Architecture of Authority

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United Nations General Assembly, New York, NY Color Inkjet Print © Courtesy of the Artist and Acme
Architecture of Authority

2939 Denby Ave.
90039 Los Angeles
June 30th, 2007 - July 28th, 2007
Opening: June 30th, 2007 6:00 PM - 8:00 PM

Closed as of July 2017

“ARCHITECTURE OF AUTHORITY” explores physical spaces that have been designed to control the relationship between authority and the individual.   The images illustrate ways in which the architecture of a space can subdue and intimidate -- whether in expected situations such as prisons, death chambers, interview rooms in Guantanamo or Abu Ghraib, the headquarters of the FBI, Secret Service, etc., or in more surprising places such as Montessori schools, outside a principal's office, or a church. 

The work also includes a look at the sets of "Law and Order," "Law and
Order: CI," "Law and Order, SVU," "NYPD Blue," "Cold Case," and "Without a Trace," as these television shows have created a visual vocabulary now part of the popular conception of the architecture of authority. 

I am trying to bring the viewer into these various sites of investigation, areas it may be unlikely they would be able to see otherwise.  The environments are compelling, riveting, disturbing and damning.  Each conveys a slippery slope of changing function; as a Secret Service agent said, "The difference between an interview room and an interrogation room is the answers you give."

My hope is that ARCHITECTURE OF AUTHORITY has a significant impact on the dialogue relating to the Patriot Act, individual freedom, and issues of deteriorating liberty in the world today.

There are several hundred images; all from work in places such as
Iraq, Beirut, Cuba, Syria, Cambodia, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, England, Scotland, France, Germany and various sites in the United States and Mexico.  This is a body that I have been investigating for the past six years. It is reaching a culmination of some extended effort.  I will be doing a book of this material to be published by APERTURE PRESS in July 2007. Richard Macarthur, publisher of Harper’s Magazine is writing one of the essays for the book.

A Montessori classroom “invites” you to join the circle of classmates, where everyone is treated and respected as an equal.  This reflects early socialization and positioning skills learned.  The Apslund Law courts in Gothenburg, Sweden are also positioned in the same manner. The prosecution, defense and justices sit in a circle at the same level. Contrast this to the normal high school classrooms positioned in an “adversarial “ position, not dissimilar to the American and Anglican judicial system, where the bench (from the French word for “elevated”) looms. Here the judge sits above, looking down on his or her courtroom, diminishing and subordinating the trial participants.

The physical dimensions of a confessional at the Santa Barbara Mission are the same square footage as the Interview Room for the Los Angeles Police Department (where OJ Simpson was questioned) at Parker Center Los Angeles.  This is unsurprising as both are intimate spaces created to elicit a confession from a sinner. It is a small matter to the architecture as to the nature of the crime, secular or non-secular. The sinner is put in a small confined space to facilitate an intimate, detailed conversation. 

The work I am doing has been looking at “seg cells  (segregation cells)” isolation cells removing individuals from the general population in Abu Ghraib, Security Housing Unit (SHU) at Pelican Bay and visually comparing these types of isolation.  Police stations, Booking benches, Auditoriums, churches, Mosques, CEO offices—all are subject to this study.

This asymmetrical architecture is evolved, and I suggest, not accidental. It serves a function and it is my goal to make what is covert, more apparent.

This work builds on a previous body of work Waiting for the End of the World, which was published by Princeton Architectural Press, and has been a traveling exhibition for the past several years. It is my goal to continue work that focuses on a global political involvement.

While the book Architecture of Authority is scheduled for publication and the editing process demands a certain closure, aperture is also doing a touring exhibition of the work. Article 3 of the Geneva Accords is being eviscerated; Habeus Corpus is a memory. This work must continue. As long as there is a Josef K. in the world (from Kafka’s The Trial) it is critical that artists respond, question and make the issue obvious and part of an imperative dialogue that cannot be ignored.