Efe Korkut Kurt: As we think about aesthetics, the concept of “Desire” comes up and expands our horizons. In the context of aesthetics, concerning the triangle comprising designer/architect, architecture/work and user/viewer, what does “desire” mean?
Semra Aydınlı: In daily life in a metropol, as the symbolic and imaginary reality of architecture triggers desire; it also creates an illusion of desire; which is said to aestheticize urban life. Having turned into a “subject” by a cartesian design, one opposes to everything else and finds for himself an “object”, thus causing art to become aestheticized by creating an illusion of desire. Lacan points out that the illusion of desire can result in shifts in meaning: “An object can suddenly change its essence and turn into an object of my desire; though an ordinary object for others, it can become the focus of libidinal investment for me.” Most of the time, the ambiguity that comes up in such relationships and the stimulating power thereof, can become a motivation that triggers curiosity and a source of desire. However, though the illusion of desire has many characteristics that trigger critical thinking and imagination, it also possesses a superficial dimension which is taken advantage of as a marketing strategy.
Discussing this critical thought that reflects the paradoxical structure of the concept of desire and the authenticity and sincerity of aesthetic pleasure, can bring new perspectives to the relationship between architecture and art today. Understanding architecture, that creates an illusion of desire beyond the idealized applications of contemporary architecture, can be seen as an attempt to comprehend the possible hedonic structure of architecture that is linked to contemporary art. On the other hand, Deleuze points out that the aesthetic paradigm of contemporary art is a density that swallows us and interrupts our stillness; it can be defined as a creative “becoming” that causes communication-interrupting encounters to turn into a practice of life. According to Felix Guattari, aesthetic paradigm is the production of subjectivity: it’s a construction built on a conceptual network of mutual dependence and productive systems; it’s almost a transfer of subjectification within a world of phantasms and aesthetic observation. Similar to Marcel Duchamp’s statements about the creative process, Guattari considers the observer the co-creator of the work. In this regard, contemporary aesthetics is a relational experience which constantly creates subjectivity in an individual’s relationship to the world, enriching itself. Beyond experience, within an intrinsic space, aesthetic sensitivity and ethical responsibility exchange places according to the principle of mutual dependence; and the production of subjectivity continues forever with a performance of reception. Adorno’s theory of aesthetics –which points out that “an artwork of this era should construct a mutual space between the creator and the perceiver; the perception of reality that emerges in the intermediate space between the perceiver-perceived, should offer a promise of happiness that causes one to ‘comprehend’.”– offers important clues in understanding the contemporary paradigm of aesthetics. The ongoing dialog between respective world of the observer and the world presented by the observed object, makes visible the production of subjectivity and the aesthetic experience as an intermediate spatial reality. In this context, within the relationship of the “creator” and the “created”, in other words the “designer” and the “designed”, the paradoxical equivalent of the concept of desire plays a significant role in the creation of the “new”. In a production process that focuses on analyzing and interpreting relationships , art and architecture is embodied by what experiences it, rather than what observes it. Therefore, instead of the user / viewer, it’s the expectations of the one who experiences, that anticipates the rethinking of the concept of desire and various attempts that give priority to a design of a contradictory experience that is beyond the familiar. It could be said that the main emphasis of contemporary art and the creation of architecture is to create a space that offers experience.
E.K.K.: City and architecture have been the focus of artists in creating utopias since the Renaissance. Today, if considered as a unity of ethics and aesthetics , could architecture offer a promise of hope and happiness?
S.A.: Being products of an era of pleasure and speed, cities of today are re-shaped in an environment of material culture / visual culture, which is dominated by a search for short-term quality, superficiality. Offering a fake “promise of happiness”, urban life is marketed as a desirable “good experience”. The discussions that arise as an extension of the process of the aestheticization of art; focus on the question of whether architecture is intended to be looked at or if it’s created for its function and benefits. In such a context, the relationship between architecture, art and society can be reconsidered; environments can be created that trigger reverse thinking, in order to increase awareness. Efforts that make the antagonistic characteristics of art prominent, also influence the production of architecture. The contemporary experience of architecture, references the environment of multiplicity that is a result of the co-existence of contrasting concepts such as time-space, subject-object, which come together without canceling each other and by respecting the differences in between. As an extension of this and similar antagonistic tensions, spatiality transfers the analysis of contemporary art and architecture to a space of rhetorics and metaphorical thought.
Depth of Space and Aesthetics of Reception which are created by Ambiguity in Perception
For example, “aesthetics of reception” points out a space of multiplicity in which contrasting concepts exist together without canceling each other out and respecting the differences of each other; in an effort to go beyond its visible and invisible dualism. To see and interpret a city as an environment of tension created by numerous contradictory elements takes place with the help of the paradoxical structure of the “aesthetics of reception”. “Reception” triggers the process of “becoming” that is an inherent part of its nature, thus the meaning of life that emerges in the mediation of space-time surpasses itself with antagonism. The function of critical art can be seen as the creation of the antagonistic space. As the intertwined flow of incomplete images is embodied in metaphorical thought, the addition of depth of space and antagonistic tension created by the ambiguity in perception triggers a process of becoming that multiplies in number. The span that emerges with perceptive ambiguity creates an ongoing flow, making visible all reflexive relationships in the mediation of subject-object and creates the experience that we can call the aesthetics of reception. As contemporary art and architecture present the antagonism of ethic responsibility and aesthetic sensitivity as a performance, they offer a productive experience.
