcoming SoDo neighborhood, the open-air museum structure will spiral up and above the memorial site, allowing visitors to climb to the top, where light will illuminate the entire structure at night. The existing nightclub will remain on-site but will be sliced in half, making room for an intimate pathway through the building. A reflecting pool featuring a rainbow-colored basin will surround the club and a gathering space at the back of the memorial will provide moments of respite or quiet conversation. The design team will also revamp West Kaley Street where the memorial and museum is located, bringing in more room for walking, biking, and public transit. Accessibility will be at the heart of the infrastructure design. Coldefy is expected to work with the onePULSE Foundation and the community over the next year to refine the design.
This year, New York’s Pride celebrations revolved around a single bar: The Stonewall Inn at 53 Christopher Street. In the late 1960s—before the Stonewall Riots of 1969 made the site historic—the windows would’ve been blacked out, the doors kept closed, the inside kept dark and smoky until bright lights flashed on as a warning for an impending police raid. Now the bar is dressed in dozens of rainbow flags and sponsorship banners from Brooklyn Lager and Sky Blue, and in 2016, it became the first LGBTQ site to be designated a National Monument. As the jewel in New York’s queer history crown, the Stonewall Inn shows how the visibility of LGBTQ venues has changed over the past fifty years. “Bars have long been a key social aspect of gay life,” said Andrew Dolkart, cofounder of the NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project, a group that documents significant buildings from New York’s queer history. “At a time when it was very difficult for gay people to find each other, bars served that purpose. There weren’t really alternative places where people could congregate and meet each other.” Many of the sites documented by the LGBT Historic Sites Project are no longer extant; the buildings remain but the inhabitants and businesses that gave them their character have since moved on. Any and every kind of building has the potential to transform, if temporarily, into a queer space: The Gay Activist’s Alliance, formed in the aftermath of Stonewall, hosted meetings and parties in an old firehouse at 99 Wooster Street in SoHo before an arsonist’s fire evicted the group in 1974. In 1983, the Episcopal Church of the Holy Communion on Sixth Avenue was transformed into the Limelight, a disco club, before becoming a David Barton gym. In the late ’70s, the disused buildings at the Christopher Street Piers permitted men the privacy to sunbath naked or seek sex in the crumbling buildings, before the area was redeveloped in the mid-’80s right as AIDS was ravaging the city and performing an erasure of gay history and memory. “One of my favorites was the Starlite Lounge in Brooklyn,” Dolkart said. “It was a black-owned gay and lesbian bar that saw itself as the oldest nondiscriminating bar in New York, and when it was closing there was a little demonstration in front.” Patrons felt the closing of the Starlite to be a particularly hard loss, because, as Dolkart pointed out, “People have this tendency to think that gay bars and gay culture are white culture.” A lifelong resident of New York, Dolkart has witnessed first-hand the evolution of LGBTQ nightlife and the venues that accommodate it, “from places that were closed or enclosed, where you couldn’t tell what was going on inside unless you were gay.” Around the ’80s is when he noticed a change, with “bars with large windows that were very public. I think that has been an enormous change, that gay bars aren’t hidden anymore.” The changing character of New York’s architecture has accommodated this increased visibility, as vast sheets of glass have become the skin of the city. Take two of the city’s most visible hotel monoliths: The Standard East Village on Cooper Square (upon its opening, the building received nicknames including the Giant Shampoo Bottle and the Dubai Dildo), and its West Side counterpart, The Standard High Line in the Meatpacking District, with its wall of windows through which pedestrians can watch hoteliers having sex against the glass. This February, Angela Dimayuga opened the queer-friendly spot No Bar under the East Village Standard, a windowed venue with the option of opening up to the street front. At The High Line Standard, the rooftop bar and club Le Bain invites queer Meatpackers to dance in the open air. As queer spaces become more publicly visible, they also blend more homogeneously into the city’s landscape. “Gentrification is the removal of the dynamic mix that defines urbanity,” Sarah Schulman wrote in The Gentrification of the Mind, her book chronicling the erasure of gay life during the AIDS epidemic and the concurrent development of New York. During that time, New Yorkers saw Time Square’s adult cinemas and stores cleared away, health authorities began padlocking New York’s gay saunas as a preventative measure at the height of the AIDS crisis, while the Meatpacking District—where clubs like The Anvil and The Manhole turned the neighborhood’s industrial grunge into a fetish aesthetic—began its transition to a luxury address. While the glass and steel of contemporary New York favors transparency over privacy, there are those for whom queer nightlife will always be sought in shadowy spaces that offer obscurity, secrecy, and (hopefully) debauchery. Ladyfag, the queer party organizer who is responsible for many of New York’s most popular queer events, including Battle Hymn and Ladyland, is less interested in these new, glitzy venues. “I prefer a dirty basement with a low ceiling,” she said. “You want to go to some plush hotel and sit on a banquette? Go ahead.”
