Working on Water

Working on Water is an interdisciplinary performance that explores the dark spaces of architecture from the cultural topographies of water to the topological conditions of deep space. Enacting feminist theorist Tina Campt's concept of "practicing refusal", this multi-media performance juxtaposes and enmeshes sound, visual art, choreography, video, architecture, film, and spoken word to create radical modalities of witnessing and architectural representation that "refuse authoritative forms of visuality which function to refuse blackness itself." The performance is an exploration of architecture and the black ontology of water from the ship hulls of the Middle Passage, to the segregated waters of public swimming pools and beaches during the Jim Crow era, to the contemporary conditions of forced migration due to climate change. ---"They say our people were born on the water."

During the performance, Gooden presents the work of his architectural practice, Huff + Gooden Architects, and constructs an architectural discourse that refuses traditional forms of architectural representation that have long suppressed or denied black subjectivity in the conceptualization, making, and construction of architecture and public space. The selected architectural works include a public swimming pool facility in Charleston, South Carolina; the design for an elementary school in New Orleans; a performance garden and theater in Charleston, South Carolina; and museum designs for Virginia Key Beach, Florida and St. Petersburg, Florida. Joining Gooden, choreographer Jonathan Gonzalez and film-maker Thuto Durkac-Somo construct movements and images projected in real time that layer dimensionality, depth, and open up the discursive spaces of architectural theory.

Jonathan Gonzalez is an artist working at the intersections of performance and other time-based media based in New York. Their recent works include Lucifer Landing premiered at Abrons Arts Center and MoMA PS1 as well as Maroonage: Elaborations on Performance, the Stage, and Staying Alive published for Contact Quarterly. They have been a Lower Manhattan Cultural Council - Workspace Resident, NARS Foundation Fellow, and performer with artists such as Tania Bruguera, Ligia Lewis, Cynthia Oliver, and Wu Tsang.

Thuto Durkac-Somo is an American writer and filmmaker. His writing on the art and technology of video cameras has appeared in Real Life Mag. Thuto was assistant editor on Pier Kids (2019) directed by Elegance Bratton. Thuto graduated in 2019 with an M.S. in Critical, Curatorial, and Conceptual Practices from Columbia University. His thesis focused on the architecture and narratives of playing virtual cities. He is a volunteer with 8-Ball Community, an arts non-profit organized around activism, art, and education. Currently, Thuto is a participant in the 2019-2020 Interdisciplinary Arts and Theory Program led by Avi Alpert, Meleko Mokgosi, and Anthea Behm.

Production Team:
Mario Gooden, Writer and Director
Saadia Lone, Production Manager
Juan Marcos Arriazza, Production Assistant & Fabrication
Che-Wei Liu, Technical Assistant
Thuto Durkac-Somo, Video Editor