Bella Kiser is an interdisciplinary Filipino American artist from Chicago, Illinois. She uses sculpture, performance, virtual reality, and sound to build soft architecture, which she defines as, “a malleable and ever-changing building technique that is in constant exchange with memory; a fabritecture of susceptible surfaces formed from intangible experiences.”
I started thinking about soft architecture in the spring of 2018 after experiencing racism at Tufts University when a white friend displaced me within my own body, robbing me of the little sense of home and comfort I had while living in an unfamiliar college environment. I sat with this for a year, until one day I remembered my paternal grandparents with no permanent residence. They traveled from place to place in an RV, a transient space with no link to a specific location or time, yet they still called it home. My familial history paired with my broken understanding of self led me to create my MobileHome Series through which I attempt to capture the materialization of “home.” One may choose to wear these garments when feeling lost, without belonging, or “home”less. These pieces suggest that home is something that we permanently carry with us, supporting us even in the most mundane of moments. By relating architecture to garment, I am suggesting that both mediums have the same foundational purpose: to separate and protect the user from the outside environment. This soft armor is meant to protect those who are marginalized. From my MobileHomes came the more generalized concept of soft architecture, a world that I am continuing to create.
Music Box (Floor #1), while still protective, transitions my focus to the auditory aspects of soft architecture. Inspired by R. Murray Schafer and Alvin Lucier, this auditory, large-scale wearable invites users to sink into the floor and listen to the amplification of their architectural environment. Every place resonates with unceasing frequencies that compose our sonic landscape and alter our perception of space itself. Using four mattresses, a box spring, upholstery foam, blue vinyl, guitar amps and contact microphones the piece wraps itself around the user and their senses to transform them into part of their surroundings. This installation asks the user to not only become part of the background, but also to become hyper-aware of their bodies in claustrophobic space—simulating both comfort and displeasure.