Act 1: Curtain Opening
Curtains, that element of the domestic interior on which the hands of the interior designer and the architect come directly into contact, embody many of the tensions and social customs of the late 19th century. At that time, the world was still a "theatrum mundi" full of public scenes, masks, and figures. People were wholly enamored by staging, giving themselves over to scenic illusions. The face itself became a stage on which one lent expression to character traits. The curtain was a part of the ephemeral, daily scenography intended to maintain the intrinsic possibility of movement and change.
In modernity, theatrical distance was increasingly abandoned in favour of intimacy. Curtains served as architectural elements providing privacy. Although regarded as superficial, fleeting, and effeminate by architects, they were considered essential by interior designers; veiling sunlight and views, curtains made domestic peace possible and offered relief from the austere spaces created by architects often obsessed with the heroic project of transparency - wanting to tear down walls, bring everything to light, drive the darkness away from the form at the expense of comfort.
Therefore, curtains shorn of aesthetic significance and independent artistic principles survived in practice, even though the number of folds and swags was dramatically reduced. And yet, their dichotomy of obscurity and transparency is still valid today.
The curtain is no longer this obedient insipid piece of cloth that hangs quietly before a window.
Nor is it a red, brown, or black velvet stage curtain with golden accents that seeks no attention but simply gives way to the performance.
Nor is it an architectural, spatial tool: beautiful, but numb.
It instead collapses into ruin through whose cracks roar the wind of communication, a veil that appears and disappears like a performer in many ways and directions, expanding, billowing, fluttering, folding up, down, sideways - floating under the helium pull of balloons, folding into ceilings, or inside hollow walls; then rushing out of its hiding until it can escape outside, where it dances in the wind that penetrates everything and makes it see-through. We have reached the recognition of the curtain as a futile object in the light of complete mutual illumination.
Act 2: Digital Detox
A: Where’s Maja?
B: I’m not sure. She’s been reading a lot lately.
A: Isn’t Maja here yet?
A: Why didn’t Maja come?
B: Too busy maybe.
A: Whatever happened to Maja?
B: I can’t tell, let’s go eat.
A: Where’s Maja these days?
B: Who knows, she’s been real broke.
A: Couldn’t Maja make it?
How long was she back?
B: Long time, I think.
A: How come she’s not here then?
B: Who knows,
I’m sure she’d like to be.
A: I thought Maja was coming.
B: Me too, I texted her
but she didn’t answer.
I live from what others don't know about me.
Act 3: Pornographic Nudity
Transparency is not the medium of the beautiful. The appeal lies neither in the veil nor the veiled object itself but rather in the combination of the body and its wrapping. Walter Benjamin wrote that "the divine ground of the being of beauty lies in the secret." For Christo too, an object proves sublime when it exceeds any effort to picture it. Under the influence of a progressive art scene, he appropriated everyday objects in an attempt to deprive them of their function and, by putting them under wraps, to preserve them permanently for posterity. The sublime reaches beyond the imagination.
In Christian tradition, nakedness signifies a loss. Before the Fall, Adam and Eve did not stand naked; rather, sin led to the removal of their divine raiment. Utterly exposed, they found themselves forced to cover their bodies. Halfway through 2023, humans are forced to navigate an age-old problem on a new level; the ongoing loss of body autonomy and income opportunity through censorship across social media. Platforms such as Instagram, TikTok, and Facebook have been purposefully silencing posts that are deemed sexual or obscene, in claims of protecting their users.
Today, all media images seem more or less pornographic. They offer nothing that might take hold and wound; at the very most, they provide an item to "like." We photograph things to get them out of our minds, turn objects into commodities that must be displayed in order to be, and share stories that are a way of shutting our eyes. More often than not, we don't fully comprehend or appreciate a photograph until it has passed; when it is no longer in front of us, and we have the time to reflect back on it. Only when we are at a contemplative distance from the picture does the "music" begin.
Transparency plays no music as much as no lingering occurs with pornographic images. They lack temporal distance and do not admit recollection, only fulfilling their purpose of immediate arousal and satisfaction. Contrary to the thousands of online photos shared daily, some portrayals of the Madonna remain covered almost all year, a deliberate custom that has always heightened the merit of a sacred item. The practice of locking things away in an inaccessible room, fencing off, isolation, and separation constitutes cult value.
The compulsion for display that hands everything over to visibility makes the aura of objects melt away entirely. All inherent nature of things has been abandoned; they do not vanish in the dark, but through overexposure. Hypervisibility is obscene; it lacks the negativity of what is hidden, inaccessible and secret. Everything has been turned outward, stripped, exposed, undressed, and put on show. As exhibition value above all depends on beautiful looks, bare existence has no meaning as far as digital photography wipes out all fear associated with becoming, aging and dying.
Transparency is a state in which all not-knowing is eliminated, leaving no room for trust in one another. The society of transparency is a society of suspicion; strident calls for clarity point to the simple fact that the moral foundation of humanity has grown faulty, that moral values such as honesty are losing their meaning more and more. As the new social imperative, transparency leaves us with a question posed by the futorologist David Brin:
Can we stand living exposed to scrutiny, our secrets laid open, if in return we get flashlights of our own that we can shine on anyone?