Mimi Zeiger

Critic, editor, curator and instigator.

As busy, busy people who move through the world and occasionally need to sit still, we have a tacit understanding that furniture should be, if not comfortable, at least neutral — ready to accept the buttocks of any size, gender, race, or orientation. Beautiful designs tempt us into repose. However the conceit of universal design is upset when we are forced to recognize that not all bodies fit in or are supported by the most elemental of objects. So when, earlier this year, Hunger and Bad Feminist author Roxane Gay was fat-shamed for requesting a chair sturdy enough to support her frame and outcry ensued against this affront on body acceptance, I was also shocked by how a simple function — sitting — could be weaponized against bodies. It’s with Gay’s incident in mind that I approached maneuvering my wide hips into the dimensions of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Barrel chair. Low ceilings are generally cited for the architect’s famous disregard for bodies other than his own, his sense of scale being modeled on his (alleged) 5-foot-8-and-1/4-inch height. Designed in 1907 as part of the custom furniture of his Gesamtkunstwerk, Darwin Martin House in Buffalo, the Barrel chair is one of his most popular designs, often replicated in its nearly circular geometries. Settled into a reproduction of its oak corseting and obliged thereby to adopt a morally good posture, I imagine other people, other soft bits, shifting uncomfortably against the constraints of universality, yet comforted by the allure of an icon.

When Robert L. McKay, the architect best known for designing and founding the first Taco Bell, died in early October, news of his passing spread nationwide on the AP Wire. The Los Angeles Times ran an obituary, as did Fox Business and news outlets in Kansas and Nebraska – places that were unlikely to have flocked en masse to hard shell tacos before McKay opened his doors in 1962.

In 2015, McKay’s original building was moved from the Los Angeles suburb of Downey to Taco Bell’s corporate headquarters in Irvine, California. Images from that migration reveal his early vision for a hacienda-type fast-food eatery: mission-style arches across the facade, red Spanish tile roof. Riding down the freeway – doublewide on the back of a flatbed truck – the lowly taco stand merged dogged American entrepreneurism and classic Mexican design. Taco Bell is not on the curatorial checklist of Found in Translation, an exhibition on view until January 2018 at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) about the design influences between LA and Mexico, but it could be. Or, given how a fast-food restaurant best known for stoner Meximelt binges and questionable slogans – “Make a run for the border” – transmitted Mexican design imagery across the country, it should be. Read More …

Curators: Mario Ballesteros, Andrea Dietz, Sarah Lorenzen, and Mimi Zeiger
 

Artists and writers: Frida Escobedo, Aris Janigian, Pedro&Juana, Tezontle, Katya Tylevich, and David Ulin

Neutra VDL Studio and Residences, Los Angeles with Los Angeles Forum for Architecture and Urban Design and Archivo Diseño y Arquitectura.

Tu casa es mi casa features site-specific installations by three Mexico City–based design teams—Frida Escobedo, Pedro&Juana, and Tezontle, and three California-based writers—Aris Janigian, Katya Tylevich, and David Ulin.

If our contemporary political moment offers up a border wall as the primary architectural expression of connection between the U.S. and Mexico, Tu casa es mi casa suggests a more porous boundary between the two countries. The title, a riff on the welcoming “my house is your house,” offers the inverted “your house is my house”—an expression of the personal and political stakes of this transposition.

Installed in Richard Neutra’s VDL Research House in Los Angeles and in collaboration with Mexico City–based gallery Archivo Diseño y Arquitectura, Tu casa es mi casagrapples with questions about architectural space, mass production, and domesticity within the legacy of modernism. Both Mexico City and Los Angeles absorbed the initial precepts of the international movement and adapted them to singular social-political-environmental contexts. A return to these twin interpretations re-investigates the promises of the utopian project through a contemporary lens.

Timed to coincide with The Getty’s Pacific Standard Time LA/LA, the exhibition acknowledges a history of architectural, critical, and literary exchange between California and Mexico, however the curators ask that we not only reevaluate past understandings, but also celebrate the richness of contemporary Mexican design practice today.

Tu casa es mi casa is supported by the Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts, the Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs, Cal Poly Pomona Foundation, Bestor Architecture, Michael Maltzan Architects, NAC Architecture, TEN Arquitectos with additional support from Aesop, Bar Keeper and Mezcal Union, Triview Glass Industries LLC, Cal Poly Pomona Department of Architecture (CPP ARC), SCI-Arc, USC School of Architecture, and Woodbury University School of Architecture.

I admit it; I’ve retreated. In the midst of a scorching summer of bigotry and violence, where every day serves up another horror at home and abroad, I’ve taken to bed. I soothe myself with heavy doses of the genteel diversity pictured on The Great British Baking Show (or Bake Off in its homeland), where layers of pastry unify a country polarised by Brexit.

Other nights I indulge in Mr Robot, caught up in a world of digital unrest where the hackers are good guys operating in the name of equity, not a possible foreign power trying to disrupt an election. Read More …

Host curators are Mimi Zeiger (Los Angeles Forum for Architecture and Urban Design), Leonardo Bravo and River Jukes-Hudson (Big City Forum), and Sarah Lorenzen (Neutra VDL Research House).

This fall, curators from three Los Angeles-based organizations come together as part of World Wide Storefront, a Storefront for Art and Architecture project, to present Host: Natural Histories for Los Angeles. This series of exhibitions and events is a collaboration between Big City Forum, Los Angeles Forum for Architecture and Urban Design, and the Neutra VDL Research House.

Host: Natural Histories for Los Angeles explores the multivalent meaning of “host” though spectacle, parasitic opportunism, and domestic landscapes. The Neutra VDL Research House serves as the site of these investigations and the house, embedded with spatial effects—mirrors, screens, and pools of water—heightens and confuses the relationship between the domestic interior and the exterior.  Read More …

Film Appearance

TINY is a documentary about home, and how we find it.

The film follows one couple’s attempt to build a “tiny house” from scratch, and profiles other families who have downsized their lives into homes smaller than the average parking space.

Through homes stripped down to their essentials, the film raises questions about good design, the nature of home, and the changing American Dream. Read More …

Kicking aside the Kone Dirt Devil flotsam, I pluck a plastic bottle from the oily surf. To cross the Palm by sunrise, I’ll need resources: water, anti-bacteria wipes, and ammo. The Avant Garde control the easternmost fronds and the Urban Gardeners’ Free Ranger Chickens patrol the west. In this archetypal battle—abstraction versus nature—my comrades and I fight for beauty.

This decade is our chance. At dawn, Burj Skeleton broadcasts the revolution. Its remaining infrastructure will vibrate with our adhan. Chengdu, listen.

The GeoEye satellite crests the horizon. It’s nearly time. My balaclava itches. Bottle tucked in my waistband, I run.