(07)Queer Dismantling:
      Subverting the Conditions of Public Space

Undergraduate Thesis / 2019

Queer theory as an interdisciplinary discourse can dismantle, subvert and revise “public space” defined as conditions to readjust perception of assumed spatial interaction.

(00) Statement

Conversations surrounding the social interaction within and spatial occupation of public space are still heteronormative under the current capitalistic oriented public sphere and patriarchal systems. Disidentification with standard modes of legibility inevitably produces alternative forms, such as public toilets, shades under the tall bushes, office storage room... but the relationality of those cannot be recognized through the public realm. Major “public space” became a default failure for people with excess identities. In this thesis, public space is defined as the sidewalk-facade condition from the critical case study of Stonewall Inn Riots that happened in 1979. By analyzing and anatomizing similar and opposite conditions, the space dismantling begins from a queer perspective. Queerness as a social identity is introduced as an interdisciplinary discourse, for these conditions to dilute the monotony of the patriarchy, and shift the duality of the heteronormative/homonormative binary. This thesis uses queerness - “the open mesh of possibilities, gaps, overlaps, dissonances and resonances, lapses and excesses of meaning.” – to collectively formulate a system of syntax. This system re-defines and intervenes conditions to provoke the multiplicity of identities, and achieve the performativeness of the human subjectivity to abstain the assumed spatial interaction.

(000) Stonewall Inn

The Stonewall Riots happened in 1969  was an epic social activism event happened in between the public space in terms of the streets and sidewalks and the publicly programmed space, the interior of Stonewall Inn. The success of this public spectrum reflected on how the suppressed marginalized group fight against the authority and social norms in order to gain public recognition and agency to perform their identity in society. Thus, the sidewalk to the inside of the Stonewall Inn became a perfect condition as an alternative public space.

The constituencies, the gay customers did not get recognized by the law, the queer street kids did not have families, and the mafia who wanted to gain profit from middle-class gays formed a unique public. The moment when the black drag queen threw a piece of stone at the police anchored the success of this public space condition.

However, the Stonewall Inn nowadays became a popular tourist attraction occupied by some heterosexual tourists commodifying gay culture and normalizing the experience of marginalized groups. The history of the Stonewall Inn Riot has been put onto the pedestal, objectified into storyboard framed by plexi glass on the wall, monumentalized into a national landmark. Vast gentrification is still happening in Greenwich Village led by rainbow capitalists. Thus, there is no successful condition left for Stonewall Inn nowadays to cherish other than historical memory and significance.

Using 1979 stonewall inn riots as a critical case study to redefine the public space in my thesis as condition that happen between the sidewalk and facade, analyzing both the past condition where different constituencies emerge together and share the same space, while current condition has been heavily commodified and monumentalized for the tourism economy along the flow of rainbow capitalism.

Scaffolding as the common building infrastructure is everywhere in new york. The rough structural presence hiding the surgery behind its overlapped frame. However, people underestimate the significance of scaffolding and its potential political intention. The construction of the scaffolding outside of one building can be the most benign violation. The usage of scaffolding in front of the Stonewall Inn implicates the ever-change constituency and identity of the place, holding more blurred imagery towards the high-profile tourist attraction. By applying a layer of fabric on the street in front of the scaffolding with an exact printed image of Stonewall Inn facade, the replacement of its identity generated, weaving the soft sobbing into the neighborhood. The different levels suggest a conceal of activity in between the fake and real, lifting the sidewalk into the sky.

The poché, the thickened wall, the gentle gesture with the mysterious entity, also become a shift from reality to illusion. The thickened facade of Stonewall Inn hides the secret public stairs towards the second layer of the scaffolding sidewalk, reorienting the public for another form of gathering. The bewidened wall in between both sides of the bar, also rescuing the smothering toxicity of heteronormativity of existing space into another level of fresh air.

Sidewalk-Facade intervention with scaffolding and poché tactics.

From where, I generated three queer spatial tactics:


Were you startled by the heavily armed NYPD police standing outside of the building, through three layers of road barriers and fences? The shielded identity monopolizes the accessibility to the sidewalk, solidify the invisible concrete wall between our encounters.

