at the lab
Exhibition: Paper Machine
feminist architecture collaborative

14  January – 15 March 2020
The Lab 

Citizenship is something designed. It describes the state between rights protected and rights denied. The threshold of citizenship is not a binary relation between one’s body and a territory: he is a citizen and she is not. In reality, there is complex terrain between the two positions, and its experiences are further conditioned by gender, race, and class.. The body who belongs is not enough. Rather, bodily claims to territory and nationality are mediated by a world of artifacts:  biomaterial, paper documents, scanners, and other physical interfaces between people and governments. The governing apparatus does not always recognize its subjects on the appropriate side of a line projected onto sand. Belonging to the nation is an experience through materials; it wears on the body.

In the uneven textures between holding citizenship and being without it, women are especially vulnerable to exception and expulsion. Nationality codes that inherit the terms of jus sanguinis (“right of blood” instead of  “right of the soil,” jus soli) confer nationality through patrilineal bloodline. Under such laws, women cannot reproduce citizenship; their blood does not pass as the material of belonging. In 25 countries around the world, jus sanguinis situates the body as a threshold of inclusion, a truth more certain than residency. But it continues to leave women out of the full protection of the rights of the citizen. When the paper document attests to the identity of its holder  through paternity and nationality, women are challenged to present the proper evidence of their belonging. Women bear the immediate and existential consequences of being written out of the law, and the document enforces displacement.

This exhibition seeks possibility in counterfeits. It does not aim to produce papers that pass; but criticizes the very medium of national identity. The gallery wears the disguise of the passport office. Here, we examine the language of the law, legal documents, their methods of design and spaces of procurement. Does the identity document have capacity for inclusion? We respond to this question with unofficial tactics but great care. If the political subjectivity of womanhood is narrowly defined by the law, we must identify the techniques that design her citizenship. Somewhere between the bureaucratic interior of the Civil Status Department and the myth of blood-and-soil, Paper Machine creates a site of  encounter with the contemporary apparatus of jus sanguinis.

feminist architecture collaborative (alt: f-architecture) is a three-woman* architectural research enterprise aimed at disentangling the contemporary spatial politics and technological appearances of bodies, intimately and globally. Their projects traverse theoretical and activist registers to locate new forms of architectural work through critical relationships with collaborators across the globe. Past and current projects are located in New York City, on the US-Mexico border, in the Amazon of Ecuador, in Jordan and in Lebanon.