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Exhibition: House of the Thief

October 29, 2020
6:30 PM EDT - 8:00 PM EDT
Open To

Registration for the virtual reception will include a discussion between professor Colin Ripley and Olivier Vallerand around queer architectural exhibitions.

About Olivier Vallerand

Olivier Vallerand is currently an Assistant Professor at the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts at Arizona State University. He holds a doctorate in architecture from McGill University. He has taught at Universite Laval, UQAM, and the University of California, Berkeley, where he also pursued postdoctoral research. An architect, Olivier previously worked for firms in Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, and Quebec, and currently keeps an installation-based practice with 1x1x1 Creative Lab. His research focuses on identity issues and their relation to the design and experience of interior spaces, queer and feminist approaches to design education, and alternative practices of design. His work has been published in Unplanned Visitors: Queering the Ethics and Aesthetics of Domestic Space, external link, as well as in the Journal of Architectural Education, external linkInteriors: Design | Architecture | Culture, external linkThe Plan Journal, external linkCaptures, external linkInter art actuel, external linkThe Educational Forum, external link, the Sexuality, external link volume of the Whitechapel Documents of Contemporary Art series, and in the collection Making Men, Making History: Canadian Masculinities across Time and Place, external link. He also regularly writes for Canadian Architect, external link.

On April 15, 1986, Jean Genet died in a room in Jack’s Hotel in Paris. 

Jean Genet, born in 1910 (the same year as Le Corbusier’s architectural practice), was, in chronological order, an orphan, delinquent, homosexual, soldier in the French Foreign Legion, vagabond, prostitute, thief, prisoner, poet, novelist, playwright, political agitator, supporter of the Black Panthers and the Palestinian Fedayeen. He was described by Jean Cocteau as the greatest of modern French writers, before any of his works had been published; his first novels were written in prison. By 1986 Genet was a wealthy and world-renowned writer. 

Still, he stayed in a one star hotel when in Paris. Or anywhere else.

According to legend, Genet always slept with a packed suitcase under the bed. What we don’t know, really, was what was inside the suitcase. In this exhibition we propose that the suitcase was nothing short of Genet’s house: The House of the Thief.

In the suitcase we will find a number of sketch projects that seek to form confrontations between the work and life of Genet and the practice of architecture. A number of ideas and questions brought roughly from Genet permeate the work:

  • What is the nature of ground?
  • What happens when a line becomes a noose?
  • What is hidden by (behind) the section cut?
  • What is the shape of the void?

There is a queerness in these questions, a queerness that we believe is fundamental to the construction of architecture, and especially of modern architecture. This project looks to Genet, the thief, to break into the house of architecture, to uncover its secrets. 

The work of this exhibition, funded by SSHRC and situated virtually in the Paul Cocker Gallery at Ryerson University in this COVID-19 year, is very much a work in progress. Following this presentation, we will undertake another year of design work, another round of discussion next summer, and a final year of design production leading to anticipated final exhibition and publication in 2022.