Issue 10:
Emotion
ISSUE
STORY TYPE
AUTHOR
9
THE BUILT ENVIRONMENT
April 22, 2024
Why Did Our Homes Stop Evolving?
by George Kafka
9
ROUNDTABLE
April 8, 2024
Spaces Where the Body Is a Vital Force
by Tiffany Jow
9
BOOK REVIEW
April 1, 2024
Tracing the Agency of Women as Users and Experts of Architecture
by Mimi Zeiger
9
PERSPECTIVE
March 25, 2024
Are You Sitting in a Non-Place?
by Mzwakhe Ndlovu
9
ROUNDTABLE
March 11, 2024
At Home, Connecting in Place
by Marianela D’Aprile
9
PERSPECTIVE
March 4, 2024
VALIE EXPORT’s Tactical Urbanism
by Alissa Walker
8
PERSPECTIVE
February 26, 2024
What the “Whole Earth Catalog” Taught Me About Building Utopias
by Anjulie Rao
8
THE BUILT ENVIRONMENT
February 19, 2024
How a Run-Down District in London Became a Model for Neighborhood Revitalization
by Ellen Peirson
8
THE BUILT ENVIRONMENT
February 12, 2024
In Brooklyn, Housing That Defies the Status Quo
by Gideon Fink Shapiro
8
PERSPECTIVE
February 5, 2024
That “Net-Zero” Home Is Probably Living a Lie
by Fred A. Bernstein
8
PERSPECTIVE
January 22, 2024
The Virtue of Corporate Architecture Firms
by Kate Wagner
8
PERSPECTIVE
January 16, 2024
How Infrastructure Shapes Us
by Deb Chachra
8
THE BUILT ENVIRONMENT
January 8, 2024
The Defiance of Desire Lines
by Jim Stephenson
7
THE BUILT ENVIRONMENT
December 18, 2023
This House Is Related to You and to Your Nonhuman Relatives
by Sebastián López Cardozo
7
THE BUILT ENVIRONMENT
December 11, 2023
What’s the Point of the Plus Pool?
by Ian Volner
7
BOOK REVIEW
December 4, 2023
The Extraordinary Link Between Aerobics and Architecture
by Jarrett Fuller
7
PERSPECTIVE
November 27, 2023
Architecture That Promotes Healing and Fortifies Us for Action
by Kathryn O’Rourke
7
objects and things
November 6, 2023
How to Design for Experience
by Diana Budds
7
CHRONICLES OF CULTURE
October 30, 2023
The Meaty Objects at Marta
by Jonathan Griffin
6
OBJECTS AND THINGS
October 23, 2023
How Oliver Grabes Led Braun Back to Its Roots
by Marianela D’Aprile
6
THE BUILT ENVIRONMENT
October 16, 2023
Can Adaptive Reuse Fuel Equitable Revitalization?
by Clayton Page Aldern
6
PERSPECTIVE
October 9, 2023
What’s the Point of a Tiny Home?
by Mimi Zeiger
6
CHRONICLES OF CULTURE
October 2, 2023
A Book Where Torn-Paper Blobs Convey Big Ideas
by Julie Lasky
6
THE BUILT ENVIRONMENT
September 24, 2023
The Architecture of Doing Nothing
by Edwin Heathcote
6
BOOK REVIEW
September 18, 2023
What the “Liebes Look” Says About Dorothy Liebes
by Debika Ray
6
OBJECTS AND THINGS
September 11, 2023
Roy McMakin’s Overpowering Simplicity
by Eva Hagberg
6
OBJECTS AND THINGS
September 5, 2023
Minimalism’s Specific Objecthood, Interpreted by Designers of Today
by Glenn Adamson
5
ROUNDTABLE
August 28, 2023
How Joan Jonas and Eiko Otake Navigate Transition
by Siobhan Burke
5
OBJECTS AND THINGS
August 21, 2023
The Future-Proofing Work of Design-Brand Archivists
by Adrian Madlener
5
THE BUILT ENVIRONMENT
August 14, 2023
Can a Church Solve Canada’s Housing Crisis?
by Alex Bozikovic
5
CHRONICLES OF CULTURE
August 7, 2023
In Search of Healing, Helen Cammock Confronts the Past
by Jesse Dorris
5
THE BUILT ENVIRONMENT
July 31, 2023
What Dead Malls, Office Parks, and Big-Box Stores Can Do for Housing
by Ian Volner
5
PERSPECTIVE
July 24, 2023
A Righteous Way to Solve “Wicked” Problems
by Susan Yelavich
