Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Appendx (1997-1999)

So far, only four issues have appeared. I keep holding out hope that a fifth issue of Appendx will materialize, either online or in my mailbox, though the last online issue dates from pre-millennium 1999, and so far as I know, no new pages are in the offing. A long while ago I sent a query to one of the editors, scholar and architecture Darell W. Fields, who taught at Arizona State University and the Harvard Graduate School of Design and who's now on the faculty at Northeastern University. That e-mail traveled via my free, once-favorite, now defunct account, and though those messages may be archived somewhere, I don't have access to them....
monkeyBut back to Appendx, why my interest? As the three founding editors--Fields, Stull & Lee designer Kevin Fuller, and then- Arizona State assistant professor Milton S. F. Curry--declared in their explanatory preface, this journal of "Culture | Theory | Praxis" had mad goals:

Appendx is intended to mark a new beginning for architectural discourse. Seeking a space for the diffusion of multiple voices and disciplines on the subject matters mentioned, the challenge was to "position" the journal relative to market forces in the publishing arena without compromising the radicality of its prospective contents. In so doing, we quickly realized that we were constantly being overdetermined and categorized by those who cared little or nothing about our most passionate intentions for the project, but were more concerned with its "packaging."
"A new beginning for architectural discourse...radicality of its prospective contents." They were going to be talking about architecture, space, built and imagined environments, in innovative ways, and in particular, given that all three editors were Black and Fields's own work utilized race in interesting ways, through the lens of race. They went on to conclude

Within the life of the journal, we hope to present a multiplicity of views, reflections, and ideas that invigorate and initiate a rigorous approach to questions of cultural theory, difference, and so on. Far from laying claim to any single identity such as black, male, heterosexual, homosexual, female, etc., it is our hope that the journal will become home for a great number of voices, articulating intersubjective positions and theoretical proposals in as free a context as we can provide. This means holding issues of "political correctness" at arm’s length and suspending moral judgment of other identities that we—or potential contributors—consider to be non-negotiable. The projects that will appear in these pages appear on their own terms and are readily exposed to the consequences of their actions. Let us state very clearly in this inaugural issue that those who speak in these pages are speaking first and foremost for themselves.

The eclectic introductory issue included Fields' polemical "Black Manifesto," an exploration of race, architecture and aesthetic practice/praxis, which ended with the statement, "For all I know, I am silenced and lost already"; Milton Curry's "Emancipation Manifesto"; Kim Anne Savelson's feminist reading of architectural theorists on race and gender; Bryan Reynold's brief interpretation of the (de)queered space of the Harvard Science Center's men's room stalls (and his view of the editors' heterosexualizing impulses); a James Baldwin excerpt; and artwork by Dallas-based artist J. Juarez Hernandez. Whether or not it completely cohered wasn't, I thought, really the point--there were so few (no?) other journals or group projects tackling these particular theoretical and creative spaces that its presence and execution, however flawed, was necessary. And being a pioneer, weren't flaws expected? Though edited at Harvard, and rostered by Harvard-affiliated people, it seemed in the initial issue to augur a broader conversation, so I was excited to see where the editors and contributors would go.

Subsequent issues (2-4) included Fields's harsh Gatesian (auto)fable, "Living a Slow Death...or Porch Monkeys in the Dust," as well as pieces by Matthew Grant on gangsta rap; Richard Ford on the "three strikes" law; David Theo Goldberg on the architecture of conferencing; online art by Renee Cox; interviews with Cornel West and Anna Deveare Smith; digital videos by Philip Mallory Jones, Fields, and Steve Jaycox; and a few more bits tossed in for good measure. The second issue included a perceptive and constructive critique by RM Colina (?), on the initial issue's failures and aporias, and how it might make the kinds of interventions it set out it in that visionary preface.

And then...there were no more issues. The possibilities proposed by that preface never had a chance to be fully realized. We got a taste, and then.... So as I said, I hold out hope. I'm not sure where Fuller and Curry are these days, but maybe Fields will launch this craft again, even if for only a few more voyages. Given the current, degraded state of public discourse of all sorts, and of intellectual discourses and rhetorics in particular, not least on architectural themes and topics (cf. the debacles of "Ground Zero," the Iraq War, of the looming US-Mexican border-wall, etc.)--a new Appendx would be very welcome.


  1. oooh. i didn't realize that there were links. thanks for the heads up. i'll keep on the lookout for AppendX 5, too.

  2. Mendi, the last issue was a CD. I can't find any mention of Fuller or Curry online, though Fields is now teaching at Northeastern, along with George Thrush, who even lists some of the pieces on his faculty page. Do you know of any other architectural journals that focus on or provide space for theorizing issue of race, gender, sexuality--subjectivity, identity, social performance, etc.? It would be great if there were one based at an HBCU, sort of like the visual art journal--I haven't seen it in years--based at Hampton University.

  3. hmm. I do know that a friend of mine in the law school at Duke had taken a class on race, architecture, and law. But no, I don't know much about any architecture journals. I also have a friend Kevin Haynes, who I believe is still teaching in the law school @ UNC Chapel Hill, who was writing on race and the law in hotels. I'd heard his present a piece of his work that was on the scene in the Drayton hotel in Passing. I've also written on that scene, so I was fascinated by what he had to say about law and space and legal responses to the raced body. John, one day I'd like to have a long discussion with you about space, location, and institutions. So much to think about there.

  4. Appendx is B(L)ACK! I just heard Darell Fields (now at the University of Arkansas) is working on a new version of the old journal entitled, APX. The theme of the first issue is ... "SOLD OUT!" Fields wrote some truly whacked essays in the first 4 issues, so there's no telling where he's going...but I hope it shows up soon.