Thresholds 49: Supply
Edited by Nina Wexelblatt and B. Jack Hanly
MIT Department of Architecture, distributed by MIT Press
April 2021

This peer-reviewed journal includes scholarly and creative contributions by Imani Jacqueline Brown, Hou Chi-Chia, Meg Duguid, Michael Faciejew, Gabriel Fuentes, Larissa Guimarães, Matthew Hockenberry, Mark Jarzombek, Jesse LeCavalier, Bin Li, Adam Longenbach, Charlotte Malterre-Barthes, Jumana Manna, Ash Moniz, Galen Pardee, Vikramaditya Prakash, Thea Riofrancos, Veronica Smith, Sophia Stamatopoulou-Robbins, and jina valentine. It is designed by Maria Candanoza.

Supply is double-faced: both stockroom and stock ticker, fixity and liquidity, provision and the provisional. It feasts and fasts, circulates and hoards. It plans and revises, and builds bulwarks against system failure, just in case. Supply is long-term and under-the-wire. It watches fluctuations in real time and places bets on future outcomes. Art and architecture navigate supply as a play of scarcity and excess but also of desire and necessity. Cultural and material conditions set the tone for the fecundity of ornament or an aesthetics of austerity, while technologies mediate the proliferation of images, sounds, and information. What is produced when designers dream a world of infinite abundance? How do objects and spaces take shape in an economy of scarcity? How have disruption and withdrawal marked the history of supply, and how could supply suggest nourishment as much as extraction?

Reactionary discourses of supply-side economics tend to slip the term into a sort of whirlpool, as though the endless proliferation and consumption of stuff just so happens to self-regulate. Thresholds 49: Supply argues to the contrary—that supply is an active, even diligent process. From the mine, the warehouse, and the trade route, to the sculptor’s studio and the systems of the body, the demands of supply drive the movement of vital materials, forecast future requirements, and invent new needs to justify their own perpetuation. To examine these activities, the contributions in this issue explore complexities for which the fantasy of transparent, frictionless commodity exchange cannot account.

In these pages, supplies crystallize across cosmic time scales; they seep and ooze out of their containers in quantities beyond measurement; they transform into their own representations in archives and online videos; they disappear behind paywalls and are redlined into artificial scarcity. In tracing these behaviors, the issue aims to productively denaturalize the closed economic system known as supply and demand.