5
CHRONICLES OF CULTURE
July 17, 2023
Making a Mess, with a Higher Purpose
by Andrew Russeth
5
ROUNDTABLE
July 10, 2023
How to Emerge from a Starchitect’s Shadow
by Cynthia Rosenfeld
4
THE BUILT ENVIRONMENT
June 26, 2023
There Is No One-Size-Fits-All in Architecture
by Marianela D’Aprile
4
THE BUILT ENVIRONMENT
June 19, 2023
How Time Shapes Amin Taha’s Unconventionally Handsome Buildings
by George Kafka
4
SHOW AND TELL
June 12, 2023
Seeing and Being Seen in JEB’s Radical Archive of Lesbian Photography
by Svetlana Kitto
4
PERSPECTIVE
June 5, 2023
In Built Environments, Planting Where It Matters Most
by Karrie Jacobs
3
PERSPECTIVE
May 30, 2023
On the Home Front, a Latine Aesthetic’s Ordinary Exuberance
by Anjulie Rao
3
PERSPECTIVE
May 21, 2023
For a Selfie (and Enlightenment), Make a Pilgrimage to Bridge No. 3
by Alexandra Lange
3
THE BUILT ENVIRONMENT
May 8, 2023
The Building Materials of the Future Might Be Growing in Your Backyard
by Marianna Janowicz
3
BOOK REVIEW
May 1, 2023
Moving Beyond the “Fetishisation of the Forest”
by Edwin Heathcote
2
ROUNDTABLE
April 24, 2023
Is Craft Still Synonymous with the Hand?
by Tiffany Jow
2
OBJECTS AND THINGS
April 17, 2023
A Historian Debunks Myths About Lacemaking, On LaceTok and IRL
by Julie Lasky
2
THE BUILT ENVIRONMENT
April 10, 2023
How AI Helps Architects Design, and Refine, Their Buildings
by Ian Volner
2
SHOW AND TELL
April 3, 2023
Merging Computer and Loom, a Septuagenarian Artist Weaves Her View of the World
by Francesca Perry
1
THE BUILT ENVIRONMENT
March 27, 2023
Words That Impede Architecture, According to Reinier de Graaf
by Osman Can Yerebakan
1
CHRONICLES OF CULTURE
March 20, 2023
Painting With Plaster, Monica Curiel Finds a Release
by Andrew Russeth
1
PERSPECTIVE
March 13, 2023
Rules and Roles in Life, Love, and Architecture
by Eva Hagberg
1
Roundtable
March 6, 2023
A Design Movement That Pushes Beyond Architecture’s Limitations
by Tiffany Jow
0
THE BUILT ENVIRONMENT
February 7, 2023
To Improve the Future of Public Housing, This Architecture Firm Looks to the Past
by Ian Volner
0
PERSPECTIVE
February 7, 2023
The Radical Potential of “Prime Objects”
by Glenn Adamson
0
SHOW AND TELL
February 20, 2023
Xiyadie’s Queer Cosmos
by Xin Wang
0
CHRONICLES OF CULTURE
February 13, 2023
How Michael J. Love’s Subversive Tap Dancing Steps Forward
by Jesse Dorris
0
SHOW AND TELL
February 7, 2023
Finding Healing and Transformation Through Good Black Art
by Folasade Ologundudu
0
BOOK REVIEW
February 13, 2023
How Stephen Burks “Future-Proofs” Craft
by Francesca Perry
0
ROUNDTABLE
February 27, 2023
Making Use of End Users’ Indispensable Wisdom
by Tiffany Jow
0
OBJECTS AND THINGS
February 7, 2023
The New Lessons Architect Steven Harris Learns from Driving Old Porsches
by Jonathan Schultz
0
PERSPECTIVE
February 7, 2023
The Day Architecture Stopped
by Kate Wagner
0
OBJECTS AND THINGS
February 7, 2023
The Overlooked Potential of Everyday Objects
by Adrian Madlener
0
ROUNDTABLE
February 7, 2023
A Conversation About Generalists, Velocity, and the Source of Innovation
by Tiffany Jow
0
OBJECTS AND THINGS
February 7, 2023
Using a Fungi-Infused Paste, Blast Studio Turns Trash Into Treasure
by Natalia Rachlin
Untapped is published by the design company Henrybuilt.
SHOW AND TELL
02.20.2023
Xiyadie’s Queer Cosmos

