A collection of photographs, Extraterritoriality, represents a portrait of mature Anthropocene. The portrait is formed of two sequences of photographs.
The main sequence is consisted of specific landscapes, exterritories. These micro land art patterns display an array of human actions during the last few years, from New York to Ho Chi Minh City. They, humans, have been plowing the Earth crust for a long time, but it wasn’t until recently that their substances started to leave a mark on the sediment. The human perfume has been sprayed and its cloud is circling the Earth.
The Moon, a small portion of Arctic and the seabed have been declared exterritories by humans – although hard to reach, these territories were conquered by human dust and turned into common good by the Moon Agreement and the Convention on the Law of the Sea, which established the ownership over the seabed. Distant echoes of these collective agreements form an intimate portrait of modern humanity. These photographs are zoomed exterritories – fields in which humans have performed unique acts, improvisations or solutions. As if acquired by simple clicking on Google Earth, they are exempt from criticism and irony. The author, himself a member of the population, celebrates his contemporaries. The series is not connected by a strong visual code – focused motifs in public spaces, brought down to two dimensions, even when it comes to deep sea landscapes, radiate the melancholy of a dead-end. This portrait of humanity seems to be emerging in the moment of transition from high Renaissance to mature Mannerism – for the nth time.
The second sequence of photographs shows extraordinary examples of present day human production and each of them is paired with a landscape from the main series. These photographic footnotes celebrate small objects useful to human population, showing them in a 1:1, 2:1 or a 3:1 ratio. The long process of collecting and selecting these objects is an act of preventive archaeology. The objects are ultimate ornaments, nerve endings of a dendritic tree of human needs.
The Poetic Prosaic: Place as Practice, Production, Potentiality?
A Contribution to Marko Stojanović’s Extraterritory
The houses of the métayers1, known as poderi, were arranged in a circle around the mansion where the proprietor would come to stay from time to time, and where his stewards lived on a permanent basis. Between poderi and mansion ran alleys of cypresses. Symbol of property, immortality and perpetuity, the cypress thus inscribed itself upon the countryside, imbuing it with depth and meaning. These trees, the criss-crossing of these alleys, sectioned and organized the land. Their arrangement was evocative of the laws of perspective, whose fullest realization was simultaneously appearing in the shape of the urban piazza in its architectural setting. Town and country – and the relationship between them – had given birth to a space which it would fall to the painters, and first among them in Italy to the Siena school, to identify, formulate and develop.2
In his 1974 book, The Production of Space (La production de l'espace), French philosopher and (urban) sociologist Henri Lefebvre writes about the first usages of single-point perspective in paintings of the Siena School. He uses this example in order to depict the interdependency of spatial practices providing a certain representation of space which was further found in lived spaces: how each one of them (physical space, mental space, social space)3 influences, but is at the same time influenced by the other two – alleys of cypresses which ran between urban and suburban dwellings in Tuscany, evocative of (and engendering) the laws of perspective, allowed for the relationship between town and country to, via painting, partake in the development of a new understanding (or: perception) of space.
There is some extremely potent quality inherent to regular, plastic chairs. Yes: the kind you find anywhere from a motel garden to the front of your local kiosk, from a laundry room to a seaside balcony, from someone’s dining table to a wedding tent, from East to West, South to North, in endless spots in streets, parks, and other open spaces the world over. You can imagine what chair I am writing about, because these chairs are ubiquitous. You can imagine them in all of the above scenarios, and probably many more, because they never really give away where (or when) they are — they are cheap, and they are “context-free.” There have been analyses, essays and discussions around these chairs (called Monobloc, and designed and first produced late sixties, early seventies), almost always labeling them anything from symbols of the evils of globalization to channels of capitalist consumption. These conclusions are as easy as they are limited. Though not wrong, these conceding observations on the cruelties of contemporary capitalism are symptomatically dismissive of the hidden potentialities of the people living under it. Even looking beyond their status as a symbol of ownership of some kind of means, there is, among certainly many others, for example, also the defiant potentiality of these cheap chairs: for example, in the act by a couple of neighbors taking them out into the street and reappropriating the open physical space of the city/town/village for their own social space of intentions, needs and desires, as opposed to those envisioned by architects, planners, and policy-makers in the mental space of their plans and projects.
