International Womxn's Day Keynote Address: Jack Halberstam, “Trans* Anarchitectures 1975 to 2020”

Freestanding twisting metal stair in a white sunlit room.

View of 'No Medals, No Ribbons' by Jesse Darling. Image courtesy of the artist Jesse Darling and Modern Art Oxford. Photo by Ben Westoby.


International Womxn’s Week includes a weeklong series of events organized by Womxn in Design that gather members of the GSD community to learn about and challenge notions of gender and power from within the framework of design.

Celebrating Trans In Design’s (TID) inaugural lecture as a new student organization, TID has organized this year’s International Women’s Week Keynote Address, welcoming Jack Halberstam, to explore the impact that trans artist and designers have in expanding the field.

Event Description

My work on anarchitecture and collapse began, predictably perhaps, with an encounter with the work of artist Gordon Matta Clark from the 1970’s. Matta Clark’s work, his cuts and splits and spirals, the gaps that he built into abandoned warehouses, homes and offices, left behind a vocabulary with which to describe not progress or becoming, not development and building, but the unraveling, chaotic, messy forms that voracious real estate development leaves in its wake and that in turn offers an opposition to gentrification, real estate capital, normative embodiment, and individual success. When we return to the an/architectural experiments of GMC, we can find traces of earlier, potentially more radical projects than those that came to be compatible with liberal capitalism and we find them speaking in the language of unbuilding, breaking, cutting, collapsing, opening, dismantling. This lexicon has become potent in an era of real estate domination, market economies, profit domination. But what does it have to do with transness? A group of trans artists including Jesse Darling but also Yve Laris Cohen and Cassils all utilize anarchitectural vocabularies on behalf of theories of trans embodiment that emphasize the cut of surgical transformation, the demolition of the binary, the twisting of bodily forms away from the perfect and the true.


Jack Halberstam is the David Feinson Professor of The Humanities at Columbia University. Halberstam is the author of seven books including: Skin Shows: Gothic Horror and the Technology of Monsters (Duke UP, 1995), Female Masculinity (Duke UP, 1998), In A Queer Time and Place (NYU Press, 2005), The Queer Art of Failure (Duke UP, 2011), Gaga Feminism: Sex, Gender, and the End of Normal (Beacon Press, 2012) and, a short book titled Trans*: A Quick and Quirky Account of Gender Variance (University of California Press).  Halberstam’s latest book, 2020 from Duke UP is titled Wild Things: The Disorder of Desire. Places Journal awarded Halberstam its Arcus/Places Prize in 2018 for innovative public scholarship on the relationship between gender, sexuality and the built environment. Halberstam is now finishing a second volume on wildness titled: Unworlding: An Aesthetics of Collapse. Halberstam was recently the subject of a short film titled “So We Moved” by Adam Pendleton which played at MoMA NYC until January 30, 2022.


This event is co-sponsored by the GSD, Trans in Design, and Womxn in Design.


Anyone requiring accessibility accommodations should contact the Public Programs Office at (617) 496-2414 or [email protected].