The Shaanxi-born, Beijing-based artist evolves the traditional art of paper-cutting to imagine alternate realities.

Xiyadie, “Joy” (1999). (Courtesy Xiyadie)
“This work mainly shows the relationship between man and nature,” Xiyadie says. “In fact, if you want to respect nature, you must first respect yourself. For a long time I thought I was sick. After I saw the side profile of a film projectionist [I fancied], I kept thinking about him; I thought I was a degenerate, and felt shame for the harm I caused my wife. I took sleeping pills to cut out my rogue thoughts, but they stayed with me twenty-four hours a day.”


English-language media’s coverage of Xiyadie, the Shaanxi-born, Beijing-based paper-cut artist, often portrays him as a rebellious queer artist working within a conservative Communist society. But these convenient labels struggle to land on the lush and tormented tableaux of Xiyadie’s life and art. His stunningly complex compositions chart both personal narratives—including his experiences as migrant worker, folk artist, queer artist, father, and guilt-laden husband—and an idiosyncratic cosmology of queer navigation and belonging.

Xiyadie’s most ambitious project to date, “Kaiyang” (2021), measuring nearly 10 feet wide and recently exhibited at Berlin’s Haus der Kulturen der Welt, chronicles his 2005 introduction to Beijing’s underground queer scene: One cold night, the artist had been cruising around near Dongdan Park—a popular spot near Tiananmen Square—and missed the last train home; a boyfriend took him to the famed Kaiyang Bathhouse, where one could spend the night on the cheap. There, Xiyadie found both temporary shelter and lasting community—one he couldn’t dream of in his hometown. “Kaiyang” describes the night’s reverie in detail: bodies entangled and metamorphosed into flowering trees during group orgies, then intricately laced with traditional decorative motifs; a lurking moon and sun alongside Beijing landmarks old and new. The sense of joyous harmony compelled the artist so much that he recalls the night in the bathhouse as “Beijing’s warmest spring.” During our interview, the artist’s poetic and near-cinematic description of this memory—as well as others that would inform his compositions—often evoked Stanley Kwan’s 2001 film Lan Yu, in which relational and political volatilities are grounded in, rather than dictated by, struggles of intimacy.

The artist’s name, a pseudonym, translates as “Siberian butterfly,” an extraordinary creature capable of surviving and flourishing in harsh conditions; it also centralizes the idea of beauty, which, according to the artist, has been the most potent force in his life. The continuous, morphing connection from one motif to another is crucial to the medium and craft of paper-cutting, with its robust folk-art history stretching back two millennia in China. It’s also not hard to read erotic, queer connotations into this medium-specific condition, which Xiyadie exploits exuberantly to visualize one-ness with other desired bodies, as well as with nature. The way his figures transform into trees, flowers, and ears of wheat has a fantastical naturalism redolent of Bernini’s “Apollo and Daphne” (1622–1625)—though for Xiyadie, this metamorphosis also underscores the plain yet fundamental idea that queer desire is natural, innate, and moves at a pace that, as he puts it, is “constant, like the universe.”

He has not arrived at this understanding swiftly, or easily. Feeling trapped and guilty toward his wife, he has taken sleeping pills in attempts to cure himself of homoerotic desires. When the recurring motifs of doors and walls appear in his compositions, they often accommodate deeply conflicted feelings about safety, suppression, domestic life, and shame. Against these confinements, however, unruly desire abounds and flows, which he compares to “a branch of apricot flowers coming out of the wall”—a well-known Chinese idiom for illicit affairs that Xiyadie particularly likes to evoke.