The idea of territory — essentially physical space cum the mental space of jurisdiction, sovereignty and, ultimately, State — is, without a doubt, determined by relations of Power; it is, as well, a component of Power4. Extraterritoriality, which Stojanović picks to carry his exhibition, on the other hand, bears contradictions and weaknesses that render it a different notion altogether, one freed from such a direct dependency on Power and the traps of interpreting this would entail, giving way to a more direct, and more honest, recognition of the hidden, often unexpected potentialities of objects and actions produced by humans.
That might sound false: after all, as well as being a function of territoriality (and territory), extraterritoriality is also seemingly deeper embedded into the legislative and the bureaucratic than territory itself. The state of being exempted from the jurisdiction of local law, usually as the result of diplomatic negotiations, it historically primarily applied to individuals, as jurisdiction was usually claimed on peoples rather than on lands5. So: where the freedom? In its weaknesses: extraterritoriality implies an exemption from, a non-, an otherness, an ad acta to its very own (territorial) self. It is not from the top, the powerful, the territorial that this freedom comes from, albeit within its framework — it is from the weak points, from the bottom, from the common, the usual, the everyday; from the lived, social space, where, by mistake or by design, we every now and then choose to shutter, question, and ultimately change the given conditions we live in; it is here that we find, and practice, these exemptions, these extraterritorialities we’d claimed for ourselves: from small gestures of reappropriation (as in: taking back), all the way to the revolutionary act.
In the contemporary world — one of a ‘Lawn Closed’ tape6; a Canadian company selling canned air to people living in China; luxury housing complexes taking over cities as workers lose their lives building them, the homeless freeze in the streets and renters are forced to leave their homes of many years due to the consequences of the will and actions of AirBnB, Google, and the like; shutting off streetlights and creation of walls out of stopped tram-cars so protestors in streets can’t be seen; privatization of public spaces; fencing-off and casting of concrete over river-beds; security guards and dogs controlling entrances to squares and plazas; and a non-stop co-option of any and all kinds of struggle and suffering for commercial needs — much like with the plastic white chair, these wild-card moments of defiance can often be surprising, unexpected.
Looking at both endpoints and both directions of this struggle, Stojanović’s Extraterritoriality sees these instances of human presence exactly as such. It documents the instances of extraterritoriality from bottom-up, and assertions of power (extraterritoriality in the non-appropriated sense) against it alike. “These photographs are extraterritories zoomed,” – writes the artist in his statement – “fields, in which Someone performed a unique act, improvisation, or solution.” These motives, emphasized in open [public? unfortunately not] spaces, he adds, “exude the melancholy of a dead-end.” This, we should choose to believe, is only partly true. With its photographic footnotes, almost celebrating (and ever so carefully tiptoeing on the border with fetishizing) the production of the most mundane, what Extraterritoriality without a doubt provides us with is a way to view the contemporary landscape of production, spatial practice, and potentiality of the everyday, only if we choose to accept it, and keep it in mind. I can only hope that I provided you with some kind of crooked glasses that will prevent you from looking at regular, plastic chairs the same way ever again.
If so, Extraterritoriality, then, offers a whole optician’s store of glasses with different lenses, for different situations and different contexts whoever accepts them, also accepts the joy and the responsibility of looking for the extraordinary in their reading of the mundane. (I can’t but mention my favorite pair of pairs: when it is juxtaposed with a collection of coins tossed into water presumably for a wish-making tradition, a mere mint candy becomes an eerie signifier, reminder of imperialism, and all of its oh-so-tender cruelties;7 from there and back to it, a prescription of 50mg of Zoloft for Europe and against its ‘humanity’8). Towards such a reading, and for one final image, let’s think of the arch, an architectural element first used thousands of years ago to traverse larger distances; in the form of an arcade, a succession of arches, it would develop into protection from sun and rain for urban dwellers to use their city spaces in all kinds of weather, to then transform into spaces of consumption,9 and then find its way into many (European) languages, in which today the words passage and arcade often refer to shopping structures.
