Reconstructions: Architecture and Blackness in America

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Emanuel Admassu. Immeasurablity. 2020

Project team: AD–WO (Emanuel Admassu and Jen Wood), Vuthy Lay, Ezana Admassu-Wood, Didier Lucceus, Yingyi Mo, Caleb Negash, Giacomo Sartorelli, Katie Solien, Eamon Wagner, and Tafari Williams
Advisors: Sarif Anous, Haimy Assefa, Mikael Awake, Robell Awake, Camille I. Cady-McCrea, Matthew Celmer, Rachel Goodfriend, Clara Totenberg Green, Ashley Harris, DeMar Jones, Amanda Lee, Gary McGaha, Antwan Rucker, Nic Schumann, Kirubel Teferra, and Hanna Varady
Special thanks to Amy Kulper, Department Head, RISD Architecture, and Matthew Shenoda, Associate Provost, Social Equity and Inclusion, Rhode Island School of Design
Commissioned for the exhibition Reconstructions: Architecture and Blackness in America

Emanuel Admassu: My name is Emanuel Admassu.

Our installation is primarily made up of two pieces: a vertical disc, a large tapestry, which depicts a drawing of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, a massive rift on the ocean floor of the Atlantic and a site for an incalculable loss of Black life during the middle passage, as enslaved Africans were moving across that line to the Americas. The horizontal disc is projecting ambient sounds of Atlanta: sounds of the highway, the forest, and fragments of trap music. On top of that disc will be a series of bricks to represent fragments of the city and two collages showing the overlaps between the forest and these everyday spaces.

Atlanta is a sprawling horizontal environment that is defined by its highway infrastructure, single-family homes, and strip malls.These are spaces where Blackness as an identity is consistently being negotiated. So something like Waffle House is typically associated with nightlife in Atlanta. You party until 4:00 AM and you would go to Waffle House. And we were really interested in the negotiation between this kind of lush, endless forest and the minimal nature of a Waffle House sign and how the moment you put a Waffle House sign within the forest it becomes a space of Blackness. They’re also spaces that would never qualify as architecture with a capital “A.” They're spaces that have been undervalued, just like the people who have occupied them.

We wanted to practice refusal against the ways in which architecture is typically defined, this urge to make the world measurable. That allows us to engage with the city differently and to imagine radically different worlds.