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This installation celebrates radical sex architecture, glory holes included

‘Don’t expect control, order, or clarity, but more glory holes, lube, and poppers’

The Venice Architecture Biennale is the last place you might expect to find a thriving cruising culture, installed amongst entries from the Vatican, the V&A, and The Massachusetts Institute of Technology. However, Cruising Pavilion, a project curated by Pierre-Alexandre Mateos, Rasmus Myrup, Octave Perrault, and Charles Teyssou, in collaboration with Venice-based not-for-profit, Spazio Punch, has brought just that to the event’s 16th edition. A term with roots stretching back to the mid-70s, “cruising” is the act of walking or driving around a particular area in search of a sexual partner. While it is often boxed in as an activity for gay men, and one which takes place in public toilets and parks, it is by no means exclusive to one gender or restricted to certain spaces. However, with the rise of technology and social media, online realms have taken over real-world ones, with websites offering the safety and ease of finding a partner without the need to leave the house. This also means that the architecture that goes hand-in-hand with cruising – albeit, unintentionally – is negated.

For the Cruising Pavillion – which launched late last week – the curators alongside Spazio Punch have brought together a series of artists to disrupt the “very straight field” of architecture and celebrate the spaces which complement cruising culture. “Cruising could be understood as a radical way to traverse a space,” writes the team behind the pop up over email, adding that while cruising has long been featured in film and literature, it is yet to be embraced by mainstream cultures. “For example, in the 1980s, cruising as a marginal practice developed its own subculture through noir-pulp in literature with authors such as John Rechy (City of Night and The Sexual Outlaw), Felice Picano (The Lure), or the memoirs of Samuel R. Delany on his cruising years in New York City. It also generated the first experimental porn movie to be in MoMA’s collection (LA Plays Itself, 1972). But it’s time for LGBTQIA+ and others to embrace this rich cultural background and celebrate it.”

As the finishing touches were being placed on the installation, we caught up to find out more about what visitors can expect from the subversive moment.

“Cruising culture has occasionally penetrated the walls of art museums and institutions... but the architecture world has so far neglected the realm of cruising” – Cruising Pavillion

Can you expand on the role that architecture play in cruising culture? 

Cruising Pavillion: In cruising practices, architecture mostly plays a role by default. It is because architecture produces standardised desire that cruisers re-appropriate it. Abandoned parks, highway truck stops, interstitial spaces like bathrooms in train stations or commercial malls become a playground for sex meetings. Dedicated spaces such as darkrooms and bathhouses have formalised the architecture of cruising by hyperbolising metropolitan features such as streets, junkyards, and car parks. But beyond these, most mainstream architectural projects involving cruising aspects stay in a box, condemned to be unrealised. It is perhaps in digital cruising culture and the way which it has modified our relationship to space and cities, in particular, that architecture has something to innovate.

What can we expect?

Cruising Pavillion: Don’t expect control, order, or clarity, but more glory holes, lube and poppers.

Can you talk about the artists involved and what they will bring?

Cruising Pavillion: Henrik Olesen has written several texts in regard to public sexual practices. Lily Reynaud Dewar has disseminated several silk scarves in the space on which she has written texts related to epidemics. Ian Wooldridge has built three sculptures out of urinal supports structures. Aziz Al Quatimi presents a video collage of car cruising culture in Koweit. Dyke_On developed something akin to a lesbian version of the clothing semiotics of Hal Fischer.

Tell us about the decision to host it at the Venice Architecture Biennale?

Cruising Pavillion: Cruising culture has occasionally penetrated the walls of art museums and institutions – indeed there are some precedents: artists Elmgreen and Dragset, Willem E. Jones or clandestinely by curator Pablo Leon de la Barra – but the architecture world has so far neglected the realm of cruising. It adds sassiness in the otherwise very classic program of the Biennale, but more seriously, it opens discussions and debates about LGBTQIA+ culture in a very straight field.

What do you hope the audience see, learn, or take from this?

Cruising Pavillion: See radical sex architecture, learn how to cruise, and take a bottle of Jungle Juice Black Label.

Cruising Pavillion runs until 1 July 2018 at Venice Architecture Biennale. Click through the gallery to take a virtual tour through the installation: