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ARCHITEXT examines the tension between text and location.

The project poses the question: what purchase does architecture have in the reception of textual discourse?

A single 4 X 6 foot poster that read "Let us be the architects of our future, not its victims" served as my rhetorical device. I affixed the poster to physical structures that signify power in the realms of education, government and capitalism. Sites included: the exterior stairwell leading into the John Hay library (affiliated with Brown University); the entrance of Rhode Island's Superior Court building; the Cityside entrance to Providence Place mall; the stairwell leading into the Rhode Island State House; and the corner of Providence City Hall.

The project prompted two unexpected questions. To begin, what rhetorical element(s) emerge as a result of the placement of this chosen text on these selected sites? And moreover, does the combination of site and text articulate my intended message?

After reflecting on the project and assessing the documentation I came to the conclusion that the combination of selected sites and saying did not pose a particularly interesting question. Nor did the project achieve my initial aim. I was dissatisfied with my chosen trope of irony. And furthermore, I intended that saying to speak to and for sub-altern populations, not against monoliths of modern power.

So how did I get so off course? Where did my intention break away from my execution?

It happened on Eddy Street beneath the underpass leading towards Rhode Island Hospital. I arrived at this location prepared to hang my poster behind a street-side hut erected and maintained by a homeless person. Slightly afraid and reticent to interrupt whomever resided in the hut, I passed by the structure and began to hang the poster. I momentarily thought: what a strong statement this intervention shall make. It will certainly call into question the role of agency in the act and state of homelessness. I was fleetingly pleased. My efforts were interrupted by the emergence of the hut's owner. I politely introduced myself, my project and my intentions. I was rejected outright. More so, I was appropriately called out on my presumptuousness and act of trespass. Admittedly I was shaken. I retreated to recalibrate.

After this incident I asked myself: how can I, from my platform of privilege attempt to make a statement about a mode of living I know nothing about?

My ethics upbraided me.

In response to this encounter I decided to play the project safe, taking the architectural spectacle of power as my subject. 

I have since internalized this experience and have decided to embark upon a new iteration of this project. This time I shall annotate the text. The saying shall now state: "Let us be the architects of our future." I plan to design a poster that shall be displayed in shelters that specifically serve women and families. Experientially, I can relate much more closely to this target subject and because of this I do not feel as though I am compromising my ethics to make a piece of socially responsive art. Additionally the omission of "and not its victims" and the shift in location changes the effect of the text. It now reads as a line of empowerment in a structure that aids disenfranchised along their path to independence and franchise.

I hope that these modifications will harmoniously align my art and ethics and help to mature the assertions made by ARCHITEXT.


- Jen

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