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“Introduction” | Appropriate(d) Interiors

NEW YORK, NY - [ July 1983]: The Men's bathroom inside the club CBGB. July 1983 in New York City. (Photo by Bill Tompkins/Getty Images)

The book’s introduction, conventionally, introduces some of the central themes of the book.

Appropriate-the-adjective and appropriate-the-verb both speak to the very nature of boundary conditions. Each requires an interior and exterior condition to be made legible, a recognizable (if not always visible) domain in which standards, assumptions, codes and conventions might operate.

To appropriate speaks to possession. This may mean simply to borrow (like the methodologies of another discipline) or it may mean to take, even to steal (in the context of unequal distributions of power).

Applied to space it connotes property and with that come bounded rights of control & exclusion. One’s property can be understood to be commensurate with one’s identity and to lose or lack a domain of one’s own is to excise one’s relationship with conventional society: unpropertied, inappropriate.

Appropriate also means suitable, conventional, even “normal.” To behave in an appropriate way concerns tacit, often unspoken codes of propriety that operate within a given domain or field.

Both property & propriety are fully entwined with received ideas about the interior. It is a delicious paradox then that the interior (esp. when outside the view or purview of the public domain) can be the site of resistance to those codes and conventions. To illustrate this potential, I’d like to make the case that there is no punk architecture but there ARE punk interiors.

Architecture requires property and capital and is thus more likely to reflect the values of the status quo; interiors exist within and without the domain of designed environments, and are thus more able to reflect and support a broader and more inclusive set of values.

Punks are (were) members of a subculture that emerged in the 1970s in the UK. Ostensibly organized around a style of music, they are also recognized as a counter-cultural movement originally made up of white working-class youth, a group of people with little economic capital to invest in more than ephemera (music, fashion, graphics)- a punk aesthetic is bricolage, appropriated elements from mainstream culture & recombined into new visual and aural codes. A code that thumbed its nose at the status quo, deliberately inappropriate.

The image is a detail of the toilet at CBGBs, the legendary music venue on the Bowery in NYC. Over time, concert-goers used what they had to cover its surfaces: flyers, stickers, spray paint, filth. Surfaces made by and for its users, an accrual of bad behavior over time.

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