This Saturday we’re teaming up with MADA Monash University Art Design & Architecture’s XYX Lab to bring you Queer Some Space, a day-long symposium melding talks, seminars and all-in panel chats, punctuated by a twilight keynote presentation and culminating in an evening of music performances. Together the Queer Some Space participants will ponder: How can the architecture of spaces be more inclusive within our everyday lives? And how can we achieve this without losing the sense of community that is so essential to the existence of LGBTQIA+ spaces? How can art and literature provide an accessible, non-physical and autonomous space for queer self-expression?
How does your experience as an artist and a performer inform your practice as an architect?
My music and architectural practice explores experiences of isolation, desolation, delight and euphoria. While the music creates a space for reflection and catharsis for the emotional context of this, the architectural side looks at process, strategy—with queer and trans identity unashamedly at its core. I’ve found great strength and optimism in that relationship that both music and architecture are solutions to creating/building relationships and space.
What are some of your favourite subversive elements you have incorporated into a structure you have worked on?
Being so visibly trans and queer, it’s difficult to subvert the dominant paradigm of cisnormativity without being provocative—I enjoy that sense of interruption into the traditional notions of what architecture should be. Take for example the architecture conference; three days of 100 people reading their papers, and then I turn up with an electronic drum kit and deliver a lecture on architecture and gender diversity via techno and one-liners projected on the screen behind me as I hit each beat—now that wakes people up and take notice of what I consider to be a crisis in the structure of architectural discourse and practice. The way we communicate, critique and create discourse itself is open to subversion. We need space for catharsis.
Where are we at in the conversation about safe spaces? Where do we go from here?
I think we need to shift the language to how we mitigate risk and be honest about the limitations of architecture to be safe. We need to talk about how all spaces in some way are prone to risk. An inherent quality to queerness however is how we find sanctuary and survival in the most unlikely spaces.
Alternatively, I think framing queer and trans narratives around access to pleasure, belonging and permanence in public and private space is one of optimism and creation. We can imagine space and citizenship as evocative futures for queer and gender nonconforming people. How architecture is complicit might seem complex to unpack; but I propose simply that Arch/ID/LA/UD are tools that transform social behaviours and can normalise GNC bodies and identities—therefore mitigate the risks we experience in space.
How have queer online spaces changed the way people gather IRL?
Well, I think there is a serious disconnection between online and IRL space; two very different public or semi-private spaces. I crave IRL—and living vicariously through online space; where the looks and the lifestyle are so refined, is fucking me up. What I love about playing or DJing music is that through performance I can connect with people; we have to meet in a venue. My music is all about shared catharsis and confrontation, so immediately there is this relationship we enter into that is an extension of how people perceive me as this online entity through digital streaming my music, videos, social media or writing.
But even that is hard to penetrate; I think online space and communication makes intimacy and emotional nuances in friendship really hard. I’m trying to resist that and make spaces of meaningful connection. I feel so lonely because of online space, but I suspect others do too. Sometimes, I just wish I had a heavy old beige rotary-dial telephone attached to a wall; I’m old enough to remember that era and back then I took nobody who ‘liked my status’ for granted - I never counted them as a statistic and when I was lucky enough to chat to somebody once a week—it was so meaningful. But my sense of loneliness/disconnection to space and its connection to being queer/trans and isolation has never left—regardless of my pre-sleep scrolling in 2018 or daydreaming in 1988. Gatherings of any kind still feel like this thing that I need to hold fast to; that might never happen again—that I’m lucky to be part of and should appreciate and live within.
From any discipline, who do you see as a critical voice doing important work in the world? Who should we be listening to in 2018?
Australian writers like Nayuka Gorrie, Iris Lee, Roj Amedi, Tilly Lawless, Celeste Liddle stop me in my tracks with their perspectives and experiences on politics and space. Queer and trans politics writers like Dean Spade and Jasbir K. Puar have been super influential on how I understand my work and expanding my world view. It’s also really important to value the work of columnists like Rose Dommu or Serena Daniari have amazing insights on trans space and how we navigate/survive it. Musically; June Jones, Aerea Negrot and Octo Octa inspire me to understand how music communicates narratives of gender, emotion and the body.
Simona Castricum’s music and architecture practice explores borderline spaces between belonging, euphoria, desolation and aggression—tied together by narratives of nonconformity, queer cities, gender and relationships. She is a PhD candidate in architecture at the University of Melbourne’s Melbourne School of Design and a broadcaster on Melbourne community radio station PBS. Simona has written for the Guardian, Vice, i-D and Archer. She is academically published in Routledge’s Architecture & Culture, as well as The Lifted Brow. She is represented by Melbourne queer feminist music label LISTEN Records.
Kate McKenzie is a producer, cultural curator, project manager and communications specialist working in Melbourne. She is the events manager at The Lifted Brow, marketing manager at Kinfolk Enterprises and works on production projects across the arts and social justice sectors.