In 1968, Hannah Arendt used Bertold Brecht’s characterization of an era–dark times–as a framework for exploring lives and actions of a series of different historical characters. The men and women she studied had little in common among each other, except for their ability to respond to the “dark times” in a way that Arendt found worthy of exploring, and even admiring. “Dark times” on the other hand, she felt recurred in history in different forms, always trying public figures and their contemporaries, and compelling those that interested her the most to find courageous and constructive responses in their actions and attitudes. She proposed that “Even in the darkest of times we have the right to expect some illumination…” and in the collection of essays she introduces with these works, she indeed looked for illumination in lives lived and entire bodies of work. These are some of the premises of Agit Arch series of workshops. That we may be living in dark times is still relatively easy to ascertain for we still remember things could be otherwise, but the workshop will provide a platform for discussing and describing what dark times might mean to its participants. Agit Arch will be an experiment in both allowing us (as the participants in our own dark times) to produce seeds of the kind of sustained acts of illumination that guided Arendt’s characters, and her own work. Some of our work, depending on the participants’ interests and temperament might also focus on seeing and studying “illuminations” in things around us.
To do all of this we will stay at least loosely tethered to the realms of art and architecture and their intersection with political topics. The three workshops will explicitly cover a collection of related topics allowing room for others. Direction for doing so will be provided by a series of guests, all involved in curating and broadcasting architectural discourse. Critical Broadcasting Lab supplies the medium and the register for the final deliverables of this experiment, we will provisionally and generously call it: architectural exhibition, as we challenge and experiment with its efficacy in the contemporary architecture media complex from biennales to Instagram.
Agit Arch Experiments will take place over three workshops, each with its own final broadcasts, yet interrelated through participants’ interests, and ending in a selection of works that will be mounted into an exhibition in the Keller gallery.
Citizenship has been paradoxically construed as based both in the rigid distinction between those inside and outside a legal national boundary, and more productively but less legally, as the ultimate project of sharing a common set of concerns. This event will staging a conversation with the curatorial team of “Dimensions of Citizenship,” the US Pavilion for the 2018 Venice Biennale, and extending further their questions into areas that are of interest to the student participants.
Maybe it is futile to think we can resist the flattening impulse of hashtag politics, maybe we should not try resisting, for they have an important organizing dimension, but that will be for us to debate as we embark on a deliberately slower mode of communicating. #metoo, #notourwall, #blacklivesmatter, #solarpunk. What are you committed to changing? What story needs to be told about it, and by what means will it resist the impulse for a simple resolution and opt for “illumination”? This workshop will invite the participants to develop and curate together a series of topics (they collectively deem important) on architecture in the dark times.
There is no doubt that populism rising is in part a matter of design. Monuments, colors, history, heritage, architecture and font are part of its surge together with the unprecedented reach of social media (aided by some basic AI) and seriously destabilized democratic institutions. In this workshop we will examine architectural and other cultural artifacts that traffic in the production of populist narratives: the aesthetic elements that make up the imaginary world of populist America. Once we have identified these objects we will research their historical and symbolic depth, and then we will invent ways to hack them! (There is an option to continue the work from Events #1 and #2 in this instance and towards a more “baked” exhibition.)
Rodrigo Escandón Cesarman
Melissa Gutiérrez Soto
Trevor Herman Hilker