State of Tyranny

How do we understand tyranny? Its global presence is felt and heard daily. It permeates news cycles, it defines the plots of television shows, and it has to be explained to our children. Tyranny defines contemporary culture, and though it is often talked about conceptually, its more subtle spatial manifestations have a real impact on our cities and public spaces.

Throughout the world, people, communities, and territories are at risk due to the design of the spaces they inhabit. Despite a steady rise in street-level activism, hostile and defensive design have gradually and quietly transformed our buildings, parks, and homes into sites of surveillance and societal control.

State of Tyranny unveils the methods and tools of urban design that seek to disable public agency in the name of public safety. The exhibition reorients our understandings of the power of the city and state-and the architectures they employ-through an installation in Storefront’s gallery space and a series of walking tours through Lower Manhattan called the Tyranny Trail.

Expanding upon research conducted by Theo Deutinger for his recent publication, Handbook of Tyranny, the exhibition and tours call attention to the spatial effects of tyranny, ultimately aiming to identify methods of control commonly used around the world, and to contextualize their embeddedness within New York City’s urban fabric.


ABOUT THE INSTALLATION

State of Tyranny displays seven categories of control and design used in the service of power, from walls and fences to crowd control to prison cells and more. Through objects and tools such as passports and defensive tree plantings, the installation brings to attention to the ubiquity of oppressive design on global and local scales.

Detailed descriptions of the objects–sourced in part from the dry and technical language used by manufacturers praising the efficiency of these tools–gloss over the fact that their purpose is for the direct or indirect harm of human beings. Subdued by their coldness, the descriptions bring awareness to the ways in which design is abstracted through language that serves to normalize and obscure the objects’ inherent power.

Alongside the installation, videos that display particular objects such as skate deterrents and surveillance cameras will underscore the detrimental impacts of their use in public space. By focusing on the micro-scale tools of tyranny and control, State of Tyranny seeks to recontextualize design-based manifestations of power scattered throughout the city, and to highlight to the specific ways in which the culture of tyranny is present in urban and public spaces around the world.

When
28 March to 4 May 2019
Where
Storefront for Art and Architecture
97 Kenmare Street
10012 New York, USA
Organizer
Storefront for Art and Architecture
Link
Storefront

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