Anthropological Relationships with Space: Memory and the Senses
Developing an enquiry into the philosophy of knowledge through the senses and how subjective understanding builds, or is built, upon previously attained experience or memory.
Concerns of the work
The local demographic ought to be able to, in some way, empathise with the artwork or the subject matter.
At the same time we are making a personal reflection upon the space: How do I empathise with the space?
I am interested in space that is contained within the provided parameters, as they are defined by the given architecture or geography of the site and what occupies this environment, and how we interact with these spaces.
How does the architecture affect our perception and relationship with the space?
How much of what we know about the space is known through vision, how much can be touched, what can be heard, smelt and tasted?
I observe that culture is in constant flux and the relevance of a specific site develops in relation to its apprehension by the accommodating culture that surrounds it. Cultures must have a past, present, and future in relation to a site’s/place’s established notions of being (or significance).
As a repercussion of this fact, people contributing to the parenthetical culture are often unable to directly associate with historical sites that have gradually contributed to the expansion of the local tourist industry. Such sites directly impact local people but in such a way that they themselves are not asked to appreciate them. I would suppose that because the tourist industry has commoditised such sites the local people are unable to genuinely associate with them, in a way tourist sites (as a focal point in my discourse with sites) have been commandeered as a vehicle of interest for foreigners to the region. Generally speaking, this is not their culture and they have no empathy with these sites.
If we remove this touristic approach from the situation then we must try to discover what it is that we are looking at, the question is how can we do that without knowledge of the past, without knowledge of the social life of the Christian occupants, and without even a knowledge of the services that were performed within the churches or what the ideological thinking of these people was. Because we do not know we must romanticise and shroud the location with mystery, a state that promotes a particular mythology which suits tourism perfectly. We have come full circle, all the way back to this position of the fleeting voyeur, and are ostracised from the site again. How can we promote an interest in the people who live here in the site?
I propose that the relationship promoted by the tourist industry is detrimental to any real empathetic understanding of the space. The role of Tourist is not to engage but to be exposed to something at a superficial level with complete disregard to the true (historical) nature and purpose of the space – instead the tourist creates a new purpose for the space – the purpose of tradition is changed alongside this and is not preserved – as such the notion of a collaboration of Tourism and Culture is unethical. Such a relationship would promote the commoditisation of phenomena that exist for heartfelt reasons. The reproduction of these things, as with translating songs for those lost and beloved in to screenplays or for performance within the theatre context, is simply soul –less. But I digress, I would rather direct our thoughts back in the direction of the cave dwellings and what these spaces mean or can come to mean for a passenger within the space surrounded by the hewn tuff architectures. There is more to the space than that of literal translation of what the space contains.
For example, the pictures that decorate the walls are more than just pictures they contribute to the ambience and atmosphere of the room. The frescos serve the same purpose as all decorations yet they are analysed as if they portray the lives of the inhabitants. On a basic level the frescoes do portray the society, we know they were Christian, but beyond that we know nothing about the way of life that procured within these cave excavations. For this reason we have to not look for answers within the decorations but instead look at ourselves within the space. What do we feel and how do we occupy the space? We have to develop our own relationship with the spaces that were made by other, and past, humans. Through such an approach we can not only hope to develop empathy for the spaces as a whole but we can develop an empathy within ourselves that can contribute towards an enlightenment of self. How can we qualify our being?
To paraphrase the above I suggest that we attempt to force spatial awareness or a curiosity that questions the nature of space. For, it is “space” that we are aiming to explore. Acoustically we wish to explore the nature of a given space; this may be phrased as how does the room itself respond to its occupancy. By creating a sound profile by using a deliberately stepped feedback process of many iterations of recording the space, playing the recording into the space, recording the space, we will be able to know how that space may be manipulated acoustically and how we ourselves are being received within that space. This is because we, as sensually aware life-forms, know the world as we receive it through our senses and interact in every way possible using the same mediums of vibration and sensory stimulation.
How one responds to the cave excavations is very important to me. In the above text I attempted to outline my concerns in such a way that my project become self-explanatory but I know that there is more to be said. When I talked about discovering empathy within the space I was well aware of the difficulty that I personally faced and the barriers that exist for people who are both local and foreign. A statement that I heard this week in Cappadocia summed this up for me and I have reiterated it above that follows the observation that the culture that excavated these caves, lived in, decorated, and used them is no longer in existence. This statement is as follows:
The geography of a place means nothing without the culture that identifies with it.
This is a very poignant sentence. Another very important statement came from Gül, who stated that the kind work that is important for her is work that is not purely elitist and esoteric to the art world but has a duality of appearances.
So there is a situation where in there are these three interwoven concerns.
