Reconstructions: Architecture and Blackness in America

The Refusal of Space

Mario Gooden. The Refusal of Space. 2020

Trolley: aluminum-framed structure, wood, fabric, and digital media
Video (color, sound; 5:00 min.)
Project team: Huff + Gooden Architects (Juan Marcos Arriaza, Che-Wei Liu, and Saadia S. Lone)
Fabrication: Bednark Studio (David Dowd, Jack Phillips, Bartley Stevens, Troy Stevens, and Carlos Valpeoz)
Photography: Kris Graves
Special thanks to Amale Andraos, Dean of the Columbia University Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation
Commissioned for the exhibition Reconstructions: Architecture and Blackness in America

Mario Gooden: My name is Mario Gooden. My project is a Protest Machine that visualizes the experiences of protesters during the Civil Rights Movements of the 1960s and the recent Black Lives Matter movement.

The protest machine is a full-scale structure that bears a resemblance to a trolley, which recalls the first Black owned independent streetcar line in Nashville, in response to newly enacted segregation laws. The three animations are based upon the routes that Civil Rights marchers took in 1960, 1961, and 1964 through the streets of downtown Nashville, Tennessee to the courthouse, to the sites of sit-ins, and other protests.

To overcome the exclusionary practices of segregation, African-Americans have often had to negotiate boundaries, think about how to be in places in which they were prohibited from being. This is very much a spatial idea.

So the trolley as a protest machine recalls the ways in which the civil rights protesters and Black Lives Matter protesters have occupied the city, have taken over the streets and the sidewalks in order to express themselves, as well as to say that liberation is an action and that liberation demands action and that liberation is spatial. While freedom is an idea, to be really free is to be spatially free.

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