The Modern Surface: Celebrating Anne Anlin Cheng’s Second Skin

Feb 7, 2024, 6:00 pm7:30 pm
MoMA, Mezzanine, Theater 3 The Celeste Bartos Theater
Open to the public


Event Description

What is the relation between race, modernism, architecture, and performance? Through the figure of Josephine Baker, Anne Anlin Cheng’s Second Skin: Josephine Baker and the Modern Surface (2013) tells the story of an intimate connection between the invention of a modernist style and the theatricalization of Black skin at the turn of the 20th century. Baker’s famous nakedness, Cheng argues, must be understood within intense cultural debates about, and desire for, “pure surface,” which crystallized at the convergence of modern art, architecture, machinery, and philosophy.

Join us for a special evening celebrating the 10th anniversary and rerelease of Cheng’s landmark book, with esteemed architectural scholars Spyros Papapetros, Kendall A. Nicholson, and Sarah M. Whiting. Using works in MoMA’s collection as a starting point, they will reflect on the central questions of the book and their continuing relevance today. The panel will be moderated by Evangelos Kotsioris, assistant curator in MoMA’s Department of Architecture and Design. A book signing and reception will follow the program.

Anne Anlin Cheng is a MoMA Scholar in Residence. She is a professor of English at Princeton University, and the author of The Melancholy of Race: Psychoanalysis, Assimilation, and Hidden Grief (2000), Second Skin: Josephine Baker and the Modern Surface (2013), and Ornamentalism (2018). Her new book of personal essays, Ordinary Disasters, is forthcoming in fall 2024.

Evangelos Kotsioris is an assistant curator in the Department of Architecture and Design at MoMA, where he recently co-organized the exhibitions Reuse, Renew, Recycle: Recent Architecture from China (2021) and The Project of Independence: Architectures of Decolonization in South Asia, 1947–1985 (2022).

Kendall A. Nicholson is senior director of research, equity, and education at the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture. He is a design scholar and lectures widely across architecture, race, and education.

Sarah M Whiting is dean and Josep Lluís Sert Professor of Architecture at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design. She is a design principal and cofounder of WW Architecture, and served as the dean of Rice University’s School of Architecture from 2010 to 2019.

Spyros Papapetros is an associate professor of history and theory of architecture at Princeton University. He is the author of On the Animation of the Inorganic: Art, Architecture, and the Extension of Life (2012) and editor of Space as Membrane by Siegfried Ebeling (2010).

The MoMA Scholar in Residence program is supported by the Ford Foundation.