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Parallel to the exhibition The Architecture of Staged Realities, the second event in this series will delve deeper into storytelling, identity and multivocality (multiple voices). With contributions by visual artist Rachel Stella Jenkins, University of Toronto professor Nicholas Sammond, and architecture historian Lara Schrijver. The evening will be moderated by Hasna El Maroudi.

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The stories we tell and share with each other influence how we see ourselves, our community and our environment. But who is represented by – or excluded from – these stories? And how do the stories that we share talk back to us? 

Within the design discipline, conversations about multivocality listening to many different voices – and social inclusivity are gaining momentum and resonance. Cultural productions and stories in particular are often gendered, racialised and Eurocentric, and are thus discriminatory by nature. In order to move forward as a community, the need for (historic) reconciliation asks for an examination of our reasoning, our assumptions, our biases, our language and our belief systems in order to understand our position and ultimately develop an attitude we can truly call inclusive. How desirable are staged narratives and white-washed versions of reality? In this era of individualism, when fact-free politics and boundary-blurring can sway citizens into accepting simple solutions to complex problems, an understanding of these cultural codes and an awareness of how to contribute in a meaningful way is paramount. 

With a creative practice that engages in conversations about agency, aspirations and access, genuinefake founder Rachel Stella Jenkins argues that all towns and cities should have an Urban Room. This would engender a continual process of enquiry and alignment between the needs and aspirations of individuals and communities with the built environment that surrounds them: architecture as necessarily a process of constant dialogue. 

In his publication Birth of an Industry: Blackface Minstrelsy and the Rise of American Animation, Nicholas Sammond elaborates on how cartoon characters play out the social, cultural, political and racial anxieties and desires that link race to the labouring body, just as live minstrel show performers did. Early animation helped to naturalise virulent racial formations, using laughter and sentimentality to make the stereotypes seem not only less cruel, but actually pleasurable. 

For the occasion of the exhibition The Architecture of Staged Realities, architecture historian Lara Schrijver was invited to reflect in an essay on the contemporary resonance of Disney's cultural production through the role of the female protagonist and her positioning in the frame. Schrijver examines how Disney's utopian ideas and ideologies produce a particular narrative, and how the emancipation of the female protagonist plays out in changing architectural sceneries. In the early 20th century, Disney princesses were tied to the domestic spaces of the castle and the cottage, whereas the later heroines begin to shift expectations, expanding what we might call their ‘spatial entitlement’: they no longer always remain within the boundaries of the places they are expected to be.

Thursday Night at Het Nieuwe Instituut
Luca Napoli

Thursday Night Live! is a weekly programme of lectures, screenings and discussions on architecture, design and digital culture. Developments and critical insights are discussed by thinkers, designers and makers from the Netherlands and abroad.