E.5 Hidden in Plain Sight/Site: Objects, Architectures, Narratives of the Interstices

Fri Oct 22 / 9:00 – 10:30 PDT
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chairs /

  • Amalya Feldman, University of Toronto
  • Christy Anderson, University of Toronto

History has almost always favoured the large centres of production, influential works of art and architecture, and star artists and architects. As scholarship continues to move towards a more "global history," objects, artisans, and narratives that existed outside the bounds of traditional historiographical interests have begun to play a more important role in our understanding of the matrix of ideas that existed in different periods and geographies. This session looks to re-examine these matrices of ideas through the objects, artisans, and narratives that have been hiding in plain sight, overshadowed by the traditional canon of cities, people, and objects, in order to address the emerging historical variations of interconnectivity that support and complicate the global history movement. Proposals can address specific case studies, like the interstitial nature of late medieval Iberian visual cultures, or broader theoretical approaches such as the concepts of matrix, porosity, or portability.

Amalya Feldman is a PhD Candidate in the Department of Art History and the Centre for Jewish Studies at the University of Toronto. Her research is focused on Jewish architecture, urban thresholds, and cultural networks in late medieval and early modern Iberia. Specifically, she is exploring the ways that spaces of urban networks, which were performed by hegemonic and minority cultures in different ways, solidified the formation of the Sephardic Jews' cultural identity pre- and post-expulsion in 1492. Other areas of interest include the production of a global matrix of Sephardic/converso cultural space and Ottoman and Latin American architecture and urbanism.

Christy Anderson teaches the history of architecture at the University of Toronto. Her most recent project is a study of the ship as an architectural type by exploring the spaces and environments that connect the sea to the shore. Books include Renaissance Architecture (Oxford University Press, 2013) that treats buildings across Europe and rewrites the history of the field. Earlier projects include the relationship of architectural education and reading methodologies in the practice of the English architect in the book Inigo Jones and the Classical Tradition (Cambridge University Press, 2006). She has published on the complicated history of classicism and gender, the failure of architectural language, and the politics of wonder. In 2010, she received a John Simon Guggenheim Fellow in the field of Architecture, Planning and Design. She received her PhD from MIT in the School of Architecture and was a Senior Research Fellow at Worcester College, Oxford University.

E.5.1 Visions of Modernity: Indigeneity and Landscape in LA's Textile-Block Houses

Brandon Sward, University of Chicago

This article focuses on Frank Lloyd Wright, Jr., the son of Frank Lloyd Wright. The Wrights collaborated frequently, notably on the textile-block houses of LA. The roots of this method lie in plans Lloyd Wright prepared that included a repeated pattern of concrete blocks. Lloyd Wright developed this system into a technique while designing the grounds for the Millard House and managing the others. With a background in agronomy and engineering, Lloyd Wright had a large impact on the landscapes of these buildings. The textile-block method used molds to create locally sourced concrete blocks and joined with steel rods, allowing the Wrights to "fit" these structures into their surroundings. Philosophically, they were advocates of "organic architecture," in which buildings and surroundings together form a balanced composition.

Although organicism might imply minimalism, Lloyd Wright at times intervened extensively into the environment around these houses. For example, the Storer House was built on a hillside devoid of foliage and drew comparisons to a Pompeiian villa. But through landscaping, Lloyd Wright created the illusion of an exotic ruin. Distancing themselves from the Prairie School into which they felt pigeonholed, the Wrights drew inspiration from Mayan architecture, especially the symmetrical reliefs of Uxmal.

I use the textile-block houses to explore how the Wrights used Mesoamerican forms to reconcile tradition and modernity. The geometry of Mayan pyramids and temples resonated well with the clean lines of modernism while simultaneously evoking the sense of an ancient and faraway people. Surrounding these buildings with dense vegetation, Lloyd Wright replicated the feel of an explorer stumbling upon a forgotten civilization. The contrast between shade and sun heightened this excitement, as if trudging through a rainforest rather than a metropolis. Situating the textile-block houses within Maya Revivalism, I investigate how pre-Columbian civilizations were enlisted in a uniquely "American" style.

Brandon Sward is an artist, writer, and doctoral candidate at the University of Chicago who lives and works in Los Angeles. He was a quarterfinalist for the VanderMey Nonfiction Prize, was shortlisted for Disquiet International's Literary Prize, and was an honourable mention and finalist for the New Millennium Writing Awards. He's won residencies at Alternative Worksite, Byrdcliffe, the Hambidge Center, the Institute for LGBTQ+ Studies, Main Street Arts, NAVE, SloMoCo, the Sundress Academy, the Vermont Studio Center, the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, the Wassaic Project, and Western Montana Creative Initiatives. His first solo show, How the West was lost, opens at Stone House Art Gallery in October 2021.

