Shower Curtain Wall

            Proposal: Installation / Performance

Shower Curtain Wall speculates on the cultural and disciplinary space between the shower curtain and the curtain wall and the oppositional spheres they occupy: keeping water in versus keeping it out, soft vs. hard, private vs. public, interior vs. exterior, etc. This opposition between the surfaces has its parallel in the domain of architecture discourse, i.e., the degree to which they attract scholarly investigation. Additionally, this pairing illuminates the boundaries of the discipline, with the curtain wall firmly confined within its limits and the shower curtain - with its quotidian associations, “a fleeting object of study” 1 - at its fringes. In projecting modernist virtues of bureaucratic transparency via the material transparency of glass, the former attains the status of a disciplinary project and invariably becomes too disciplined. If the identification of a medium is an act of institutional reification 2, the curtain wall presents as modernism’s medium par excellence. The research culminates in an exhibition that stages a caress of the shower curtain’s surface against the curtain wall. In seeking moments of approximation within a spectrum of institutionally assigned value, the project unpacks the notion of disciplinary proximity.

Surface Rituals

The project adapts performance to mediate oppositions: the requirement for maintenance and cleaning shared by both surfaces plays out as a cleansing ritual (performance). This ritual extends beyond the cleansing of inanimate surfaces and engages the subject surface (the body), an allusion to cleansing oneself (showering). Furthermore, this ritual cuts through the metaphysical realm of the discipline - its value assigning regimes – and the material space of the profession (with its maintenance policies). Finally, the ritual is refracted as a spectacle that coopts the curtain wall’s transparency in service of screening modes of occupancy that flicker between the strange and the routine.

1    Sylvia Lavin, “Critique passionnée or a folie à trois,” in Flash in the Pan (London:                         Architectural Association, 2014), 7.
2    Waled Beshty, “Aesthetics and Distribution Case (1): Preliminary Notes on Art’s Ability to       Radicalize Academia,” in 33 Texts: 93,614 Words: 581,035 Characters (Zurich : JRP | Ringier, 2016), 213.

Images: Elevation and axonometric fabric print studies depicting the curtail wall of the Pepsi-Cola Corporation World Headquarters by Natalie de Blois & Gordon Bunshaft of SOM.

The installation attempts to mine the ephemeral and immaterial outcomes of the caress. Via ornamentation and decorative patterning, the shower curtain retains filiations to a pre-modernity whose erasure supplanted the conception of the curtain wall. Albeit conflicting, this shared link to ornamentation (in both surfaces) activates an area for research that seeks to transpose the application of ornament between surfaces. Subsumed into the project as a readymade, the curtain wall (or storefront glass) engages the temporal contingencies of an event that entices its participation. Its rigidity dissolves to permit extant modes of disciplinarity and inquiry to occur.