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  • Writer's pictureNina Sumarac Jablonsky

METANOA @ 1st Larnaca Biennale, Cyprus

Container & Content

"The theme for the Biennale is “Container-Content”. I am very intrigued by the dynamics between these two roles, particularly their capacity to coexist in a dependence relation and at the same time alternate within an eternal vicious circle. It is a situation that pertains directly to the problem of defining space, and is therefore relevant at a time when spatial boundaries are being called into question as never before. At first thought, the content is always dependent on the container, without which it would be virtually impossible for it to exist. Still, very soon one realizes that as the content needs the container, so too the container needs the content just as much: without it, it would be empty, therefore useless. The apparently one-way relation becomes reciprocal. Man himself is a vessel replete with imagination, thoughts, memories, connotations and feelings. Without the “human” vessel, none of these would have been able to exist. And yet, a man deprived of the properties that make up his content would by extension be an empty man; so much so, that the characterization “human” would be called into question. Which one is worse? To not exist or to have no reason to exist? This is the tormenting and as yet unanswered question of a reciprocal relation that reads the same backwards as forwards like a palindrome. But the paradox does not end here. By changing the spatial scale, container and content alternate roles. The drinking glass considers itself a container for water but it forgets that at the same time it too is the content of a larger container, namely the room. Water considers itself merely the content of the glass whilst ignoring that on a smaller scale it too is a container for all the elements and ingredients included in its chemical composition. In other words, as space grows bigger, new and larger vessels are being created; and the deeper we immerse ourselves into the microcosm of space the more contents we discover. An apt analogy would be the Matryoshka, the Russian nesting doll, where each separate doll serves as content for the larger and as container for the smaller one. Man’s defining phases, Birth, Eros and Death, go through this specific binary. Childbirth corresponds to a container-content relation, just like the subsequent relation between mother and child. Death, especially burial, behaves in exactly the same way. There is no burial ritual across any civilization through time that escapes the container-content relation. Body and soul; the casket; and, eventually, the tragic cavity of the grave. Between them, Eros. Two individuals holding each other in embrace alternate between the roles of container and content. So what is the world’s driving force other than one’s need to constantly become filled with the other? There’s a poem by M. Ganas from the collection “The small ones” that keeps coming back to my mind – perhaps because I haven’t been able to find a more succinct and beautiful way to describe the amorous relation between container and content:

You are sleepless sea on the globe of my palm. You breathe and fill me up."

Translated from the Greek by Despina Pirketti

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