Sunday, December 14, 2014

Living/Dead spaces and the distracted death

Fascinated by After, a video by Victoria Lucas showing Sheffield's Castle Market shopping centre, now waiting to be destroyed. (Via Some Thoughts on the Unbecoming of Places) The video is haunting, but gorgeous. Seems to despair, yet revolve with love. Is empty and silent, yet lets something else speak.

I've noticed that this emptiness and silence of space has a particular hold on me. "After" is, in one world, of exactly the same ilk as Titan City in Minecraft - a realm that is not quite sure if it is alive or dead. However, where Titan City was always built in order to be built - and to be populated is merely a bonus - Castle Market is on the way out, a place in the same state, but going in the other direction.

(In contrast to other forms of unpopulation, such as Candida Höfer's Architecture of Absence, which are simply in between people.)

Looking back, even a small photo/haiku project A World of Corners opened with an empty room, and seemed to mainly consist of rooves. Some of my favourite memories are of wandering round libraries after closing hours. Letting a space speak for itself - that's the challenge. People are so terribly noisy.

This moment between not-quite-populated/alive and not-quite-unpopulated/dead (and someone must be there to experience either) is perfectly underrated. We think of spaces as places for people to go, to gather, to function. Indeed, a "function room" can never simply be just a room ever again - it has been named, and designated its ultimate lot. It is only a space which is living up to its name at a moment in time, or failing. The humble "dining room" suffers the same fate. Don't even think about "living rooms".

We seem to struggle with silence and with emptiness these days. Empty rooms are filled with noise or pictures. Quiet can only be achieved through massive institutional influence - such as religion for cathedrals, culture for theatres, knowledge for libraries.

Contrast this to other, distant worlds which are less upset by minimal outlooks. (Kakuzo Okakura's Book of Tea is a good place to start.) To 'retreat' into silence is actually nothing of the sort. In reality, we use noise and distraction to force the mind into submission, to retreat back into its shell. We cannot allow ourselves to enjoy the space we're in - and by extension, we cannot enjoy the enjoyment either.

This is not a call for silence with one finger held to the lips, but a call for an appreciation of the environment - a humility that the world exists without humans, that it can exist, and moreso that it will continue to exist as such.

Might as well get comfortable.

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