Can Küçük’s “Will Be Ignited” is a prophecy-diagnosis-dream-nightmare. While expressing the relationships between people through the sticky air between them, Can transforms this physical and bodily expression into stage commands; the text reminds us that we are longing for the breaths of some as he builds a world with people by passing through their vapors. The text transforms longing, desire, contact, and the unspeakable, the permeability of the soil, and the evil of the lemon into tangible objects. With an acute awareness of the limits of our own body, we are confronted with the fact that air is a material that circulates, enters, and moves. It delivers on the promise of the title, “Will Be Ignited” at our fingertips.
This text is part of a series that addresses artistic strategies to measure, report, fabulate, and tell stories about the weather, air flows, circulation, and other high to low pressure aspects of our practices and cities. Commissioned for the World Weather Network, a constellation of weather stations located across the world, and with the invitation of SAHA – Supporting Contemporary Art from Turkey, the series asks: how do artists respond to ideas of change, crisis, and future, focusing on various elements of the weather as an embodiment at the intersection of bodies, peoples, and landscapes? –Merve Ünsal
Will Be Ignited
When the lights in the shop windows are turned off at around seven or eight in the evening, the street remains without light. There is only one building on the street that remains up at night.
Direction I, next to the car they just parked, looks at the pale shadows cast from the inside on the glass facade of the building. The weak light of the sign at the entrance is enough for those waiting under it. As Direction I walks towards the big black door, the crowd of a blurred image takes on flesh and blood. The downside of being outside in the still, hot July air, they says to themselves, is to smell everything. They like winter more; no one messes with anyone then. The muffled sounds from the building become clear as the door is occasionally opened by a large hand. They will endure this music; they go in.
Direction III is on one of the floors, sitting at the bar. In their mind, fabricated mise-en-scènes about their near future keep swirling as they stir the glass with the straw in their hand. While sipping on their drink occasionally, some dreams grab their attention; they pause and watch while their mouth releases the straw, and the little remaining drink in the straw goes down to the bottom of the glass. When one dream suffices, they switch to another; at that time, they pucker their lips again so that the air does not escape, and the drink goes up. That’s it; there is a hydraulic relationship between the straw and their dreams. Direction I will encounter Direction III by chance while wandering around the building.
Direction II, on the other hand, has a setback at work before setting off. Books newly entered into the system do not appear on the computer at the cash register. The people waiting in front of the register seem bored. In the back, someone haphazardly leaves the book in their hand on the first shelf they finds. Direction II, not wanting to be late, calls someone else to solve the problem and leaves the store. Before leaving the museum, they talk to the manager about days off next week. Unfortunately, they can’t get what they want. On the way home, they learn from their phone that their bus stop is closed that day. In this life, they can’t move straight and fast, like a pearl falling from an earring or a pointed metal bowl that reaches the sky. There is an aerodynamic relationship between the conditions and speed of life. There is a loving relationship between Direction I and Direction II, and they will meet in the second section of the text.
Source of Hope
The obvious temperature difference between the ground floor and the lower floor will be emphasized at the beginning of the text so that the reader will be able to imagine the heat that hits the body of Direction I, whom we will follow when they enter through the big door and as they descend to the dance floor below. Direction I will go down the stairs with timid steps, straightening their face in the surrounding mirrors, since Direction II—they have already agreed to spend the night together—is not there yet. The throat-burning steam of a group of people dancing together at the loudest music volume will be articulated with some exaggeration so the reader can feel the steam in their throat.
Their sweat-soaked clothing wraps their bodies in a sweet feeling rather than disturbing them, because they are facing the source of heat. The source is people dancing, releasing heat. Considering that they were overwhelmed by walking on unshaded roads in the summer to get work done but did not feel the same nausea when they returned to the sun in their bathing suit, it would reveal that being face-to-face with the heat source consoles them. For example, for Direction I, sitting on a hot stone instead of standing in a Turkish bath, feeling the burned wood on the skin makes the place more bearable. Or for Direction II, the thought that all the parcels will be ready when the books are numbered and arranged in the boxes gives them the strength to endure. The sweat pouring out of Direction I‘s body isn’t the toxic fluid of a sudden illness: it’s people dancing. Besides, even though they are not with Direction II yet, their beautiful image, the source of love and hope, is enough to keep their hope fresh.