I have spent two weeks working within various sites around the Rose and Red Valley and now in various other sites around Cappadocia. These practical explorations I have backed up with theoretical and factual scientific research whilst in Istanbul. I used this research to create a general perspective of what Cappadocia is in terms of geography, topology, the tourist industry, the concerns regarding erosion and the often presumptuous histories of the caves themselves. I also read into studies regarding the water supply and the effects of inhaling too much tuff dust on the human body. Some of what I have read served no real purpose but to develop my understanding of Cappadocia and its own concerns. When I arrived in Cappadocia I began to explore the caves and valleys and spent time talking to English speaking locals. I began to form ideas regarding sound and sculptural works but I felt estranged from the valleys and the caves that they held.
Over time I began to know the valleys and began developing a series of photographic profiles of sites that I thought were interesting sites. This was one way into the sites for me. I was trying to find a way to represent the space and specific features of the site without the loss of context – something I believe to be a problem with photography as a practise.
Another feature of the caves that intrigued me was the acoustics of some of the spaces, particularly a small church on the periphery of the Goreme valleys. This was what initiated my interest in creating sound profiles of sites that can be found within these valleys. Also this is another exploration of space and how one can use a sensory practise to know a site: similar to the photography that was being made in such a way to represent the space honestly.
Proposal For An Artwork (preliminary ideas)
Even though I was actively moving within cave spaces with Minou Polleros and we were analysing the traces (memories) that exist in these sites before Alberto and Eleonora visited Cavusin Kilise with me. It was not until I had the time to process my thoughts in situ, in Cavusin kilise, with these two artists exercising their practise within the space that I could realise what it was that we are trying to do. We are trying to empathise with the space and discover something that we may associate with. The problem is exactly that which I have now repeatedly said in regards of the absence of a supporting culture.
I came to a number of conclusions:
We are trying to fill the space: trying to find humanity (soul) within the churches
We are detached from the space
We cannot have a tangible relationship with the culture that created these spaces
We (as people) are approaching the space in the wrong way [experiencing a limited level of engagement]. In a contemporary exploration we can perhaps negotiate a more sincere way of perceiving the space.
I then envisioned the [Cavusin] space with a huge white bubble in the place of the concave of the altar. This vision realised my feelings of retardation when it came to empathising with the space. It also said so much more to me. It forced me to consider the dimensions of the space and the material that such a bubble, being opaque, actually concealed beneath and behind it. The bubble signified a detachment from the space but it proposed a simultaneous considering of the space. It acted as a bridge. I then considered the following.
We occupy a bubble in time separate from the bubble hosting the period of time which existed for the cave dwellings and churches.
The space must be reiterated for it to be accessible in this contemporary situation.
How can these cave sites be bridged to the local people?
Would these bubbles, if presented as an obstacle to bodily occupancy of the caves, be that bridge? Could they stimulate curiosity by indirectly forcing a consideration of the space? Can we create a memory which will stimulate an interest in the trace memories left within these sites (i.e. the frescoes)?
This bubble could be a vehicle for the memories of the space.
This bubble could contain a promenade wherein the memories of the space are exhibited in some selected manner.
This piece could be said to accommodate several layers of thinking. The literal and aesthetic level of here is visual beauty, here is something bizarre, here is something you can engage with using mind and body. The abstract level is that of what is being made of the space and what the space means once it has been reiterated. What are the resonances of what is being made or said?
In terms of creating a promenade space within the bubble, the new artificial space must reference the environment that it is born out of – I mean to say that I do not want [at this moment in time] to be in complete opposition to the space because it is too early for me to know that such a stance is what I want. Additionally I question whether it is more effective to have an internalised [within the bubble] body of work? It is felt that this proposition could add depth to the work, not only physically but in terms of concept and how one may relate to the space. I also feel as though the memory of the work may be prone to stick and become romanticised within the audiences mind if the art work is capable of engaging in a variety of ways. I.e. as spectacle and as vehicle.
The work that I believe may be appropriate to exhibit within the bubble includes film and still image. Such film works can reflect upon the nature of the site in a technical way, forming some observations on the topics of erasure and erosion. I am uncertain of the form of these works but I visualise a fluctuating and ephemeral live film that proposes some algorithmic decay of visual image.
Alternatively the features of the space itself, the room that the bubble occupies, can be lifted forward and re-contextualised within the bubble environment. This would highlight particular features of the space and draw awareness to both their existence and our own comprehension and consideration of these images/features.
My proposition is an artwork formed of several composite parts that are malleable in that they can be shaped in a number of ways and are strong enough to be taken as they are and re-contextualised. The bubble itself can be used to illustrate a relationship with any cave. The film can be used in any context; the fresco images depend on the bubble to exist and are not self-supporting. However as I previously mentioned the bubble is a strong visual object and is capable of detaching itself from the context that is born of given it is given adequate references to its original context.
This work may work in collaboration with some sound-scape work, perhaps feedback profiles or the work of Alberto or alone with the sound of the installation and the people within it.
Below is a map of the Open Air museum that I ripped from: http://www.atamanhotel.com/openairmuseum.html