Were you tired of standing in the crowd, listening to repetitive indie music while watching self-claimed cool people dancing, mingling, socializing and sipping the 12 dollar wine from the plastic glass? Wondering around the white cubical space where the blue-chip arts hanging around, while glaring the neon spotlights shining through the window. The high rise buildings rise abruptly out of the ground in the background, attracted how many indulged soul, but hurried how many wandered dreams.

Or were you ever, during a somnolent night, walking past by the crowded sidewalk, while guys in suite girls on high heels, giggling in front of the nonchalant suit-bodied bouncer? The red velvet the bouncer is holding, became a device of authority and sovereign power, policing the individual agency, denying the longing but lost midnight intimacy.

(001)  Trump Tower

Lineweight drawing of current condition_Trump Tower

After 2016 presidential election, the so claimed public space of trump tower closed down to prevent the potential of protest happening on the terrace, as well as the heavily armed NYPD police 24/7 guarded in front of all the entrance of the building. Thus, the layered barrier blocked the social interaction that can potentially happen on the sidewalk, let alone the already privatized public space being monitored with strict policies.

The sidewalk, loses its own autonomy, has been manipulated into a social filter as a political device.

Therefore, scaffolding metaphor assembles an intended temporality to occupy the sidewalk and verticalize the protest space. The temporal suggestion of the scaffolding acts as illusional signage to the public for its forever under-construction entity, shadowing trump tower’s original image identity.

Vertically speaking, the transparency of both scaffolding infrastructure and social activities that’s holding inside shifts from opaque to transparent. The lower level function as workshop space for people to prepare the slogan, protest board and organize the public mind, as the level going up, people start to occupy the space and taking action with screen life-broadcasting the event. The corner, as one of trump tower so claimed public space, can also be accessed as speaker’s corner, where unmanipulated and autonomous voice can still be heard when we live under this digital age with customized filtered information.

Intervention with scaffolding strategy for a verticalized protest space.

(002) MoMA PS1

Lineweight drawing of current condition_MoMA PS1

As one of the biggest cultural institution in the city, MoMA PS1 claims its inclusivity and diversity as engaging more public into the museum, while holding events like summer warm up to attract younger generation into the sanitized white cubical space. However, drastically advertising and commodifying “low culture” events for a filtered public does not diversify and defend its own action of gentrify marginalized groups experience for the gain of cultural capital. In reality, it segregates its original audience from its accessibility. PS1 still serves the public filtered by capital profiles from the front door.

Thus, my intervention happens on this site is a 8 feet thick L-shaped poche space parasites on its original facade. Place the entrance in the back door adjacent to it’s garage and loading area, it mirrors its constituency from the back. The disoriented spatial condition interweave into each other, creating the gaps, overlaps with selections of works from friends, community members, and underestimated and underrepresented artists.

Intervention with poché strategy for a parasited exhibition space.

(003) Marquee Club

Lineweight drawing of current condition_Marquee

The gentrification happened in Chelsea transformed the meatpacking district from a queerhood into a high-end “modern-life” zone. It not only caused the displacement of old residents, but also seduced its original residents into a new type of neoliberal lifestyle. “highendcracy” is happening here, tranformed the Hudson Yard into the new New York landmark, as well as the exclusion of the accessibility to the vertical space. Starting from the construction of high line, the gentrification of Chelsea did not stop, but also stimulated its residents’ desire-producing transformation from sexuality oriented purpose to survive as marginalized group into capital oriented living standard with exclusivity. Marquee, as one of New York’s exclusive and famous night club, locates in the periphery of this new glamorous zone, has become one of the metrics measure the standard of modern living. The exclusivity of heteronormativity that’s happening inside subverted the social purpose of fairness. The line formed by people who are waiting outside, formed a unique public that is cartered to the modern imagination of exclusivity, lifestyle, and consumerism culture. However, the crowd thus becomes submissive to the bouncer’s rule, as well as the dominating capitalist value system.

The intervention for Marquee turns the opaque, black wall into a series of layered walls. By creating different accessibility from the sidewalk into the club, as well as the extension to the roof. The first layer is a flower bodega in the day time, giving the sidewalk  another “identity”, as well as flower signifies the fragility and the counter type of masculinity, a reversal play towards the club itself. The second layer is the entrance, by disorienting the threshold through the wall, subverting public’s recognition of the waiting line and the effect of bouncer’s authority figure.

Intervention with scaffolding(billboard) strategy for an alternative layered entrance.