Gay sex, architecture & cruising cultures
Opening: February 22, 6–8pm
The first chapter of Cruising Pavilion opened in parallel to the 2018 Venice Architecture Biennale. The exhibition presented different understandings of cruising by looking at the various spaces and architectures that are either appropriated, like public sites, or designed, like sex clubs and dating apps. ‘Cruising’ usually describes the quest for sexual encounters between homosexual men in public or dedicated spaces, but it cannot be reduced to either men or gays. From this intricate and changing relationship between cruising, sexuality and space, Cruising Pavilion, Venice investigated the different directions in which cruising practices have evolved.
Cruising Pavilion, New York looks at the city’s conflictual architectures of cruising, both lost, living and potential. Has New York become the puritan heaven described by some? While the Venetian version of the project connected minimal art with BDSM and architecture, this chapter is rooted in the libidinal history of club culture. The de-sexualization of disco and house music and their mutations into the official anthem of ‘happy globalization’ have obscured their origins, which were notably embodied by the Continental Baths in the basement of The Ansonia Hotel in New York City. Founded in 1968 by Steve Orlow, it comprised of a dancefloor, a cabaret lounge, sauna rooms, steam rooms, a roman swimming pool, an upscale restaurant, a hair salon, 400 individual rooms, two large orgy rooms, and an STD clinic. This sexual power plant hybridized the French discothèque model with the social ambitions of Soviet workers’ clubs breaking social hierarchies in order to generate unplanned bodily collisions and release a critical dose of sweat, sperm, and saliva. Since then, New York has been the ‘Teatro Olimpico’ of architecture’s sexual experiments—from Fire Island’s woodclad sex havens of the ‘60s to The Saint’s kinetic pleasure dome of the ‘80s and the Lesbian Xanadu manifesto of the ‘90s, the metropolis applied the culture of congestion to dissident bodies, and injected poppers and LSD directly into the sensual production of space.
Cruising is the thermometer of metropolitan health. Following Charles Jencks’ definition of postmodern cities as machines for sustaining difference, it appears that the relation between the metropolis and cruising is crucial for measuring its capacity to host and generate new ways of thinking, loving, living, belonging and allying. Eat, pray, love like Henri Lefebvre! Sadly, the recent hygienization of New York’s sex culture has reached an urbanistic climax that has led the city to metabolize its own sexual monuments to AIDS and cruising, like the piers. Moreover the privatization of its sexual future is delegating cruising to corporations—homogenizing sexual fantasies, fetishes and practices. It is urgent for architects, artists, programmers, game designers, and activists to invent new sexual strategies for continuing New York’s cruising experiments. To think along the lines of Paul B. Preciado, it seems vital to perform increasingly intricate gender cut-ups, build sexual constructivist montages and appropriate body normative dating apps to create new forms of queer situationist dérives. Re-deploy imaginations of desire! Re-occupy public spaces! Re-engage radical hospitality! Cruising Pavilion, New York believes that cruising is not obsolete and that public sex remains a laboratory for political futures and spaces.
Participating artists: Ann Krsul, Amy Cappellazzo, Alexis Roworth & Sarah Drake, Carlos Reyes, Charles Terrell, DeSe Escobar, Horace Gifford, John Lindell, Jürgen Mayer H., Kayode Ojo, Madelon Vriesendorp, Maud Escudié, Philipp Timischl, Robert Getso, Robert Yang, Shu Lea Cheang, Nguyen Tan Hoang, and Victoria Colmegna
Cruising Pavilion, New York is produced in collaboration with Ludlow 38’s curator-in-residence Franziska Sophie Wildförster. It is the second chapter of the curatorial project on gay sex, architecture and cruising cultures by Pierre-Alexandre Mateos, Rasmus Myrup, Octave Perrault and Charles Teyssou. The third and last edition will take place in the Autumn of 2019 at ArkDes in Stockholm, Sweden.