ISSUE #12 REFUGE IN DYSTOPIA

I can sometimes find moments full of joy but more and more I want to pilot a rocket ship off of this blasted planet. (!)

My happiest moments are in creating new universes and playfully destroying constructions like I got to do last weekend with my buddy Marcel. The next day I was reading about the many recent lynchings of black people in this country along with a young black musician who was killed by a cop while flailing his arms in the street walking home. Elijah McClain’s words to the cops, oh my god, his words. They felt like my own. I was going to put them in full at the bottom, but had to leave them out. They’re in this article but we warned. Even in terrible pain, his bright, light spirit shined through and I can’t stop thinking about them, him. They echo my own heart too closely. I’m struggling with this one especially and so I search for safety.

Inside this real life dystopia, where do we seek refuge? The places I’ve felt a deep sense of belonging and happiness, you know, that sudden moment you just feel at ease with others who don’t give a damn about who they should be, have consistently been brown, queer and colorful as hell. These are among the spaces that are most attacked. At the same time they’re wildly inclusive. My light skinned Middle Eastern body has sought out and found refuge in brown queer spaces.

Two spaces stand out most recently. Maybe it’s a sign of the times that they’re both digital spaces. The first was when I put on a VR headset at Jacolby Satterwhite’s installation You’re at Home. No coincidence on the title. Suddenly I was in a zero-gravity digital world floating in outer space with iridescent planets, scenes of underground gay spaces, pornographic material spliced with outlandish repetition and a dance soundtrack. The second was when I started watching Legendary, a voguing competition on HBOmax with houses made of every race, gender, sexuality and beauty including unbridled support for black trans persons. Every episode is an hour long celebration with the most colorful fashion and choreography you can’t imagine. It’s super inclusive and supportive even between competing families of all backgrounds.

In the spirit of celebrating queer black lives in this moment, I’m going to put together a virtual showcase of Jacolby work with splices from Legendary. Imagine a Live Studio Session. Like a playful mic session but with images and personal stories filled with art and joy.

Join me next Monday, July 6 @7pm live on Zoom. It’ll be colorful, fun, in-the-round so you can interrupt to ask questions and as personal as this newsletter.

Throughout the next week+, I’ll post images and vids on IG celebrating Jacolby and Legendary to give you a taste and tempt you into their homemade universes. You know where to find it @neonfabrications

What am I to make of all this and where does my voice belong?

I learned this week that black trans lives do not fit within my fellow alumnus’ letter written to the dean of the Rice School of Architecture to demand institutional changes that champion Black Lives Matter in our institution. It was suggested I address this in a testimonial as an appendix. I learned that queer brown and black seniors are especially fearful in this moment during a round table hosted by my friend Rakia. They’re relying on a younger generation like us to take collective action in a way they cannot during a health pandemic. And in the height of the BLM and Black Trans Lives Matter movements I learned that my sense of belonging will constantly be challenged as a queer Middle Eastern American with light colored skin.

This newsletter as a personal platform is a small space I feel comfortable carving out and protecting. From here you’re watching me in real time work out how to find the best path to support and inspire artists, architects and all makers to realize their own work. In turn it is building another space of refuge.

I’ll continue to hold open studio hours. They’re fast and light for anyone interested. This past week I gave feedback to one friend who is working through grant application ideas. For another friend I brainstormed a way to retrofit a new credenza that they wanted to add glass panes. They actually covered both ends of the spectrum that I’ve been trained as an architect; from brainstorming concepts to detailing millwork. Ha!

Open Studio Hours are Sun. 11am-1pm. Reach out to me with an email or DM. We’ll keep it loose and fun!

Lastly, I also updated more portfolio projects on my website. Check it out here, now with a working link! www.neonfabrications.com What do you think I can do to improve it?

With care,
Sean


“You are beautiful and I love you.”

Elijah McClain
to the arresting officers who’s brutality on his body caused him such severe brain injuries that he passed away days later after being hospitalized.