2007 architecture of resistance
The Architecture of Resistance
It would have been next to impossible to not have noticed the flow into the streets of human protestation of recent years—the people’s spontaneous occupation of the streets in an organic flow of defiance. Those one day events come and go, are usually underrepresented by the mainstream media and are characteristically described as an odd assortment of incongruent disaffection and demands; they are criticized as having no structural integrity beyond the anarchic euphoria of the moment. This is for most of the consuming public taken as the ‘truth’ and life goes on seemingly unaffected—the tiers of power still firmly vertical.
But are there not organizing factors that belie this ‘truth’? And if so how do they manifest? How are they structured? How do they appear? Simply put what do they look like—how would we recognize them?
I am curious about the spaces of organization that form out of this chaotic flow; that organize themselves around existing structures or architectures of power; that engender the ability to sustain and grow; that manage to co-inhabit the preexisting dominant tableaux while providing a paradigm of counter valence – a space of agency that takes on its own structural integrity, that resists disintegration into chaos under the weight of dominant force.
the circular march around the May Pyramid, Plaza de Mayo, Argentina
mothers clad in kerchiefs embroidered with the names of their relatives and
the dates of their disappearance, 1985
. . .
“. . . The Mothers appropriation of the plaza was nothing like a heroic final assault on a citadel. Instead, it succeeded because of its endurance over a protracted period, which could only happen because the Mothers were conspicuously ignored by the police, the public, and the national press. As older women they were no longer sexually desirable, and as working-class women they were of an inferior ilk. Nevertheless, their motherhood status demanded conventional respect. Communicating neither attraction nor threat, they were characterized by the government as “madwomen.” The result of their public tenacity, which started with the body exposed to violence, eventually evolved into a powerful architecture of political resistance. . . . The original group of thirteen women came to the plaza wearing white kerchiefs initially to identify themselves to one another. They agreed to return every Thursday at the end of the business day in order to call their presence to the attention of similarly aggrieved women. The Mothers moved about in pairs, switching companions so that they could exchange information while still observing the rule against demonstrations. . . Despite this incentive to abandon the plaza for a safer location, the Mothers sustained a symbolic presence in the form of a silent march encircling the May Pyramid. That form, so loaded with cultural and sexual associations, became the symbolic focus of what started as a literal response to the police’s demand that the women “circulate.”The white kerchiefs were the first elements of a common architecture evolved from the body. They were adopted from the cloth diapers a few of the Mothers had worn on their heads in a pilgrimage to the Virgin of Lujan’s sanctuary. The diapers were those of their own missing children, whose names were embroidered on them, and formed a headgear that differentiated the Mothers from the multitude of other women handkerchiefs on that religious march. In later demonstrations the Mothers constructed full-size cardboard silhouettes representing their missing children and husbands, and shielded their bodies with the ghostly blanks of the disappeared.” Susanna Torre The Sex of Architecture
What are the historical references that we might look to for assistance in seeing these formations? What are the structural factors that might be identified, acknowledged and named. I will call this an architecture of resistance. And how might a recognition of this architecture provide a foundation for conceiving of a different paradigm of organization, ultimately more suited to the longterm needs of the participators. How might this agency be transfigured to take its place in the public sphere in a form less transient than the spectacle of the singular event—how might agency itself replace the static presence of the heretofore monuments of reason that are provided for our passive consumption and understanding of political reality. How might the stasis of the monument of reason be transfigured by this parallel architecture—ultimately replacing the entrenched official narrative with a living model of civic energy?
I refer to the monument because it is here that we find the quotable version of the structure of reality; it is in the public’s acceptability of the monument that historical fancy is solidified as a single truth, condensed into the singularity of the unequivocal one liner—within which all other truths are mystically and tragically invisible and silent. The heroic is just—is justified. The battle, the moral imperative through which we, and only through which we, come to know our true nature—the keystone, that which identifies meaning through ultimate power.
The public hunger for the monument has ascended to a high pitched fever. Every catastrophe is hurriedly capped with a space of remembrance; to help not only digest the passing of such events but also to codify or make palpable an official version of what transpired and why. Nowhere is this more witnessed than in the city of New York itself with the rush to build a 9-11 memorial as the throngs of people stare daily at the fast filling hole. As tragic as that event was, and certainly it was, the pre-emptive memorializing of the event assures a singular way of understanding what transpired and why.
NY Vietnam Veterans Memorial, intervention May 2007
Much is askew, but, importantly, much is in formation. This exhibition will form the evidentiary narrative of multiple realities, through the use of a series of large scale photograph with accompanying narrative text. The exhibition will be augmented with a broadsheet or tabloid document containing a synthesis of the material on display interlaced with selected texts from a variety of sources, all unveiling a discursive architecture of resistance.
This proposal exists as just that, a proposal – there is no project completed awaiting exhibition—it stands simply as an idea in formation with several examples for reference. It is an investigatory project which has in its favor its timeliness. It is important to recognize that I will be approaching this project as an artist, not an historian, and as such the exhibition is meant less to be an historical overview but rather a phenomena of formation unto itself—an artwork. Its suitability to Storefront’s overarching program is clear in consideration of Storefront’s history of supporting artist’s projects in process.
A Proposal for an Exhibition for Storefront for Art & Architecture