E.5.2 Thirding with Nine Thousand Memories: Moqarnas, Siah Chador, and Disoriented Spatial Memories

Sara Mozafari, Alumni of University of Toronto/OCAD University

Thirding with Nine Thousand Memories is an exhibition that aims to exemplify the correlation of space, memory, displacement, and identity. Through the lenses of immigration, art, history, and architecture, I revisit my memories to address how, as a woman, I move back and forth between the real space and the mind space to create an imaginary space, reconfiguring my situation in society and developing a sense of belonging. The exhibition features a performance installation that articulates three different spaces: the Firstspace or real space, the Secondspace or memory-attached unattainable space, and the Thirdspace or imaginary space that emerges from the first and the second spaces through the process of Thirding. Using the moqarnas as a metaphor to represent a memory-attached space that exists in my mind and the siah chador, both in the sense of a veil representing memories and of a tent representing a home or a shelter, I explore how displacement and memory shape identity and social relations, foregrounding my struggle to find a place to call home. The piece applies the moqarnas as a geometrical and spatial allegory for autobiographical and cultural stories and memories. It uses the moqarnas's facility for conversion and innovation to convey this central idea. It also defines the poetic, metaphoric, political, and historical character of the siah chador in the sense of a black veil and a black tent.

Sara Mozafari / I was born in the summer of 1981 in Tehran, Iran. 1981 is two years after the Islamic revolution of Iran. 1981 is a year after the beginning of eight years of war between Iran and Iraq. 1981 is seven years before the mass execution of Iranian political prisoners. I was born in 1981 in Tehran, Iran, as a woman-to-be, and I left the country when I was 25. After immigrating to Canada, my factual perceptions from my home country narrowed to the memories I have and the news I receive on an everyday basis. My current practice's primary focus is to recognize space, displacement, and memory in diverse aspects of human identity and social relations. I received my Honours Bachelor of Arts in Architectural Studies from the University of Toronto with distinction in 2017 and my MFA in Interdisciplinary Arts, Media, and Design from OCAD University in 2021.

E.5.3 A House Like a Mirror to All: Friar-Architects, Local Iconographies, and the Other Juan in Mexico's First Churches

Joshua Fitzgerald, University of Cambridge

Stepping into some of Mexico's earliest Christian churches, today, visitors encounter placards and curated texts that, by name, accredit Europeans or European religious orders with the innovation and construction of these famed sites. Convent histories, especially the stories told about those built on the skirt of Mexico's Popocatepetl volcano, trace the footfalls of the lionized friar-architect Fray Juan de Alameda. Seemingly, Alameda organized construction efforts and trained Indigenous labourers from Nahua towns (Huexotzinco, Huaquechula, Cholula, and Calpan), and, according to the Catholic hagiography, his conversion efforts inspired new communities to take shape. But this surface reading of events is a half-truth. This paper will challenge the traditional history, shedding light on Indigenous perspectives and local history. It explores a different biography, a Nahua-Christian convert, coincidentally baptized with the name Juan, and the story of the various communities integral to sixteenth-century place-identity formation. The other Juan, a Nahua noble with key ties to Indigenous politics in the region, helped to drive convent construction efforts, especially in the case of San Martín Caballero de Quauhquechollan (Huaquechula). Squaring what can be gleamed from Nahuatl texts, pictorial manuscripts, and the material culture of early transatlantic sites for learning, this paper uncovers the hidden story of local agency shrouded by Alameda's shadow. Thousands of unnamed local artists — most of them newly converted Indigenous-Christian students of Alameda — invested the most effort in these public works, and this paper will explore how Nahuas inserted a local vision into the iconography of transatlantic art and architecture. This study recasts "Alameda's" churches within Mesoamerican contours, offering a vision of community place-based religious education. It highlights regional artistry from the period and adds nuance to our understanding of these critical sites to better demonstrate the persistence of Indigenous traditions through critical ethnolinguistic and visual analytic studies.

Joshua Fitzgerald / I am an ethnohistorian and museum professional in Mesoamerican and Spanish-Colonial material culture and history from, roughly, 1300 to 1700. In 2019, I completed a Museum Studies certification and PhD (History) from the University of Oregon and, last year, I interned with the Getty Research Institute for the Florentine Codex Initiative. My current publications examine on the Science of Learning, Human-Animal intelligence, Place-Identity Theory, and ethnolinguistic study of Mexico, and I interpret precolonial pictorial manuscripts, archaeological finds, and colonial-era texts, artwork, and architecture to better understand Indigenous (namely, Nahua) perspectives from the past. As a JRF in Cambridge, I am currently finishing my first book (current title: An Unholy Pedagogy), guest curating for Cambridge's Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, facilitating new scientific analysis of great works of art for the Rubinoff "Art as a Source of Knowledge" fellowship, and learning to cope with kids at home during COVID lockdowns.