(fantasy in the) hold

Skills: architecture+design, feminist practice, spatial justice, urban scenography



A work in progress and collaboration with Jo Paterson Kinniburgh.

Initially our inquiry began with an observation of the ubiquitous reuse and aestheticization of shipping containers for cultural performances and events, followed by a shared desire to bring a socio-political critique to the production of these kinds of spaces. What led us to these spaces and their critique, however, was Stefano Harney and Fred Moten’s book The Undercommons: Fugitive Planning and Black Study (2013) and, more particularly, their chapter “Fantasy in the Hold.” Drawing from the theory and practice of radical black traditions, among the many concepts that Moten and Harney explore with and for the undercommons are: study, debt, logistics, and the shipped.

We are approaching Moten and Harney’s conception of ‘fantasy in the hold’ as a provocation for relating this image to the contemporary reuse of containers and the continuum of the shipped and shipping.  Our research-creation project is a response to and engagement with the poetics and position that Harney and Moten share on hapticality, the touch of the undercommons, the interiority of sentiment, of the shipped and the ‘hold.’ For Moten and Harney the ‘hold’ is the slave ship (92) and its terrible gift was to gather disspossed feelings in common, to create a new feel in the undercommons (97). Throughout this ‘fantasy in the hold’ they scrutinize the importance of logistics as a process that moves things and people; the containerisation of bodies and subjectivity, and how ‘free labour’ has historically moved through a subject to exploit their social capacities. Harney and Moten convey the hold as a freighted spatial condition, a site of colonization and financialization of the body, with a capacity to produce a poesis of logistics and social relations for those who experienced the trauma of enslavement and transport together.

Taking Moten and Harney’s ‘fantasy in the hold’ as a provocation – the ‘hold’ of the shipping container as a space of fugitivity, hapticality, fantasy, and political love – we explore what might be the promises that the reuse and/ or upcycling of these spaces (of containerisation) hold in contemporary cultural practice, design and so-called engaged urbanism, and the temporary production of public spaces? How is the ‘hold’ being shaped by performative practice and/ or architecture and design?