As much as they are suffused with folkloric references and traditional symbolisms native to paper-cutting, Xiyadie’s compositions are equally rich in time-specific cues, such as a logo from the 2008 Beijing Olympics, or a soldier standing guard on Tiananmen in Kaiyang. While the medium typically serves festive or talismanic purposes with a rich, developed iconography and an elaborate process of cutting and dyeing (of which the artist has a masterful command), Xiyadie has ultimately recalibrated the art form’s vocabulary for new syntaxes. For the artist, it’s important to have anchors of the present, so that the various motifs, connected like a neural network, can produce a cosmic constellation in which lives like his can thrive and, at last, make sense.

In the works below, Xiyadie discusses some of the pieces that feature in “Xiyadie: Queer Cut Utopias” (through May 14), his first solo exhibition in New York that opened earlier this month at The Drawing Center. The artist speaks of his creative process as planned yet spontaneous, as new patterns and ideas often unexpectedly emerge. Of the method, he says, “It’s even richer than language.”

Xiyadie, “Flowerpot” (1991). (Courtesy Xiyadie)
“How I wish the two of us will be placed somewhere safe, where we are cherished. If we become flowers, people will appreciate and fertilize us with attention and love,” Xiyadie says. “But I also want to break the pot and grow into the fertile ground. Then we’d be free, bathed in the spring light—the greatest warmth in nature.”
Xiyadie, “Gate” (1992). (Courtesy Xiyadie)
“In this beautiful world, these figures are releasing themselves behind a traditional-looking gate. It’s adorned with the 2008 Beijing Olympics logo, and, down below, a bronze tiger-head knob that’s traditionally featured on such gates,” Xiyadie says. “The lion and tiger heads are protective talismans, but the door also represents the cosmos: the Olympics logo the present, the lion head the past. The present and past are constantly spinning into each other.”
Xiyadie, “Wall” (2016). (Courtesy Xiyadie)
“The man outside the wall is waiting for the one inside—how powerful his genitals and hands are, unfurling into flowers and birds that cross the wall’s barrier, yearning for freedom. He exhales flowers and utters a language of beauty,” Xiyadie says. “The wall can never stop what is natural. I keep undressing myself, layer by layer, in search of the deepest truth.”
Xiyadie “Gate” (1999). (Courtesy Xiyadie)
“The doors both bring security and imprisonment. They have now opened up; the sun shines through, and freedom is desired,” Xiyadie says. “The figures are tangled in a ménage à quatre: their hands and their breaths have transformed into flowery branches, forming a tapestry below their feet, attracting birds.”
Xiyadie, “Kaiyang” (2021). (Courtesy Xiyadie)
“In this image you can see a P.L.A. soldier standing guard to the right of Tiananmen, and the moon smiling slyly above the Beijing World Trade Center building,” Xiyadie says. “[It recalls] a cold winter night, when a boyfriend of mine and I were walking around Dongdan Park. The last train had already left, and we didn’t have money for cabs. He took me to a queer bathhouse where we could stay overnight and shower, but no one was asleep. People were having fun and group orgies; everyone was so friendly and in harmony.”
Xiyadie, “Fish on a Chopping Board (Human suffering, depression, and helplessness are like a beheaded fish on a chopping board, but at this very moment we are still happy)” (2018).  (Photo: Bruce M. White. Courtesy Xiyadie)
“People pointing fingers at you can make living extremely hard, just like this fish being slaughtered on a cutting board,” Xiyadie says. “There are butcher knives next to the fish head; the water is boiling, and the cat is watching. There are many dishes, chopsticks, and wine glasses. Cabbage, radishes, and greens scatter on the ground. Like the fish, we await death, either by slaughter, or cat, or hot water. But at this moment, we are still mating and enjoying living. Stay with him when you have the chance, and when you are happy, you can live just a little longer.”
Xiyadie, “Door (A pair of rotating doors representing tradition and modernity, as the universe rotates day after day, so our lives are focused and the joy of love continues…)” (1982).  (Bruce M. White. Courtesy Xiyadie)
“There are logos from the 2008 Beijing Olympics on these lattice-work panels, making the doors at once historical and modern,” Xiyadie says. “This is also a cosmic perspective: We go through births and rebirths, and our life force is potent. However the universe might change, we stay the way we are. People have infinite charm: they are sometimes like quiet streams into your heart, other times they surge like tidal waves.”