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Conversation: Jimmy Robert & Mario Gooden

In Dark Space: Architecture, Representation, Black Identity, published in 2016 by Columbia University Press, American architect and scholar Mario Gooden explores the construction and representation of racial identities in connection with the design of buildings.

Gooden recently met with French artist Jimmy Robert to discuss Robert’s live performance Imitation of Lives, a co-commission between Performa and The Glass House for Performa 17 (November 3-5, 2017).


Mario Gooden:  You’ve been quoted as saying, "Representation is essentially very volatile…pin it down, and it instantly escapes." (1) Can you explain how this informs your multi-disciplinary practice?

Jimmy Robert:  I'm interested in the relationship we have with images, mainly photography. I come from the traditional concern that there is a problem with representation. That it fails, or we fail to represent whatever we are trying to represent. What does it mean to represent and who is represented?

MG: How do you think about gender or race regarding the volatility of representation? What are the risks in terms of identity?

JR: I guess there is a desire to be represented—or to be seen—as the subject. That’s what I was looking for as a young person in France in the ‘90s, where I couldn't see myself represented in the media or in art. Moving to the UK, there was something very different happening, I had a sense of that representation. There were black artists; there was advertising with black people in it. It’s about defining things—as soon as you enter a definition, what if you don’t fit that definition? The risk is never finding a fixed representation—but that could also be a good thing. It could mean that you aren’t limited by a particular language of representation.


Click here to read the entire conversation between Gooden and Robert.

FYI: Gooden and Robert will expand their discussion on Robert’s work and questions of representation and race in modern architecture with a public conversation held at the Performa Hub (427 Broadway, at Howard Street) on Tuesday, November 6, at 3pm.