Privately

in Popa, A., & Flueras, F., Eds. (2016). Black Hyperbox. PUNCH, Bucharest



Black Hyperbox started as a frame for performance and text based on the alienation between practice and conceptualization. Meanwhile, individual artworks, mostly performances, emerged from its process. They are circulating sometimes independently, sometimes together. Now Black Hyperbox is also a book, the outcome of the discursive section of the project. Its contributing authors were immersed in Black Hyperbox or gravitating around it, at least conceptually. In the book, Black Hyperbox comes forth as a place that holds incompatible conceptual zones and spatiotemporalities together: Old World and New World, theater and jungle, jaguars and AI, prehistory and futurism, the earthly home and the alien space, Mecca and the North Pole, spaceships lost in cosmos and the politics of Isis, Malevich’s black square and the moon travel, thought and hallucination.

Buy the book here.

I suspect that the private space
can no longer be contained in a box.
It is not circumscribed by any so-called public space.

The most perverted consequence of capitalism is that privatization as main gesture has lead to the current outstretched limits of the private,
or rather a reconfiguration of space,
in which private rules govern public space
and private space is coerced by other private spaces and acts that can afford to make public decisions and even rules.

The question is then, what is the value of privacy? What space and time does it refer to? Who does it benefit?

private space was increasingly cornered after the Middle Ages into specific spaces such as one’s own room
or to specific activities one would do in silence, such as read or write
or worship
Before that, no one was ever alone
except fools
or outcasts.
Silence is the sound of privacy
even though it is often filled with dialogue – with God or other loved ones.
I am not sure whether we can go so far as to consider this as an abstract space-time, but we can definitely talk of a suspension of coordinates.

Ecstasy also happens in privacy
No one would recognize God among their fellow sinners

The conquest of privacy in modern times corresponds to the degree of freedom one has – a woman, as Virginia Woolf said, needs a room of one’s own; not just to write – or to write, if writing is existence. Shared living is a sign of backwardness and poverty – young people go from shared bedrooms to owning their own house, if they follow the path society has set out for them.

Could it be that while women and other second-rate citizens were conquering their private space, those in power had transformed the public – so-called common – space into their own private one? Or back into it, since Feudal times were precisely characterized by the overlapping, on the territory of what we now call public space, between private and public interests of the rulers.

If that is the case, privatization is really just the re-conquering by the aristocracy of what had previously been theirs and was taken away by the awakening of the working class. Tamas, for example, said of Marxism that it made public what had previously been private, namely the social contract. The contemporary times, for all their discourse of transparency, are everything but public. They are private without the intimate quality the word triggers in one’s mind.

The Internet is just another instance of a fantasized public space, one that is furthermore governed by the increasing customization of one’s experience, a falsely private account of what in reality is the imposition of someone else’s private interests upon oneself and upon the collective, be it real or virtual.

The box – the room – is thus but a stop in the history of private space: an almost ideal moment, after the emancipation demanded by the working class started to materialize, and right before their space and freedom was blown into pieces by the illusion of consumerism and the society of the spectacle. We live in a time where the box is history – perhaps even a fantasized one – and where its image has been replaced by the reality of a hyperspace in which the private and the public are fighting for control, beyond any kind of borders. The private is, however, always someone else’s idea of the private – you never own the private, it is owned by somebody else. No one should own the public, yet this one is more clearly owned by the same others. So what space are you left to move in?

Despite what we may think – that public space is to be known and owned in order to have a voice – it is my opinion that, on the contrary, power lies in understanding the private. Identified at times with the family, the circle of friends, the space where one retires to think, etc., the private is above all a set of conducts and gestures which one can own.

Nothing can be owned, idealists, illuminated collectors, fallen entrepreneurs, or other lovers may say. But one is only responsible of what one owns – forgetting that has lead to us giving away too easily what we thought had never been ours. Everything that has meaning for us is ours. Privacy is precisely that – the range of things that we can invest with meaning – whilst the public is the possibility of the coincidence and communication of these meanings. Of the public, we own as much as we are invested in.

Current spatial configurations have called ownership into question, as real and virtual spaces we may think we own are simulacrums we do not know the borders of. The private and the public can no longer be delimitated on a horizontal or even a vertical level, they are often only partly rendered spaces which often overlap into confusing objects no one can reclaim, even though they are put out for sale.

Reclaiming a private space amounts to assuming one’s place in the world despite the encouragement to dissipate into the virtual that has taken the place of all the real. Privacy implies seeting rules and borders, but not in an idiosyncratic manner. It is an attempt to speak politically – to act meaningfully. It does not claim to speak for anyone, it does not imply a strategy. It is a continuous reaction to the world as it comes from the only position one can act from – not a public and therefore discursive one, but private and intuitive.   

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