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That Exhibition That Happened in the Corridor
TU Delft Architecture, Delft, 2018-2019
with Maria Novas, Alberto Altes, Golnar Abbasi, Meryam Ajari and many others [ig/exhibition_in_the_corridor]

‘That Exhibition that Happened in the Corridor’ was an experimental project by TU Delft students and researchers which explored alternative perspectives on diversity and equality in architectural education and practice, through a critical reflection on the problematic and insufficient nature of histories that focus on successful individual architects.

Spurred by the seventy portaits consisting almost entirely of white men hanging in the corridor of TU Delfts' architecture department meant to depict the important contributions to architectural history and the curriculum of a Delft education, a 'counter-exhibition' emerged through an informal plethora of contributions of more than thirty people. The exhibition comprised two set of elements: a collection of one hundred stories, including images and descriptions, and an assemblage of ten situated short texts. The stories, which did not claim to have arrived at a conclusion or a definitive proposal of knowledge(s) otherwise, represented the many contributions made to the exhibition, not curated or directed, but engaged with through caring exchange. The fragments, were written individually by different contributors, gave visibility to the multiplicity of perspectives and concerns, personal and collective, repetitive and contradictory.

The creation of the exhibition became a way for us not only to protest the curriculum and demand change, and not only to collect a 'database' of exclusion and proposals for alternative study, but also to perform an ability to approach knowledge(s) otherwise in our construction of the exhibition itself. We could almost say that the ongoing process amongst our fluctuating collective of concerned persons, each with their own particular concerns, and which continued during the duration of display, was itself the exhibition. In other words, the exhibitions intention grew towards the ability to study together more so than to display a static collection of alternative portraits.

Which stories do we tell, who tells them and how, matters, and in a world of vibrant, rich diversity and asymmetric injustice, many stories are hardly ever told. An endless list starts: women, non-binary, queer, trans, Black, Brown, Asian, non-western, indigenous, and all racialised groups..., neurodiverse, differently-abled, non-human stories..., experiential, unrealised stories..., stories of knowledge construction through failure, stories of collective work, and histories of knowledge(s) formed with and through things, projects and situations..., not (only) by (privileged) individuals.

The project addresses also the question of objectivity, discussing assumptions and knowledge claims along three interrelated worlds: firstly, the assumed objectivity of history, which Donna Haraway reminds us is in fact produced “at a particular moment in history for a particular group of people”; secondly, what gets to count as architectural knowledge, and through which means and on whose legitimacy are these claims made; and thirdly, how is this knowledge articulated and shared with others through (collective) study and acts of learning.

One of the main threads of the exhibition has to do with the recognition of exclusions, often rooted in difference(s) and separation(s), and to call for the telling of other lives not merely because of their identities, but by going out of our way to remember histories, lives, and experiences that we are oriented towards discounting and erasing.

Along the lines of this exploration, an important friction emerges between various demands to develop alternative ‘canons’ (which would strive to ensure the inclusion of other oppressed or excluded knowledges), and dreams of a movement towards a future without canons, allowing for permeable, unfixed, open knowledges emerging in-the-act.

This friction is probably not unsolvable, and yet it signals the possibility to shift our attention towards process and duration: first, rampant oppression and exclusion should be acknowledged and fought, then, a horizon of open exchange beyond identity unfolds. These demands are not mutually exclusive but ‘co-respondingly’ unfolding at different rhythms.