They will remember the room with the big leather sofa. They remembered that the air was cleaner there, the music quieter. It is a room for people to breathe, gather strength, and wait comfortably in line for the toilet. It is a room reserved for people who cannot be heard even if they shout at the dance floor but who rightfully want to express their feelings and instant needs and have a say. They will go through the crowd to that little room to hide the loneliness that can be seen on their face and linger until Direction II comes. It could be said that the scene and the appearance resemble each other, like a colonoscopy camera in the intestines, but Direction I‘s mind is clouded by the suspicion that this is not the right place to meet with Direction II, that is, this analogy is not correct, since it is not in a position to record the surroundings clearly and without any interpretation like a camera. They won’t be able to bury those who dance around them in their memory and identify them when the time comes.
They will be delighted when they encounter Direction III sitting on one of the bar stools near the room with the leather sofa. I know Direction III, someone who generally spreads happiness around them. Even though they look exhausted, slouched on their stool, they will smile heartily when they see Direction I and the bond of love formed between them will be caught by a few people around the bar just as it is forming. The first sentences they utter will disappear into the noise. By the way, the only reason Direction III looks so exhausted isn’t that they have been in this building for a while; they are generally tired as they are in the process of moving to another city.
The place they are moving to will be described in the text in general terms, without any details. It will suffice to learn from some sentences that there is a private house and a lemon tree in the garden, that a relative lives there, and that this place will provide a ground for them to practice their theoretical knowledge about the soil. Unfortunately, they do not know yet that a kind of bacteria has started to grow in the near-surface layers of the new soil they will set foot on, disrupting the components of the soil, crippling its permeability, and all the work they have undertaken to move is like walking on a dead-end street. A name for the strain of bacteria will be made up so that the soil rotting is turned into a story. A name will be derived from the Latin words meaning “passage breaker.”
Before leaving their side, Direction I will wish Direction III well about their new place to live; they did what was best according to themselves. Direction III will ask Direction I to visit them one day, and they will make an invitation decorated with lovely details about the garden of their new house. They will hug. Direction III will lift the glass from the bar counter and extend the pink straw to Direction I‘s mouth. Direction I will ask before drinking: what is it? It’s gin and tonic.
Evidence of Emotions
In the finale of the second section, Direction I and Direction II will overwhelm each other with love. To these two people, drowning will not feel like drowning, just as garbage is not garbage for those who scavenge. Tension will be suspended in this section. It will be written without pessimism, with good feelings, and this will be felt by those who read it. There will be two ways to do this. In one, pleasant feelings will resurface in memory. The difficulty of reaching the original emotions will not be able to defeat the writer because, in the end, the proof of the emotions will be present in the mind in the form of images, sounds, and smells. What was the shape of our behavior when we were emotional, what were the words we put forward, and what smells came to our noses? All of these can turn into images, audible things. The other method will be about catching the right moment. It will be possible to go to the computer and write while the love that rarely happens to a person spreads its dazzling sparks around, that is, possessed by emotions.
First, we will watch Direction I and Direction II make their way toward each other from different places. Before setting off, Direction II has prepared the last parcel, and while sitting at one end of the corridor, the sound of the generator in the kitchen will come to mind. They checked the machine as it started beeping, not once but twice, but it will still feel uneasy. Rather than the kitchen, they suggested installing it outside in the museum garden as a precaution against a possible fire. They will wait for the manager to sort this out. As they enter the kitchen and fill up the water from the carboy, the sound of the generator will be connected to the image of Direction I in his mind. Short-term tension will give way to sweet excitement. They will drink the water and start getting ready to leave work.
They will both be dressed to show off to each other. The timing will coincide with the crowded time of the metro. The hand holding one of the plastic handles, Direction II, will not worry when skipping stops one by one. Just as the heat in the previous chapter is less suffocating when its source is known, the stifling air here will not be too overwhelming because it will be perceived as the visible evidence of life. Direction II‘s nose, which was focused on the beauty of life with the love filter at that time, will internalize the evidence with deep breaths. When they arrive at the stop, they will get down, and go up the escalators without waiting on the steps.
Direction I will have pleasant dreams about Direction II in traffic. Even if the air conditioner does not work, air will enter through the gratings of the car; it will have a weak ventilation effect. They will close the window, which they had cracked open a little so as not to overwhelm the music playing on the radio, to bring out his colleague’s voice when the phone rings. On the phone, they will now decide on the material that has been on their minds for a while, and their chosen material will end up being a locally sourced marble worktop. In the decision they make, the customer’s dreams and the sensual bond they formed with the marble when they touched it for the first time in the factory will also be compelling.
