29 February 2024
12pm EST/6pm CET
DocTalks x qswg
Session 4

Evan Pavka, Daniel Ovalle Costal, Menghang Wu

Respondents: Qiran Shang, UPenn & Francisco Fernández Romero,
postdoctoral fellow at CONICET

Parallel Domesticities

Toronto Metropolitan University

The house of Frances Loring and Florence Wyle, Glenrose Avenue, north side, east of Mt. Pleasant Rd, 1952 (prior to addition). Photo by James Victor. Courtesy of Baldwin Collection of Canadiana, Toronto Public Library.

“The Girls” — Frances Loring and Florence Wyle — and “The Boys” — Charles Ashley and James B. Crippen — were friends and same-sex artistic pairs who played a significant role in the cultural milieu of Toronto, Canada in the first decades of the twentieth century. Well-known during their lifetimes, both remain largely marginalized and little discussed today, particularly in regard to their professional and personal allegiances with architecture. Neoclassical sculptors and portrait photographers respectively, both couples deployed the built environment to negotiate the social world of what was then a largely protestant, conservative metropolis.

    For Loring and Wyle, the abandoned Deer Park Church at 110 Glenrose Avenue (at the northern edge of the growing city) became a key site for both work and life. Over the course of four decades, the artists transformed the structure into a highly publicized and visited home, studio and architectural oddity that was mapped onto their own. A block away, at 110 Inglewood Drive, Ashley and Crippen commissioned an unusual and austere residence by A.E. LePage, eschewing many conventions of its time. Alongside, a flagship photography studio and gallery was commissioned for a bustling site on Bloor Street West.

    This presentation explores the role of both domestic architecture and the artist studio specifically as key sites for the masking and mediating of non-heterosexual life, casting both as integral in a subcultural archipelago. The parallel means of architectural patronage — construction and adaptation — are examined as distinctly queer approaches that sought to reinterpret, invert, recontextualize and appropriate heteronormative structures. Each approach is read against the specific artistic mediums of the couples, resulting studio environments, corresponding unconventional dwellings and distinct locations at the edge of Toronto — neither entirely urban nor rural — to reveal the manifold ways in which visible and public lives and spaces coexisted within the context of the city.


A Canon of Queer Domesticity:
Design Fabulations

The Bartlett School of Architecture, UCL

Daniel Ovalle Costal, Disobedient Dollhouse, 2023, photograph by Sophie Percival.

My project explores the critical potential of architects’ toolkits to re-design domesticity as a space of inclusion for sexual and gender diverse people. My work engages with the ongoing debate around homonormativity in queer studies and deploy a queer design toolkit to explore how the nuanced politics of the home are spatialised.

Scholarship on queer space has historically prioritised public and commercial spaces, from ‘gaybourhoods’ to night clubs. Domestic spaces have historically received less attention and have often been framed as sites of normalising power. This is despite the richness of feminist critiques of domesticity as a key agent in the construction and reproduction of gender and sexuality. Some scholars have since problematised this reading of home and argued for more nuanced understandings of domesticity.

My thesis takes a transdisciplinary approach to domesticity, acknowledging that a wide and diverse range of forms of knowledge is required to explore its nuances. This includes the design practice of dollhouse-making, rooted in architectural design methods but also in toy-making and other forms of craft; as well as qualitative research methods, developed in relation to queer critiques of ethnography.

My research uses co-design workshops with an aim to decentre the architect in the design process and re-situate them as a facilitator of participants’ domestic utopias. Dollhouses will assist this process, facilitating design fabulations between participants and designer. This research situates fabulations as utopian constructions related to everyday experience, spaces, and rituals, thus surfing the binary between the quotidian and the fantastic. My thesis argues that dollhouses have the ability to project queer futures into everyday spaces, and explores the role of dollhouses as disobedient objects, which enable critiques of architecture’s disciplinary conventions, and thus of the spaces and aesthetics of normative domesticity.

Ultimately, this project aims to develop a queer set of design methods that can be used to produce domestic prototypes to demonstrate new spatial, ethical, and aesthetic horizons for queer inclusive design.


Sex Objects and Performing Envelopment: Exploring Queer Spatial Fluidity in Dance Spaces through Nonhuman Mobility and Experimenting Relationalities

Ohio State University, USA

Fluids. 2018. Performed and produced by Finnish arts collective WAUHAUS and Estonian dance production house Sõltumatu Tantsu Lava  (STL). Photo by Katri Naukkarinen.

This paper, constituting Chapter 3 of my dissertation, delves into the realm of queer spatial fluidity by examining the concept of performing objects. Focusing on the use of objects to transform the dance stage into a queer space for experimenting with relationalities, the study conducts movement analysis on the dance production Fluids and Lovers. My argument posits that sex objects in dance, such as lubricant and disco ball-shaped textures, provide nonhuman mobility, altering human movement models and challenging conventional anthropocentric perspectives in both dance and performance studies. Drawing on object-oriented philosophy, new materialism, dance studies, and queer performance theory, this research utilizes performance as a lens to intervene in our recognition of objects and space in the broader humanities.

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