Every month architects and industry insiders share their recommendations for the best exhibitions and events to visit in London.
It feels, albeit prematurely, like we’ve collectively ambled into a world where we are finally no longer obliged to state how uncertain or unprecedented the present times are in our emails. Though evidently not a reflection of the increased certainty of our circumstances, it does seem to reflect a shift in consciousness. Now, for better and worse, society is anticipating an uncertainty to come. And with lockdown’s physical restraints largely lifted for now, a precarious freedom catalyses our curious renouncement of present-day preoccupation and blissful reminisce, leaving, for many, a mind’s eye gazing squarely in the direction of time’s arrow.
So, it is with an anxious nod to the future that we would like to offer our highlights for the month of July. We hope these in some way articulate the need to re-think, deconstruct, and abolish our way into a vastly different time than own; to mobilise and organise against the systemic injustices that have both caused and exacerbated the lethal uncertainty of our present and the even more pernicious familiarity of our modern, global era.
Start this Wednesday with two unfortunately simultaneous online talks: a critical discussion between the amazing Mona Fawaz, Cesare Di Feliciantonio, and Raquel Rolnik in Beirut Urban Lab’s ‘Dystopias and Utopias Amidst the Crisis: Is a New Urban Model Underway?’ or Public Practice’s heavyweight panel discussion on Resilient Infrastructures. Earlier that day, we’ll also be leading the next workshop in the ‘Learn with the Design Museum’ series, exploring possibilities and histories of community ownership over media production through a hands-on hectograph printing session on Instagram live.
For a more interactive experience than zoom or the gram can offer, next Monday tune in to the latest of SAVVY Contemporary’s brilliant radio series ‘Listening Into Placeness. Untraining the Ear’ where artist Shanti Suki Osman will give a live listening and sound performance on questions of balancing power from a marginalised perspective. Ending next Monday too will be Lisson Gallery’s spotlight screening of Zachary Heinzerling’s ‘Hugh the Hunter’, a powerfully surreal encounter between the natural world and the human condition starring, and through the lens of, artist Hugh Hayden. Hayden, who trained as an architect, will also be talking to Elvira Dyangani Ose on Wednesday 8th (making that day a triple whammy) about his exhibition ‘American Food’ which beautifully re-worked familiar designs and materials to celebrate American cuisine’s indebtedness to African cooking.
In what might be the first physical exhibition suggestion in a while, the Alison Jacques Gallery is showing two bodies of work by pioneering African American photographer Gordon Parks. Segregation in the South (1956) and Black Muslims (1963) are both vital glimpses into the violently racially segregated urban experiences of different Black communities in Alabama, New York, and Chicago and both ought to remind us of the work still left to do almost 70 years on.
Reflecting on some amazing work that has been done elsewhere, on Thursday 16th join the DeCID team, MASS Design Group, scholars at the Bartlett Development Planning Unit, the inspiring practitioners at Catalytic Action, and others for a seminal webinar on ‘Co-designing built interventions with children affected by displacement'. We’ll also be up again towards the end of the month, this time speaking virtually, with artist Yinka Ilori about how we re-think design in the public realm for the latest in NOW Gallery’s ‘The Peninsulist Presents’ talk series on the 22nd of July.
If you haven’t already there are a number of amazing publications and articles out at the moment that you’ll need to get you through this month of re-thinking. Firstly, The Funambulist, a fantastic magazine that interrogates the politics of space and bodies, has released its latest issue, ‘Reparations’, exploring perspectives on the question of reparations in settler colonial and post-slavery contexts around the world. Secondly, if George Kafka’s phenomenal interview with Renato Cymbalista of Sao Paulo’s FICA for e-flux won’t inspire you to re-think approaches to fixing the UK’s broken housing model nothing will. Thirdly, Industria has just released the second edition of its sold-out first, hand-made publication, which features Carol Wright’s fiercely brilliant piece ‘Walking Whilst Being Blak Outside’. And finally, catch architectural designer/practitioner Thandi Loewenson’s new part-fanfic, part-research log offering for the Cyber-PiraMMMida project, depicting an ethereal encounter with the Zambia Statistics Agency building and the consequent experience of the emancipatory potential of ‘weird’.
On a final note, initiatives like designer and MAIA Group founder Amahra Spence’s ‘Black Land & Spatial Justice Fund’, Andre-Donavan Reid’s ‘Transforming Walsall Fund’, and Brainchild Festival – which is among many things a vital infrastructure for young designers – still need your financial support and solidarity. There is certainly uncertainty in our future. The only greater assurance is that without radically rebuilding now, or supporting and standing in solidarity with those who are, we risk never leaving behind the uncertainty of the present.
Akil Scafe-Smith, Melissa Haniff and Seth Amani Scafe-Smith