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As we go about our daily lives, we enter into and are confronted by spaces designed to shape and regulate our behaviour, whether we notice it or not. It is this architecture of control that informs Kapwani Kiwanga’s solo exhibition at The Power Plant.
Though the intention of architectural decisions may be to reform or to protect, the outcome can be ambiguous, even harmful. In her exhibition at The Power Plant, Kiwanga exposes these underlying structures by placing the material mechanisms before us: the pink wall color and the blue lights. These forms often go unquestioned, as we rarely look to architecture and design as the culprits of the psychological or physiological effects they covertly produce. However, being arranged by the artist within the exhibition space renders them subject to scrutiny. Indeed, confrontation with the raw materials of these subtle yet powerful relational dynamics forces us to think about their social implications.
Do the blue-lit bathrooms prevent users from injecting drugs? Or does the space now simply facilitate a more dangerous environment for doing so? And so, the question remains whether architectural attempts to control bodies and behaviours work to counter the problems they aim to prevent or merely force their relocation. Kiwanga’s gestures reminds us that as with all constraints, ways to circumnavigate them quickly emerge, and so the ageless tussle over space—that is, who can access it and who cannot—reemerges.