Even though this writing opens with an excerpt from Lefebvre’s Production of Space, it would be presumptuous to claim that Extraterritoriality delves into (the production of) social space – but, it doesn’t attempt to do that, either. What it does, is allow and invite to be read, and, more importantly, invite to read spaces, actions, and objects of the landscapes of our everyday — . With its observations and their superposed footnotes, Extraterritoriality also dissects the notions of territory (as a function of power), place (as the point of one’s intervention) and space (as the tcarrier of the potentiality of the everyday, and beyond). And with that, it does encourage to recognize and reexamine extraterritorialities we live in as well as those we ourselves create.
1 _ “From about the thirteenth century, the Tuscan urban oligarchy of merchants and burghers began to employ the métayage system. A métayer was supposed to receive a share of what he produced and hence, unlike a slave or a serf, he had a vested interest in production. The trend thus set in train, which gave rise to a new social reality, was based neither on the towns alone, nor on the country alone, but rather on their (dialectical) relationship in space, a space which had its own basis in their history.” Lefebvre, Henri. The Production of Space. Oxford; Cambridge: Blackwell, 2009.
2 _ Lefebvre, Henri. The Production of Space. Oxford and Cambridge, MA: Blackwell, 2009.
3 _ Within this trialectic, perceived space represents the physical space, i.e. the structures and infrastructures where everyday life (routine) unfolds, as well as how inhabitants use them. Conceived space presupposes the ideas (representations) of space stemming from different positions of power, be it capital, state, bureaucracy, or architectural and urbanistic projects. Finally, lived, or social space implies social interactions and actions (mostly) at the scale of the everyday, informed by social values, traditions, desires, dreams and memories of inhabitants and users; importantly, for Lefebvre it encompasses the previous two while at the same time being a ›function‹ of them.
4 _ Elden, Stuart. The Birth of Territory. Chicago, IL and London: University of Chicago Press, 2013.
5 _ Cassel, Pär. Grounds of Judgment. New York: Oxford University Press, 2012.
6 _ Extraterritoriality V
7 _ Extraterritoriality XIV
8 _ Extraterritoriality XV
9 _ This period was described by the French architect Bertrand Lemoine as l’Ère des passages couverts (the Arcade Era). Walter Benjamin’s unfinished work, Die Passagen-Werke (The Arcades Project) reads — Parisian — iron-and-glass covered arcades (French: passages couverts de Paris) as crucial to the city’s street life.
Extraterritoriality XV – Belgrade, 2018 / Playing cards, Belgrade;
Extraterritoriality IX – Ho Chi Minh City, 2018 / Brooch, Belgrade;
Extraterritoriality XI – Siem Reap Province, 2018 / Mini Voodoo dolls, Xalapa;
Extraterritoriality I – New York, 2016 / Air bag packaging, New York;
Extraterritoriality XVII – Rome, 2018 / Googly eyes, Negotin; Ø18mm
Extraterritoriality VIII – Durrës, 2017 / Flag party pick, Vienna;
Extraterritoriality V – New York, 2016 / 1:100 scale model miniature figures, Belgrade;
Extraterritoriality XV – Belgrade, 2018 / Playing cards, Belgrade;
Extraterritoriality XIII – Cape of Rodon, 2018 / Nail clipper, Novi Sad;
Extraterritoriality X – Mondulkiri Province, 2018 / Number birthday cake candles, Rome;
Extraterritoriality VII – Ksamil, 2017 / Cocktail umbrella, Belgrade;
Extraterritoriality VI – Berlin, 2017 / 8 shot ring caps, Vienna; Ø24mm
Extraterritoriality XIV – Bled, 2018 / Breath mint, Amsterdam; Ø24 mm
Extraterritoriality II – New York, 2016 / Soy sauce package, Vienna;
Extraterritoriality XVI – Rome, 2018 / Sugar packets, Belgrade;