Part of the appeal of Ladyfag’s parties is their transient nature, appearing in previously undiscovered spaces and always moving. “I like to create my own connection with a space, with my crowd,” she said. “That way, when they come there, they think of it as that party or that space that I created as opposed to something in a bigger picture.” Holy Mountain, which Ladyfag held at Slake on 30th Street for four years, exemplified her parties’ punk, trashy experience: The narrow staircases were always gridlocked, the air-conditioning regularly failed, and the lighting was mercifully low. “Everybody told me it will never work because it’s on 30th Street and nobody wants to go to Midtown,” she said. “And they’re right. But it worked, everybody loved it.” The party eventually moved to Brooklyn when Slake was bought for redevelopment. Queer nightlife has a knack for finding such disused venues, bringing them to filthy life for a year or two, and then slinking off as the development teams approach. Being so short-lived, such parties and venues become instantly mythologized. Andrew Durbin’s 2017 novel MacArthur Park reads as a nostalgic ode to the Bushwick nightclub Spectrum at 59 Montrose Street, which had only closed one year prior to the book’s release. Spectrum—where coats were checked into garbage bags and thrown onto a pile in a corner while sweat dripped from the so-low-I-can-touch-it ceiling; where you were discouraged from lingering on the street out front because the venue wasn’t, strictly speaking, legal—instantly became the epitome of the grungy, DIY sensibility of Brooklyn’s queer nightlife, a sensibility which welcomed a nostalgia for itself even as it was happening. For Ladyfag, who got started when no one wanted to come to Brooklyn to party, the tables have turned. “Now everyone’s in Brooklyn,” she said, “and I’m like, I’m going to go back to Manhattan.” In the past ten years, nothing has affected queer nightlife more than social media. When Ladyfag first moved to New York in 2005, social media hadn’t yet dominated our lives. “We had the internet, but we didn’t have that constant knowing where everyone is at all times,” she said. “If you didn’t go out, you were alone. It was a totally different New York.” The rise of social media—specifically dating and hookup apps—significantly changed queer people’s reliance on bars and parties to find each other. “People don’t have the need to go to bars as much,” Dolkart said. “Like other commercial places, the internet has really taken over. Bars were not only social spaces, they were spaces where people met for sex, and then on to meet people to go home with. That’s kind of petered out.” As bars could no longer solely rely on the promise of sex to entice patrons, the rise of drag culture offered an alternative drawcard. Drag has always been a fixture of LGBTQ venues, but as RuPaul’s Drag Race jump-started a resurgence of the art form, it underwent its own Brooklyn renaissance. The drag performer Untitled Queen discovered Brooklyn’s drag scene in 2012. “All of these creatives descended into this nightlife scene,” Untitled said. “I think we romanticize ourselves as dirty punk, but there really were a lot of people experimenting and trying new stuff out. At the time, the bar scene became really hungry for drag.”View this post on Instagram
This experimental drag scene congregated in warehouses in Greenpoint and Bushwick, bars such as Metropolitan, Tandem, and Sugarland, and parties like Bath Salts at Don Pedro, a venue that Untitled remembered being “disgusting. There was old carpet and all the performers did lots of stuff with food and blood and alcohol. It was a very liquidy, gross show, and it was awesome.” In 2012, Untitled Queen performed at the first Bushwig, a drag festival cofounded by drag performer Horrorchata. Bushwig initially took place at Secret Project Robot, another Bushwick venue that has since disappeared. “That was an art gallery space, very DIY,” Horrorchata said. “I don’t even know how we did three years there because by the second year it was just so big.” Now in its eighth year, Bushwig takes place at the Knockdown Center, the festival’s home for the past four years, an immense converted warehouse space with huge windows and masses of outdoor space. “I think for some people they imagined it would lose its edge, and it has not at all,” Untitled said. “The family and the door opens wider, and people still feel the same energy.” To define a space as queer comes, more than anything else, from those who inhabit and transform it. “I think a queer space for me is if the promoter is queer, the event is queer,” Horrorchata said. “For example, at Knockdown, whenever we have Bushwig, we have a meeting with security and make sure there’s no gendering, no ‘Mrs.,’ no ‘Ma’am.’ It’s super nonbinary. We try to educate them and let them know this is going to be a queer space for the next weekend, and these are the rules.” Ladyfag’s events invite the same openness. “Queer to me is still this radical kind of gayness,” she said, “and in a queer space, if you call it a queer space, you’re making a statement of inclusivity.” In 1994, on the 25th anniversary of Stonewall, Dolkart took part in a conference on gay space. “There was an interesting conclusion that was reached at the end of the day, that there were no gay spaces, with the exception of bathhouses. There were no gay spaces, there were spaces that gay people put to use. And I like that. I think that our site is very much about that. It’s about places that gay people have made their own, and with nothing unique about the design of those places—whether it’s a bar or a theater or an apartment—they’re the types of spaces that you find in New York but that gay people have made their own.”
