The Venice Biennale Is Paying Tribute to Gay Cruising Spots

The 16th International Architecture exhibition, taking place during the Venice Biennale, is paying tribute to the history of cruising via a large-scale installation. Cruising, typically associated with queer and homosexual men, is the act of looking for sex in public places like parks, bathrooms, and parking lot, as well as other more specific places like sex clubs.

The project is titled the Cruising Pavilion, and it will be on exhibition from May 24 to July 1 at arts non-profit Spazio Punch. “Architecture is a sexual practice,” reads the show’s press release, “and cruising is one of the most crucial acts of dissidence. Relegated to the realm of depravity, it feeds off its most structuring disciplinary features. In the bathrooms built for cleanliness and the parks made for peacefulness, and also through the figures of the policeman and the flâneur, the modern city is cruised, dismantled and made into a drag of itself. The dungeon becomes playful, the labyrinth protective, and the baths erotic.”

It’s left vague as to whether patrons will be able to, you know, cruise, but there will be poppers at the party. For young gay men who are of the Grindr generation, the act of cruising may seem very old-school, which is why the exhibition feels more like a retrospective. Nowadays, you can cruise via an app, but the Cruising Pavilion will show, through the work of 20 artists, how the act of searching for sex in bathrooms and saunas shaped sexuality and identity.

“The historical model of cruising is evolving and perhaps even dying,” the curators of Cruising Pavillion say in a statement. “The contemporary combination of Grindr, urban development, and the commodification of LGBT culture has emptied established cruising grounds and replaced gay bars with condos. Geosocial apps have generated a new psychosexual geography spreading across a vast architectonic of digitally interconnected bedrooms, thus disrupting the intersectional idealism that was at play in former versions of cruising. Today, class, race, and gender might be as regulated by the erotic surface of the screen as the architecture of the city.”


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