I Can Drink the Distance, a solo exhibition by artist Torkwase Dyson, the Spring 2019 Robert Gwathmey Chair in Architecture and Art at The Cooper Union, considers how the body unifies, balances, and arranges itself to move through built environments. Attuned to the shape patterns of industry—from the history of global trade to contemporary colonization and extraction—Dyson thinks through the various ways humans oppose the violence of these synergistic systems with methods of improvisation and spatial planning.
The installation consists of four relational zones, each composed of geometric and biomorphic shapes culled by deconstructing forms and patterns from industries such as agriculture, energy, and defense. The results are architectural compositions with improvisational haptic gestures, visceral interstitial space, and surreptitious objects. The installation is an invitation for the viewer to move through environmental moments that the artist constructs and recomposes throughout the run of the exhibition. The impulse to make a time-based modular installation is informed by the artist’s research in mobility, forced migration due to climate change, and the right for equitable geographies today. For the artist, this process is informed by the efficiency and insistence of black spatial liberation narratives from the transatlantic slave trade into the modern industrial revolution, in addition to the dynamic comprehension of distance and scale developed during an ongoing resistance against the horrors of environmental exploitation. This deeply human reality of black spatial history continues to reveal for the artist methods for understanding political content indelibly tied to form and perception.
The questions inherent in this project at The Cooper Union are: how can spatial perceptions and the methodological conditions of black fugitivity be scaled to create new synergetic human geographies and equity, and advance remediation practices? How can communication technology not be destructive and migration not be weaponized? How do we network to engineer space where the volume of production and consumption advances architecture, infrastructure, and ecologies for global human rights?