Graduate Program in Media + Modernity | Princeton University presents:
Darell Wayne Fields, Mario Gooden and Anne Anlin Cheng
“Architecture in Black and White:
Rethinking the House for Josephine Baker”
[interlocutor: Beatriz Colomina]
Tuesday, April 12, 2022 @5pm ET
Online Event [register here]
Darell Wayne Fields: “The House for Josephine Baker: Spatial Rhetorics”
Due to the widespread fame of client and architect, Loos’s House for Josephine Baker represents a Black architectural type. For the type to remain (a type) requires re-ensconcing Josephine as Black, feminine, and primitive within Loos’s voyeuristic construction. Reevoking Loos’s house, regardless of historical or theoretical intent, privatizes and primitivizes Josephine all over again—again and again. The only way out—Josephine’s way out—begins with demolishing Loos’s House. This is difficult to do because the house was never built. It is something more entrenched. It is a sign.
Mario Gooden: “This House is Not White”
By inverting the roles of Le Corbusier and Josephine Baker in their performance Modern Living at Villa Savoye á Poissey, choreographers Gerard and Kelly not only expose the intimacy of the relationship between the Baker and Le Corbusier and the influence of Baker upon his work, but the choreographers also call into question the authority of the heteronormative white male as author and ideal / universal subject. This is a subversive operation of queering the Villa Savoye and revealing its underlying Blackness. In “Queering “The Human Situation””, Black queer woman ethicist Thelathia “Nikki” Young argues that by extending the methods of liberation theology to include queering “deconstructs the logics and frameworks operating within old and new theological and ethical concepts. Furthermore, it dismantles the dynamics of power and privilege persisting among diverse subjectivities.” Read through the lens of this canonical work by arguably the preeminent high priest of modern architecture, Modern Living at Villa Savoye á Poissey “troubles the water” as well as performs earthly delights.
Anne Anlin Cheng: “Naked Houses, Sartorial Skins”
Did Adolf Loos design a house for Josephine Baker in order to capture her, or did Baker preempted Loos’s project by wearing it? Many have worried about how a white, European architect has tried to read and capture Josephine Baker’s body. Yet, instead of reading Baker through Loos, we might read Loosian theory through Baker-as-artist/theorist, a reversal that can unpack much of the ambivalences in Loos’s own concepts, be it the idea of “cladding” or the raumplan. This is not so much a question of subversion as it is about shifting an epistemic paradigm, rethinking the subjects and objects of primitive modernism. When it comes to architecture and blackness, let us move beyond issues of representation or appropriation to understand the much deeper and more complex entanglements among modern architecture, its preoccupation with “surface,” and ideas of “black skin.”
Darell Fields teaches design, urbanism, and theory. His theoretical work posits a Black spatial syntax derived from traditional narratives. These proto-spatial structures are projected as visual artifacts depicting the interplay of different sign systems including Black language traditions, visual formalisms, and architecture. He is currently a Visiting Presidential Scholar at Princeton for the 2021-21 academic year.
Mario Gooden is a cultural practice architect and director of Mario Gooden Studio / Architecture + Design. His practice engages the cultural landscape and the intersectionality of architecture, race, gender, sexuality, and technology. His work crosses the thresholds between the design of architecture and the built environment, writing, research, and performance. He is the author of Dark Space: Architecture Representation Black Identity (Columbia University Press, 2016).
Anne Anlin Cheng is Professor of English at Princeton University and author of The Melancholy of Race: Assimilation, Psychoanalysis, and Hidden Grief; Second Skin: Josephine Baker and the Modern Surface; and most recently, Ornamentalism. She is a contributor to The New York Times, The Nation, The Atlantic, and The Los Angeles Review of Books.
Beatriz Colomina is a renowned architectural historian and theorist who has written extensively on questions of architecture, art, technology, sexuality and media. She is Founding Director of the interdisciplinary Media and Modernity Program at Princeton University and Professor and Director of Graduate Studies in the School of Architecture.