Water takes the shape of its container. Everyone knows that. Well then, the shape of what does the container take? The first answer that comes to mind is that it takes the shape its creator desires. It is easy to reach that deduction where a creator is self-evident; but what if the existence of a creator is doubtful? For example, who gave the universe its shape? The answer to this question is complicated if you do not believe in a creator; but a little reflection on water and container can open a different path of thought. Such that water has a share in the shape of the container. The shape of the container is essentially the product of negotiation, of the entangled relationship between its raw material, its intended use, the form in the mind of its creator, and water; just like the shape of the universe appearing in the relationship of the things and forces in it.
Just like water, the human also takes the shape of the container s/he is in. Of course, the shape of this container appears after never ending negotiations. Although the human has a place in the negotiation table where her/his own shape is determined, the voice of the power is assertive in this process. So what is a human's container? The first thing that “human’s container” reminds is the body, but the body is ultimately a space. Then, it should not be too wrong to say that a person's container is the space. Space, on the other hand, is produced within relationships, within the scope of needs, although we tend to think of it as an emptiness that is neutral and has existed forever. The geography, cities, buildings, houses and bodies in which we live are produced by making fine profit and loss calculations in all kinds of ways. The modern space, where modern human flourishes, is woven in power relations, leaving a minimum of emptiness, and is rational to every bit of it. Furthermore, its walls are solidly built and protected against various dangers from outside, from the unknown. It has been designed in a way to protect both capital and production processes and to keep the losses that may occur in these processes at a minimum. However, the modern space is similar to the modern subject in many respects, above all. Just like the Cartesian Subject, it divides the space into the inside and outside, here and there, and classifies the material; it builds its existence on the reason.
One thinks differently in a palace and a hut, said Marx. What is evident in this aphorism is that the hut and the palace are metaphors that signify social classes. Undoubtedly, this is true; but the hut and the palace can speak for themselves without reference to anything else. The aphorism can also be interpreted as follows: Spaces that are different from each other offer different subjectivities and possibilities of thinking to the people who were born into them and live in them with their structural features. Someone who lives in a stone-built palace with hundreds of rooms, with solid walls, will surely have a different understanding of home than the one who lives crammed in a jerry built hut that can collapse at any moment, and will develop a different personality and subjectivity. Intervention to the space means intervention to the subject. There is a reciprocity between the spatial setup and the structure of the subject. For example, it is so easy to establish a relationship between the archetype of the Western individual about home and the spiritual organization of id, ego and superego as described by Sigmund Freud. This house archetype, which shows itself in the most beautiful way in children's drawings, is a rectangular structure covered with a triangular roof. Considering that this structure has an unseen, underground basement, all elements of the matchup are completed. While the dark part under the ground corresponds to the id as the unvoiced source of life energy remaining in dark, the roof, which is strictly calculated using geometry, corresponds to the super ego, determining social norms. The gap between the basement and roof, the id and superego corresponds to the ego in which the individual resides. Although it is impossible to know whether the archetype about the home or the structure of the soul is the predecessor, their interrelation cannot be ignored. The construction of the western individual is closely related with the construction of the western space. In this case, what kind of a structure will the nomadic subject living in a tent have? This question is certainly worth asking; but to answer it requires an anthropological study. Nevertheless, the possibilities of different spatial constructions also manifest themselves in daily life. The romantic attitude of many modern individuals to ruins and abandoned buildings can be considered in this context.
Where does our interest in abandoned buildings and ruins come from? I think that these slowly decaying structures are capable of creating spaces of freedom that escape the all-seeing eye of the power. These types of structures, which we can easily encounter, form a blind spot among the regular spaces of strictly calculated modern life and give the opportunity to dream, to breathe and to escape from the domination of the mind. The forms of abandoned structures and ruins are determined not by a transcendent creator, but by time immanent in material. The walls, which were built in accordance with the rules of reason, find their form in interaction with all the non-living and living beings that share the world as they decay. Precisely for this reason, being in touch with these spaces and spending time there opens slots in our tightly controlled subjectivity and liberates us for a moment. We can take a bath in the light coming through the broken glass of an old industrial building and dream in the arbor at the foot of a collapsed wall. As we complete the missing parts of the buildings with our imagination, we also heal the wounds of our own selves with our imagination. The derelict structures are well suited for test drives for alternative subjectivities. A building with collapsed walls means to have permeable borders and an open subject against the other at the same time.
For a long time, no one has asked the stone and steel what form they want to take. Neither people are consulted about what kind of a house they want to live in nor the wind and water are consulted in the course of constructing the buildings. In the non-existing space of computer programs, virtual materials are folded and bent, and structures are built to conform to the will of power. Just like everything else, the space is manufactured as well, but the production is only made for the sake of the survival of production. Maybe we do not need to do or to produce anything anymore. Maybe it is time to flow away by demolishing, by giving time and corrosion a chance, and by eroding and being eroded with the flowing river. Even if we do not have the strength and courage to destroy things, the spaces that have already been sacrificed, the structures that have already begun to collapse can be seen as a breach to get rid of the domination of the modern individual and this nightmare. If domination is built on space, it may also come to an end by destroying space.
Murat Alat (1983, İstanbul), graduated from İstanbul Bilgi University Cultural Studies MA program. From 2007 to 2015 he worked as project coordinator and exhibition manager in İKSV, Arter and Salt. Since 2015 he has been writing texts on contemporary art and organising workshops, seminars and education programs. He is still writing for Art Unlimited on a regular basis and working as a consultant for Visual Art Projects of the Municipality of Nilüfer, Bursa. He is also programming “Açık Seminer” which is a research and public education programme being held under the roof of Saint-Joseph High School in collaboration with the art initiative Poşe. He studies philosophy and psychoanalysis and thinks on the conjunction of politics, ethics and aesthetics.
This article is translated to English by Hale Eryılmaz.
Hale Eryilmaz (1972, Denizli), completed her undergraduate education at METU International Relations Department and her master's degree in Bilkent International Relations Department with full scholarship. For 25 years, she has been working as a freelance translator in the fields of social studies, popular culture, human rights and torture prevention, culture and arts. She has also worked as a researcher, expert and manager in many institutions in the fields of human rights and civil society for 20 years, and has also been on the boards of many institutions. Some of these institutions are; ROMACTED European Council Program, Human Rights Foundation of Turkey (HRFT), Sivil Düşün, Women's Work Foundation (KEDV), Aegean Association, and UNICEF. Hale Eryilmaz is currently working in Izmir Cultural Platform Initiative and TOBB's Expert Hands Project (integration of Syrian refugees). In addition to numerous publications of articles and translations published on Platform, Sanatatak and Art Unlimited, Eryılmaz has a translation book of Martin Strokes, named "Arabesque Events in Turkey" published from İletişim Publications in the year '98.