Andrés Jaque is an artist, architect, and scholar based in New York and Madrid. He is the founder of the Office for Political Innovation, an international practice that works in the intersection of research, politics, and design. He has been awarded the 10th Frederick Kiesler Prize; the Silver Lion for the Best Research Project at the 14th Venice Biennale; Alfred Toepfer Stiftung’s Tessenow Stipendiat; the Dionisio Hernández Gil Award, and Architectural Record’s Designer of the Year award. The holder of a PhD in Architecture from ETSAM, Jaque is professor at Columbia University GSAPP and visiting professor at Princeton University School of Architecture. His publications and installations include Everyday Politics; Superpowers of Ten; Phantom: Mies As Rendered Society; Different Kinds of Water Pouring into a Swimming Pool; and Dulces Arenas Cotidianas. His work has been shown at MoMA, ZKM Kalsruhe, MAK Austrian Museum in Vienna, CalArts Center for Contemporary Arts, Schweizerisches Architektur Museum in Basel, Z33 Hasselt, Cité de l’Architecture et du Patrimoine de Paris, JUMEX Museum, Tel Aviv Museum of Arts, Mostra di Architettura de la Bienal de Venezia, Gwangju Biennale, Lisbon Architecture Triennale, Chicago Architecture Biennial, and London Design Museum.
At a time that nations and national identities are being intensively challenged, our film, Pornified Homes, examines the constellations of online male prostitution, as well as the transnational, transmedia, and interscalar architecture through which they exist. It uncovers an urbanism of coordinated escort apartments, online profiles, district transformations, and bodily reconstructions rooted in the colonial tradition through which the ecosystems of the Amazon are contained and mobilised as exoticised components of domestic environments, and in which tags of sexualised exotic demarcations become the engine of migratory redomestications that face off emancipation and subjugation against each other.
One of the most primitive extant flowers on Earth, Victoria amazónica was one of the first flowering species to branch off the main trunk of plant evolution. Its extensive system of floating leaves occupies the surface of Amazonian water bodies, crowding out competitors so that its roots can colonise large tracts of undisputed soil. Due to lack of light and movement, river and lake bottoms in the Amazon basin accumulate carbon dioxide, making conditions difficult for life. The thorny stalks of Victoria amazónica connect its floating parts to its rooted ones, transporting the oxygen needed to keep its root system alive.
Many botanists consider Victoria amazonica’s reproduction a baroque and primitive oddity, but this adaptation has allowed it to expand over a vast territory in the Amazon basin (as well as into cultivated environments in locations as far removed as Brooklyn, Helsinki, Oslo, and Miami). The flower of the species blooms for only two days, and during its brief period of pollination it changes gender. When it first opens, in the darkness of the nocturnal rain forest, it is a luminous white and broadcasts an intense fragrance. This multisensory billboard attracts Cyclocephala castanea beetles that have often traveled, borne on the wind, more than 200 kilometres. They bring with them the pollen of the distant Victoria flowers on which they spent the previous night.
The warm and comfortable environment of the floral chamber attracts as many as twenty beetles. After they enter the flower closes due to the nocturnal drop in temperature. In such a crowded and comfortable interior, beetles find unfamiliar partners to copulate with.
Instigated by this trans-species architecture of sex, the beetles’ movements release the pollen they carry, and the flower is pollenised by a distant and genetically-divergent specimen of Victoria amazónica. With the sunrise, the flower changes gender and turns pink. The flowers remain closed for another few hours, but now the pollen-laden stigmas warm up, attracting the beetles to the upper part of the flower. Only when the beetles are covered with pollen does the flower open again, releasing them to the morning wind that will take them to new and distant locations, where the genes of their host will find new exotic glowing chambers of unfamiliar sex.
