Suyuna / Into the water
PART 1 / 33° 51’ 41.0”N 35°32’41.3”E (RIVER / SOIL)
Despite all interventions, are there clues to the past and future of a river hidden in the topographical and architectural structures around it? The fact that the Beirut River, which flows from the mountains and empties into the sea, has been adapted to its surroundings by having concrete poured into it--something that has been occurring in every city--does not stand out once you are inside the city. As the city grows, this concretization progresses in the direction of where the river originates. A movement against the flow of water, like fish swimming against the current.
Contrary to Bachelard, who says that he takes pleasure “in following a stream, in walking along the banks in the right direction, the way the water flows and leads life elsewhere — to the next village”, I set off against the flow of the river to see where the concrete ends. I arrive at an area where factories are located, with concrete construction spread around it. Going through a glass factory, I reach a point where the intersection of concrete and nature lies before my eyes. I gaze at this point where a man-made wall and nature extend in opposite directions: concrete is headed one way--water the other.
The concrete wall surrounding a river flowing horizontally towards the sea seems to point to an invisible line that vertically divides what is natural and artificial. This intersection point, impermanent contrary to its appearance, gives us a feeling of incompleteness. It is as if there is a tear in front of me where time has opened up with all its dimensions. It makes me think that in the future, the concretization will move towards the source, and this concrete wall will be covered and move from the city towards the source, just as the solar panels installed along the river seem to indicate in Burjhmoud.
I think about how humans take inspiration from nature to improve technology and at the same time use technology to destroy natural resources; there is no visible line between these two: they feed off each other. If we draw a line at this point, it may serve as an example, but this red line is a rendering of the relationship between nature and the human. I consider that red line as a starting point, as a pin... Its coordinate numbers are 33° 51’ 41.0”N 35°32’41.3”E. Let’s keep this in mind.
PART 2 / STAY WITH (THE) FLOW (NETWORK / VIRTUALITY)
While being treated for an infection at a hospital, I have been isolated in a private room under suspicion of COVID. I am not allowed to leave. During the pandemic, when people have ceased to mingle, I literally hit the bottom of virtual fusion. My phone accompanies me in my bed where I am lying down. I hold my phone an inch from my face with my arms bent 90 degrees, and I lose myself in the flow of my Instagram feed, constantly watching. Time passes, my blood circulation slows down, but I can't get myself out of the hole before my arms go numb. When I get out of it, there is no trace left in my mind as to what I watched during those hours; I don’t even remember seeing the content I have already watched. There is something in social media binges that erases the memory and isolates you from life. But at the same time, Steven Madoff talks about a horizontal flow when describing the Network World. It sounds nice, the way he talks about the horizontal and fluid boundaries between disciplines. We are virtually connected to each other thanks to the network, just as people are connected to each other. But lately, feeds always arrive at a status quo, a kind of “stay with the flow”.
PART 3 / VEIN OVER VEIN (BODY / VEINS)
They puncture the vein when they draw blood from my arm; the blood leaking from the vein under the skin first turns red, then purple, then green over time and heals while causing severe pain. The rotting feeling in my arm makes me think of the waste of big cities poisoning the soil through rivers. When you think of the Earth as a body, the channels that open to the soil are like wounds. Both non-body parts attached to clogged vessels and solutions to prolong life are efforts to delay the recognition that the topography has been destroyed. Stents inserted into clogged vessels, solutions that extend life... Every hole dug for unearned income in the system aims to extend the life of states. But the human lifespan is not extended as human hands pierce the geographically changing topography.
A friend’s mother prefers to look at a flowing river rather than the sea because a river is not stagnant. The river relates to time, and it is pleasurable to look at the flowing of time. But is it possible to talk about the pleasure of looking at a canal to be dug up (Canal Istanbul) in the middle of a city that is furiously turning into concrete?
When I think of rivers, everything I know about veins floods into my head. When your leg goes numb or cramps up, it is custom to say “A vein has overlapped with another. It will pass.” Since the locations of the veins in the body are fixed, this term seems to me to imply that the current distress is temporary. Dirty and clean blood will not mix with each other, will they? It is as if it is normal for the dirty and clean, which do not mix in the body, to mix in rivers. It seems that rivers, the oldest and easiest way to remove waste, whether with good or bad intentions, cannot avoid being the organs that carry waste to the seas.
They say, if you want to forget something, tell it to the flowing water. Scientists debate whether water has a memory. My father throws my umbilical cord into the Karasu river (Turkey). He wants his daughter to be one with the river, cross borders, see many places, flow, and multiply. Moses’s father leaves him in the Nile to save him from the tyranny of the Egyptians. It is ordinary to forget about the bodies thrown into the river to save bullets in the Dersim Massacre, the images of deceased COVID patients’ bodies thrown into the rivers in India. But when rivers change color, the theories put forward about the reasons are not forgotten as the river runs red. We talk about rivers’ relationship to memory, the transience of rivers, their fluidity, the unreliability of something fluid… Can a river that can cross borders but that also has a beginning and an end be liberation?Translation: Melike Barsbey Editing: Kali Thaker
“Water and Dreams, An Essay on the İmagination of Matter” Gaston Bachelard. Paris. 1942
“The Power of the Unseparate: The Explosion of Interdisciplinary Art in a Networked World” Steven Madoff
“An Exploration of Water in Sound Art” Sonja Roth https://sonjaroth.ch
Special thanks to Aria Farajnezhad, who reminded me to think about the river again, Nadim Choufi, who made the Beyrut River trip possible, Cansu Çakar and Pınar Umman who gave me courage to write, and Melike Barsbey for translating.