Just in time for LGBT History Month, the New York City Council announced at the end of September that six sites have been designated Individual Landmarks for their significance to LGBTQ+ history. While the six sites were selected during Pride Month this past June, they were required to go through a few more rounds of confirmations by the full 51-person City Council, the City Council’s subcommittee on Landmarks, and the Land Use Committee. While there are always naysayers in Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) public hearings, these significant landmarks have officially made it. This is great news for both the LGBTQ community and the NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project, an educational resource that began in 2015 with the goal of broadening people’s knowledge of LGBT history and geography “beyond Stonewall.” Sites are added to the project’s interactive map, which can be navigated through filters including “Cultural Significance,” “Neighborhood,” or “Era,” all of which aim to make “an invisible history visible.” "I am very proud of these designations, which recognize that despite the obstacles they faced, the LGBT community has thrived in New York City," said Landmarks Preservation Commission chair Sarah Carroll in an earlier press release. Below are the six newly-landmarked buildings: Audre Lorde Residence (1898) Location: 207 St. Paul’s Avenue, Staten Island Architect: Otto Loeffler Audre Lorde (1934-1992), an American writer, feminist, and civil rights activist lived in this Staten Island home with her two children and partner Frances Clayton from 1972 to 1987. Born in Harlem, Lorde noted in an interview with Louise Chawla that this home was a perfect balance between nature and her commitment to raising her children in the city. While living there, Lorde was the Thomas Hunter Chair of Literature at Hunter College and spoke at the 1979 National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights. Caffe Cino (1877) Location: 21 Cornelia Street, Manhattan Architect: Benjamin Warner Caffe Cino was designated for its significance as New York City’s first gay theater, as well as the birthplace of Off-Off-Broadway. The Greenwich Village Italianate-style building was occupied by Caffe Cino from 1958 to 1968 (closing a year before the Stonewall uprising) and currently houses a bar called The Drunken Monkey. The four-story tenement and store was constructed by Benjamin Warner in 1877 and features Philadelphia brick walls with iron and wood elements. LGBT Community Center (1845) Location: 208 West 13th Street, Manhattan Architect: Amnon Macvey The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center has been an indispensable resource to hundreds of thousands of queer city dwellers since its opening in 1984. Colloquially known as “The Center,” the Italianate-style hub serves the community through health and wellness programs, political action, and social events. In 2001, the center brought on Françoise Bollack Architects to restore the facade and transform the former high school into its present-day program. James Baldwin Residence (Remodeled 1961) Location: 137 West 71st Street, Manhattan Architect: H. Russell Kenyon This building is “the most significant surviving building in the United States associated with the celebrated novelist, essayist, poet, and civil rights advocate James Baldwin,” claims the LPC designation report. Born in Harlem, Baldwin made this his Upper West Side residence from 1965 until his death in 1987. H. Russell Kenyon expanded an existing row house from 1890 into a modern five-story apartment house in 1961. While here, Baldwin participated in events including a meeting at Carnegie Hall with Dr. Martin Luther King shortly before his death, and where he wrote Tell Me How Long the Train’s Been Gone (1968), If Beale Street Could Talk (1974), and No Name in the Street (1972). Women’s Liberation Center (1866) Location: 243 West 20th Street, Manhattan Architect: Charles E. Hartshorn From 1972 to 1987, this former Chelsea firehouse was known as the Women’s Liberation Center and was the home to many lesbian and feminist organizations, which broke away from the male-dominated LGBTQ organizations of the time. The space was run by volunteers and organized as a collective, serving as the primary meeting area for women fighting for LGBT rights through social service groups and political committees. Gay Activists Alliance Firehouse (1881) Location: 99 Wooster Street, Manhattan Architect: Napoleon LeBrun Another firehouse, this one in SoHo, was also designated. The Gay Activists Alliance (GAA) used the building as headquarters from 1971 to 1974, making it one of the most important LGBT political and cultural centers during these years prior to the opening of the LGBT Center (number three on this list). The GAA lobbied for local civil rights laws, worked against police harassment, and aimed for the creation of fair housing legislation and employment. Located in the SoHo Cast Iron Historic District, the building features neo-Grecian and Queen Anne-style ornamentation including terra-cotta reliefs and stained-glass windows.
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.
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.
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."
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 1969As 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.
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
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.
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!
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”
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.