As they get closer to where they will meet, the warmth of their heart will skyrocket. They won’t be able to control their smile when they see the source, Direction II, waiting for them in the parking lot on a gray road blocker, but they will keep their enthusiasm to a reasonable level. They will spend time in the emotional atmosphere of summer, first on the streets they know and then in a house they know until the stones fall into place, and they smother each other with love as a result of a sweet collaboration. Human-induced happiness is exceptional. You know that unhappiness coming from the same source, from people, destroys.
Elephant in the Room
The title of this section is imported, Elephant in the Room.* The idiom was born out of someone not noticing a large elephant in the same room while focusing on looking at small objects in a museum.
The elephant in the room in all the sections is “air.” The fact that the air contains both raw materials that meet vital needs and threatening particles, but is invisible to the eye, corresponds to the expression “elephant in the room.” If they think the elephant, dead or alive, is a vital need and a threat to a museum, all the similarities will be put into the same pot. Also, the elephant is an adorable animal.
This section will showcase two people’s weak, minimal-sentence conversation in a hospital room. One of the many things we can designate as an elephant will be lying in bed. Why an elephant, even though it’s right in front of our eyes? At first glance, it is impossible to realize that this body, which is expected to be activated by tools such as medicine and compassion, but which obviously has reasons to stop, is a relative of the person sitting across the bed. The second elephant is the wrong treatment applied to the elephant in the bed. This information is hidden from everyone in the text or during the preparation of the text–we will only see the results. The air in the room will be at room temperature, quite different from the air outside. The windows are designed in a structure that cannot be opened easily, considering elephants’ health. The elephant on the sofa will feel the difficulty in their hands, especially when the lovers of the customer in the bed have just left the room and want to ventilate a little, and will return to the sofa because they cannot perform a simple task such as opening a window. Another elephant, which can also be called the elephant family, details the house sale that will be left to them if the relative in bed suddenly leaves all their loved ones. With a crooked smile, the relative says, “When the lemon tree in the garden bears fruit, you won’t be too lazy to give some to the neighbor, right?” They will have added a new member to the elephant family when they ask this: the desire to protect the property. Direction III will take a deep breath without making it obvious in the face of the question, that is, without over-inflating their chest, and think they must have denied inheritance of this desire. Also, lemons have tasted bad for a while; there’s an obvious problem in the garden, don’t they realize? The elephant had been taking care of their illness for some time, not with the garden, but with sympathy for them, touching their right foot, which came out from under the white bedspread, twice at different moments.
I think everyone would be relieved if a bit of inspiration was sought in the method of the staff walking around the room if the elephants in the room were not themselves, but if their signs were put down on paper and if graphs similar to star maps were created from the network of relationships between them, then these graphs were read, inferences were made, and prescriptions were written. Isn’t it such a method that sprinkles water inside the bed even though the elephant in the bed has been in trouble for a while? The union of blood values and fortune teller’s prophecy (Don’t worry, your breathing will improve, you’ll get better) on paper. So many unknown things hanging in the air make me nervous as well.
In the evening the rain will start and stop. Direction III will think: I’d better wash too. It’s the right time to call the pharmacy on duty and get the breathing exerciser the doctor has told them to. They will notice the constant hum of the air conditioner in the room when they exit the door. They will remember this breathing apparatus from somewhere; it had colored balls and was like a child’s toy.
When they return to the room from the pharmacy, they will try the tool they took out of the package by blowing in it first. With strong and sudden breaths, they will strike the heaviest of the balls, the red, against the plastic roof of the instrument several times. They will then lay it on the white bedspread next to the other elephant. The elephant will take the instrument to sing its song but will forget the words. One day the stage lights will go out.
Maybe Directions I-II-III will be realized just like they were here–you never know. If so, each will have a lifetime. When they are out of breath, and their lives are over, the airflow will continue inside their bodies, in their small chambers like cells. Small creatures like bacteria will perceive these rooms as large and spacious. The difference between the airflow between the rooms and the airflow that people benefit from while living is that this time it will take place without being inspired by igniters such as love-passion-hate-hope.
* t.n. The phrase “elephant in the room” does not exist in Turkish; the artist “imports” it as an idiom in the original text.
Translated from Turkish to English by Merve Ünsal.