The Closet. A series of techno-affective devices

Project

The Closet is the space where we can assert our true selves. It is the opposite of what we are expected to be in the public space. It is in its interior where we save the masks we avail ourselves of in the outwards world. It contains both our biological and socially produced material. Not only is it metaphorical, but also a space that we always carry with us, and which is only open when the context permits it.

Everyone has their own kind of closet. Bigger or smaller, permanent or transportable, more open or more closed. However, the content and use that everybody can make of their closet is determined by the spaces we go through throughout our lives. If such content is not accepted by the exterior spaces, maybe this closet will never dare to open up and enable the affective realisation of its owner.

This project’s catalyst are all those closets that endure and contrive a way to trawl through a space where to be able to open themselves. It falls into two working areas: a fragmented cartography-contact with case-study subjects and sites – and a propositional research– ten material sceneries. Both working areas are simultaneous and still open to further discussion, liable to keep developing. And the two of them try to articulate an Affective Ecologyapplied to architecture as a working method for the critic and the proposal of affective spaces.

The fragmented cartographyconsists of learning, discovering and assorting -whilst not unveiling- manifold human agents and miscellaneous technologies -techno-affective devices- that skirt the rules of certain spaces. Their strenuous efforts get affective satisfactions that would not be accepted in the prevailing spatial and social context. These people, communities and technologies form an arena where affective issues can be debated and contested on aglobal and local scale, creating a package of knowledge that can be applied in architecture design. The main goal is to eschew the oppression of minorities and “outsiders” existing in whichever context we conduct research.

 

The series of techno-affectivedevices is centred on creating n sceneries, written in n chapters -at the moment and in this context there will be ten- with the aim of building a critical method against any kind of affected oppression linked to architecture. All proposals endeavour to empower the anti-normative “deviations” so as to achieve the sentimental and physical realisation of one or more human agents. 10 affective stories, 10 architectural proposals, 10 challenges against the normative, 10 vindications against control, 10 social debates, 10 queer spaces, 10 institutionalizations, 10 multi-performances, 10 freedom trials, 10 struggles for equality… We can label them in different ways.

We can also read each proposal either individually or linked with the others. Nevertheless, they all share the same objective: opening the closet up.

Interview

What prompted the project?

Over the course of my architecture studies the idea of centring on social wedge issues, in which I was involved myself, became doubtlessly compelling. Therefore, as a non-straight individual, I came to the decision of tackling the biopolitical control on public and private spaces alike, a matter I had experienced so many times before throughout my life. At the time, in 2014, I did not find much research on architecture and gender together, so after coming across several Queer Philosophy masterpieces by authors like Judith Butler, Paul B. Preciado, Beatriz Colomina or Aaron Betsky, among others, I decided to embark on a Master’s thesis focused on queer spaces.

What informed the choice of specific case studies?

The main ethos of the research was to find case studies that substantially differed from my own lifestyle. If something was distinct from my overview of affectivity, it was within the project’s interest. As a result, I bumped into many sexual realms, all and sundry of them different among themselves, ranging from corny normative dates to sadomasochism imaginaries. In a nutshell, one of the first premises was to ascertain drastically antinormative sexual-affective practices in order to provide an insight of how differently our affective necessities can be fulfilled.

What defined the medium of the cartography as a means to compile and map?

As an architect, I set out to purvey a novel perspective of queer studies with a difference from other activists and academics. By trying to describe manifold sexual practices and lifestyles on the cartography of a specific territory, I was concentrating the information within certain boundaries and with a physical and time scale. By the same token, mapping and drawing my research enabled me to find out, firstly, what spatial necessities some affective practices have and, secondly, how these spaces could be architecturally enhanced. I was resolute in drawing everything of interest on the map, being everything that could teach us something new in how we can escape from the normative control of our everyday spaces.

What role did the drawings play throughout the development of the project?

Drawing was of uttermost importance during the course of the project. Not until something is drawn, is it really stated. At the beginning, I was at a loss to find the means whereby to understand how to tackle “queer architecture” as such, but drawing allowed me to complete gradual stages throughout the project. Although a project is not a linear process at all, I found myself drawing my fieldwork experiences as a way to put all the information in order an, bit by bit, I started discovering the techno-affective strategies I was unconsciously looking for. I would dare to say that in this project drawing was, if nothing else, a way of thinking and stating new architectural ideas.

How and to what extend did these two working areas influence and affect the project and its development?

In earnest, there were no two working areas at the outset and never could have the project evolved if I had been limited to just two working methods. However, it is true that they differ in what final intention their documents have. The “fragmented cartography” aims to create a theoretical basis bearing on “Affective Ecology”, whereas the “10 techno-affective devices” contrive a way to propose an architectural physical space or mechanism. Either way, both are inevitably intertwined. All proposals are based on the discoveries of the cartography, whilst in the same breath, some of the proposals led to the need of amplifying the scope of work of the mapping. Needless to say that the first one would be no use if it had no intention to enhance our physical and intellectual reality, which is spanned in the second one. Both of them are incomplete and open to further discussion and development.

What informed the limit of 10?

As above mentioned, this project is open to further development and it could be considered as endless in the way it is conceived. Nonetheless, it was firstly carried out as a Master’s thesis in an academic context at the university of Alicante. Thus, there was a deadline and it had to be submitted as other Master’s theses, so ten was a fair number of case studies so as to give a wide overview of how different affective antinormative practices can be. Oddly, it is a number to set a project about antinormativity to the normativity of an academic institution, as universities are.

What was the most important tool when developing the project?

Critical thinking, abstract though it may seem. In my view, this attitude, regarded as a tool, boils down to keeping propositional and accepting uncertainty throughout the project. Also, this Master’s thesis could not have come real without mapping and drawing, but I consider that these are means of my own critical thinking.

How and to what extent has this shaped how you operate as an architect?

Without a shadow of a doubt, it hit home for me. There has been a sea change in how I tackle a project. In my humble opinion not many architectural projects at university deal with subjects related with sex and antinormative projects. So it was a challenge for me to work with the uncertainty of not knowing if the project would end up in something useful or interesting, either for me or society on the whole. So, I learnt that it is only when we get to grips with things that are unknown to us that we thrive on. Architecture universities sometimes focus on standard projects so as to meet the daily requirements of the bulk of the society, at the expense of social minorities. It is especially when we deal with the uncertain that we come up with original theories and solutions. Therefore, when I now set out to steer a project, as an architect, I always try to wonder how can I veer from the normative architectural thinking in order to attain more thought-provoking solutions. Innovation, as such, entails a great deal of risk.

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