From a perspective within the intermediate space of city-architecture, paradigm of contemporary aesthetics can be seen as a reality that transforms, changes, flows through daily life, and is experienced according to the spirit of the age and spatial experience. City presents its own reality as a spatial interval, a space of experience that emerges in the mediation of subject–object, beyond commercial attraction or the value of semantics. Steven Holl defines the experience of current cities as an experience that emerges in the incomplete line of a partial opinion comprising fragments. As we move along these lines and paths, which are both real and virtual, and superpose the perspectives we come across, the experience turns out to be the reflection of the lived reality. In short, the lived reality reflects the “experienced experience” as a potential force that activates the imagination of all dimensions, both visible and invisible. In today’s society, in which no utopias exist, imagination is lost and ethical responsibility makes necessary the field of aesthetic sensitivity. Therefore the fragmented reality of the lived experience is embodied in a single being in the context of ethics and aesthetics. The relationship of ethical responsibility and aesthetic sensitivity constantly makes necessary the antagonism of art and architecture. When we question why contemporary art or architecture exists through such antagonisms, the existence of hope can be possible in understanding and interpreting its unique distinguishing, stimulating attraction.
E.K.K.: Though “time” makes possible a higher aesthetic experience in man made spaces by adding to their attributes concerning experience; it also brings with it various negative effects and threats. How should one approach this problem in Istanbul?
S.A.: When we consider the concept of time independent of space, it’s not possible for reception and aesthetic experience to take place. The urban transformation in Istanbul regarding architecture is a good example of the duality of time and space. The mindset that imagines the past as a frozen moment, tries to recreate a replica of it by destructing and erasing memory; while the comprehension of the future attempts to present a world of phantasms through virtual images. However, aesthetic experience takes place within a frame that places the present in a constant flow between the past and the future. Therefore, though the relationship of time and space offers various ways of comprehension concerning the perceived world, the fact-value dilemma of the TOKI residencies in Istanbul leads us to a world of negative associations. All the materialized and frozen relations that are the result of rationalism in a world which has lost its magic, rip time off space and attempt to create pseudo pleasure through replicas. Whereas time-space relationships create a perceptive ambiguity and inter-space reality in an environment of multiplicity. The oscillation that emerges in this plane of reality triggers the process of “becoming” and a space is created which is re-perceived and re-interpreted each time. What Marcel Duchamp calls the coefficient of art, the artwork always aiming for more than its simple presence in space and starting discussions, also takes place with a movement of oscillation in the created dialog environment. In his speech entitled “the creative process” in 1954, Duchamp’s statement of “innovation is somewhere else; it takes place as a result of the artist considering the mutual act as the most fundamental source of information and creating an open space that allows all kinds of dialogs” also gives an idea regarding what kind of a dialog environment can be created in the mediation of subject-object.
Though possessing a multi layered cultural heritage, Istanbul can not start a dialog with the citizens who experience it; in other words, it could never open itself to multiple analyses. Whereas a city-architecture that makes these multiple analyses possible offers important clues in understanding the “new”, as it contains antagonisms and tensions concerning the relationship of each fragment to one another and the unity. The jargon of authenticity that’s presented as a novelty in urban transformation projects in Istanbul can not be created by the environment of aesthetic experience. It instead creates a stereotyped, aestheticized illusion of perception in the name of utopia as a “yearning towards the new”. Hegel says “an artwork is a fruit plucked from a tree”; while Rilke states “I’m working as productive as a seed in a fruit”. Enis Batur wishes that aesthetic utopia carries, adopts and sustains the dreams of the productive “becoming”, the hand and the tongue in between the seed and product (seed and fruit) which carry energy and critical tension.
The incomplete determination and the shortcoming that make conflict productive and turn it into a tool/environment/purpose of reconsideration, result from the paradoxical structure of the movement of thought, with regard to both content and form. The process of “becoming“ intersects with the conflicting terms vertically; it brings up a conflicting “other” against each term; and ultimately moves beyond the conflict and creates something “new”. Nothingness exists to an extent in entities; it’s the thought that makes one feel inadequate, empty. In general, becoming is a specific first existence that contains pure nothingness and pure existence. Abstractions connected to each other dialectically become concrete again. The existence of a complete thing, carries in its inner existence the seed of its own destruction; its moment of birth is also its moment of death. Negation is a creator for beings and thoughts, the source of the movement is the pulse of life. In this regard, the concept of nothingness is an abstract presentation of the infinite productivity of the universe; the intermediate space of time-space references the nothingness which is a kind of emptiness. In his book “art as an experience”, John Dewey defines experience as an impulse of the body that desires; and the concept of time as an effort of completing what’s missing. The tension that arises in every environment of chaos and conflict, offers an unusual experience that is subject to time and interval; and it puts the experience into a loop that makes it active against its passivity. In this regard, the potential of time in making ideas and experiences productive can’t be denied.