The first time that Victoria amazónica flowered in Britain was in November 1849. Joseph Paxton, chief gardener at Chatsworth, the estate of the Duke of Devonshire, designed a heated glasshouse that allowed his employer to succeed in a race among scientists to present to Queen Victoria the first homegrown Victoria amazónica flower. Forty thousand Londoners saw, in the pages of the Illustrated London News, the image of Anna, Joseph Paxton’s daughter, standing on a gigantic leaf of the Victoria amazónica at the Lily House at Chatsworth.
The Waterlily House in Kew Gardens was built in 1852 as an iteration of Paxton’s invention. One of the main architectural endeavors of the nineteenth century was to engineer glasshouses to introduce the sexualised specimens of remote colonial territories into British homes. Modular manufacture made it possible for ironwork sexualising-devices to be introduced into upper-middle-class residential architecture.
The keyword “Brazilian” is the number one search query on Sleepyboy.com, Europe’s most popular male escort website. Originally launched in February 2000 as the personal site of British escort Marcus Denton, in 2003 it became a space where other male-sex-workers could advertise themselves. With 686,565 consolidated users, who spend an average of 11 minutes on the site, Sleepyboy.com increases its company value at a rate of 18% every three months. Denton runs a holding of successful gay sites: gayscenecams.com, sleepyboyscam.com, men4rentnow.com; and domains such as boyorchard.com, nakedstraightlads.com, gayreview.com, shemaleescortcams.com, nakedstraightlads.com, and silverboys.com. From those sites, he drives the flow of internet users to his lifestyle site, where he can be seen driving fancy cars or vacationing with trendy young lovers.
Over the course of ten years, Sleepyboy.com has been transformed from Denton’s personal escort page to a platform that not only collectively commodifies sex but also accommodates in London an urbanism that articulates self-branding with aspirational consumption.
Rafael thinks it is “hot blood” that his clients expect when they hire an escort tagged as “Brazilian” on Sleepyboy.com. They believe that Brazilians are fully sexualised. According to Rafael, “My clients think Brazilians only think and talk sex.” When asked why his profile in Sleepyboy.com is one of the most viewed, he gives two reasons. First, he looks young and innocent — and that sells. (Rafael is not actually his real name. Giving himself an archangel’s name is part of his self-branding strategy.) Second, he thinks that everyone fancies “sexy, wealthy people.” He wears jeans and Armani polos because he thinks that’s what rich guys do, but he wears them very snug to make them sexy. On his cell phone, he carries a picture of his dad, mom, siblings, and the son he had when he was a teenager. He constantly chats with them through Whatsapp. Although he loves them, he didn’t want to get stuck in the life he formerly had in Brazil.
Two years ago, when he turned nineteen, he left the central Brazil town where he had spent his entire life. His parents were strongly religious and too strict. At thirteen, he had begun to work as a real estate broker, construction worker, and cell phone vendor. Working thirteen hours a day, he made 1,000 reais a month, of which 700 went towards rent. He couldn’t afford to party even once a month. Inspired by Tati Zaqui, he asked a friend, the day he was leaving Brazil, to tattoo him on his right chest with a British Imperial State Crown, as it was redesigned for Queen Victoria in 1838. To celebrate his first year in London, he added to the crown Julius Caesar’s boast “Veni, vidi, vici,” written in Edwardian calligraphy.
He currently sublets a 50-square-metre-apartment in a basement in Chelsea. It is here that he often meets his clients. He hasn’t bought a single piece of furniture for the apartment, but he did buy a flat screen TV and a sound system. When he isn’t working, he spends his time with his girlfriend, watching Mo Vlogs’s Youtube channel “Rich Boy in the Middle East.” With 1.4 million followers, the channel shows the daily life of a young Dubai man and his girlfriend, who play around in Lamborghinis and shop for expensive clothes in endless air-conditioned malls.
When Rafael first arrived in London, he lived in a large apartment he shared with many escorts. His business requires that he be connected, but not too connected, to his competitors. He believes that the way to emancipate himself from Brazil’s working-class economy is to surround himself with rich people. For him, real estate is the real politics of emancipation. He will soon be eligible to rent a big apartment so that he can quit escorting and instead sublet rooms to young Brazilian escorts.
