The project ”We Know How to Order” magnifies systems of ordering bodies in contemporary Chicago. This site-specific performance brings together the Federal Center by Mies van der Rohe and the South Shore Drill Team, which performs high-energy drill routines infused with street choreography. Conceived by Bryony Roberts, and choreographed by Asher Waldron of the South Shore Drill Team, this collaborative project responds to a space of federal government and the architecture of Mies van der Rohe through dynamic physical movement.
Mies van der Rohe’s Federal Center, built between 1959 and 1974, is unified by an ever-present grid—a module of 4’-8”—that regulates the architecture of the courthouse, post office, federal offices, public plaza, and the security perimeter of bollards added after September 11. Across town in the South Side, the South Shore Drill Team trains young people in rigorous and precise drill routines, which transform conventional military drills into expressive fusions of street moves, flag tossing and rifle spinning. Their structure of training, tutoring, and performance aims to protect participants from the gang violence and random shootings that threaten them.
The collaborative project ”We Know How To Order” superimposes multiple systems of order onto each other—street choreography onto precision drills onto the Federal Center. It calls attention to the accessibility of public space in the U.S.—how architectural systems alongside social expectations influence the occupation of common space. For the momentary duration of the performance, young people from the South Side take over a space of federal government, remaking its logic in their own electrifying system of movement.
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Bryony Roberts is an architectural designer and principal of the research and design practice Bryony Roberts Studio. Roberts earned her B.A. from Yale University and her M.Arch from Princeton University. Her studio focuses on transformations of historical architecture, with projects ranging from installations to residential and urban design. In addition to design projects, Roberts is committed to research and publication; she recently guest-edited the architectural journal Log on the topic "New Ancients", and has published her writing in Log, Pidgin, and Architectural Record. She taught as a Wortham Teaching Fellow at the Rice School of Architecture from 2011-2013, and at SCI-Arc in Los Angeles from 2013-2014. She is now a Visiting Professor at the Oslo School of Architecture in Norway, and was awarded the Rome Prize to develop her work at the American Academy in Rome in 2015-2016.
South Shore Drill Team uses the performing arts to engage inner-city youth throughout their critical teenage years; mitigate the dangers of gangs, drugs, and violence; and guide members toward completing their education. Chicago public school teacher Arthur Robertson founded the drill team in 1980 to offer a positive and creative outlet for inner-city youth. What began with four neighborhood children twirling wooden rifles has grown into a nationally known organization that performs at more than 125 events and serves more than 300 young people ages 8–21 every year.