Bruno’s profile on Sleepyboy.com presents him as a Brazilian man available for paid sexual encounters in his apartment. He grew up with his mom and siblings in a favela in Rosinna. When he was a kid, his mum called him “Bambam,” after the sweet and strong child character from The Flintstones. At fourteen, he moved to Rio de Janeiro and decided to have the nickname tattooed on his forearm.
In Rio he lived on the streets for two years. Using the parallel bars at the street gyms, and inspired by a late cousin who was muscular, he began to sculpt his body. He had his mom’s and siblings’ faces tattooed on different parts of his body as a way of bridging the distance between himself and his loved ones. He was already a good dancer when a religious organisation took him to a children’s shelter, where he lived for a while and learned to play guitar and drums. While dancing at the carnival, someone invited him to move to London, where he ended up marrying a British lawyer, communicating via Google Translate until Bruno, with the lawyer’s help, learned English. This opened up many opportunities, and Bruno started dancing at the spin flow club Heaven. Four years later Youtube videos of him dancing have millions of views, and he is regularly invited to dance in clubs in Hamburg and Ibiza.
Bruno uses one cell phone to communicate with his clients in the UK and Germany and a second one for storage and to play the music he uses for dancing, while a third is reserved for contacting his mates and relatives in Brazil via Whatsapp. In this manner, sex clients, dancing, and loved ones in Brazil remain independent realms.
About his clients, Bruno says: “In the UK and Germany, people love Brazilians: they think we rock the world in a good way, that we are beautiful and sexy. My clients want to know more about my tattoos, my life in Rio… They love to take me to their homes, it makes them think that their life is fun and sexy.”
Bruno lives with his dog Eros in a small apartment at the rear part of a fancy building in Kensington. He needs to live in a central and prestigious part of London because this helps make his clients feel comfortable. He is turning his 28-square-metre apartment into what he calls “a pornifiying stage.” A year ago he added a plinth to his window. He can now jump from a platform on top of his washing machine onto a tatami mat and then slowly move so as to end up leaning against the wall. He has already installed a sound system, and soon lights and cameras will arrive.
Bruno’s society is one that has been constructed so as to make it possible for clients in the UK and Germany to bring sexiness into their daily lives. It is a complex assemblage of demarcations that can only remain together through the mediation of independent phones, tattoos, and staged interiors, which together are reprogramming London’s central and prestigious neighborhoods into networks of transnational pornification of daily life.
Central London, so often explained as the hub of a globalised post-state-oriented government, supports an ecosystem of shady backyards and down-rated basement apartments. This is a transnational urbanism that isn’t built out of blocks, roads, and institutional buildings, but rather composed of the way humans, bereft of economic power, are displaced and then sexualised by the manner in which their offline existence is pornified via online projection.
The colonial creation of a geography of centre and periphery may now be giving way to a layered coexistence in which the architecture of properness, the one that accommodates law firms, wealthy residences, and corporative headquarters, shelters a secluded and sexualised backyard architecture of otherness.
We might have never been global. We inhabit the manner in which transnational constellations negotiate their articulation with each other. The urbanism we live by now may best be sought in the ways our skins, texts, Whatsapps, desires, loved ones, domestic interiors, unfamiliar interaction, and sound systems all come together.
PORNIFIED HOMES: A Meditation on Exoticism and Identity via the World of Male Escorting
A project by Andrés Jaque / Office for Political Innovation commissioned by the Oslo Architecture Triennale 2016: After Belonging.
RESEARCH: Andrés Jaque, Paola Pardo, Roberto González, Laura Mora, Julie Klovstad, Michael Nathan
ART DIRECTION AND CINEMATOGRAPHY: Jorge López Conde & Eduardo López & Elena González
WITH THE SPECIAL COLLABORATION OF: Carlos Magdalena, Bruno Santos, Marco da Silva, Rafael Montes
VOICE ACTRESS: Elizabeth Sanjuán