Withnessing The End

Ahmet Soysal


These paintings put the spectator in the position of the witness of an end. Now a scene is presented, to us, before us. An empty scene: or rather, one deprived of human presence. Deserted, it can be said. A deserted space. We come to stand before it, but it will not include us. We will witness it, but as “witnesses for no-one.”

What is there now in the scene: if we described it to the blind one inside us who does not understand. (Definition, description, determination…) To that “deserted one” in us. For, if we speak, take up speech, we sense that we will be talking to one “who is not there.”

The scene is there (still undetermined), it has been set up for us, bare, unadorned. Through a “realistic” painting technique. A scene “from reality.” We can also add “naturalism” to this “realism.” If we continue, leaving aside the quotation marks: natural elements come to the fore (which fore? our fore?). There is a light simulating the natural light now (when scenes are the issue, one must speak of a “now”). Later – the description progresses, is defined, determined – there is a mountain or a hill. Yet the technique in which the mountain is painted differs from the technical “presentation” of the other series (man-made things, vehicles, industrial objects…) that make up the scene. The mountain element has been rendered with a freer, more emotive brushstroke which in places has the effect of watercolour.

The scene is completed (not in its entirety determined) by fragments of a “shipyard,” which are arranged at the foot of the mountain, in the background, on the plane. This place is the foreground of the scene. A colder and more detailed technique (in places possessing a photographic precision) presents to us in the foreground of the scene, in its centre, “real” elements that tell of an intense disappeared praxis. The praxis is that which determines a production and thus a labour tied to a shipyard, or, in more general terms, an industrial settlement. Yet it has been lost from view. At this moment – now, in the now of the scene – no-one remains in the settlement, or rather, it is the place alone that remains… In a deserted space the remnants, the debris remains of the praxis and of its production that has lost its function: these objects are metal ones mostly, chairs, stools, tables, and wardrobes. The game is over (the “technical” game of labour, of production: the game of an intelligence – a rational mind – that has the ability to calculate the shortest, most efficient way to economic profit), but in the game’s ruins the inhuman game begins: as soon as we take our position before the scene of the painting.

It would seem that we are the game’s only players. But what will our activity (our praxis) be, then (now)? A conversation with the “deserted one” in us: the one who does not understand. But it is as if there was no answer for us to receive. Where are we? – In an abandoned shipyard. The sea is out of sight. – There is no human being. There is no sound of production. Desolation reins. There is a hill. But perhaps it too is in distress. Because it too is here; a distance, an elevation in this place: here now. It has a transcendental position, but it is also here, at the farthest end of this ruined, deserted place. It has a grandeur that would seem to “transcend” the oppressive desolation (in this sense, the hill’s desolation is a “full,” “natural,” “positive” one), but at the same time, the gloom is set to enclose it, may have spread to it already… There is no human presence. But even when there had been – when there had just begun to be – humanity here, an absence was the issue; man was here as an element, a means of technology, not as a free human being. If there is no human presence now, this is the absence of him who was absent even during his presence: a layered, redoubled, unbearable absence, whose reference is once again absence. No mountain light will redeem the absent one… (Yet the time of labour was still a time in which human beings would earn money for living; the scene also suggests unemployment, if one looks at it more literally, from a social point of view.)

In the game’s interior conversation only a single voice came to speak. Only a single voice can speak. A monologue that creates the illusion of a dialogue. Why? Because we too are the “absent one.” We are invited to play out the scene of our own absence. We have spoken, but – because he disappeared together with the absent one – the one in us who does not understand has left us without a reply. He is here, “inside us” now, but silent and absent. We will not be able to explain to the absent one that which does not include us. The boundary of description. The end of definition. The loss of determination. The voice of the one who has witnessed the end will find its end in a text without echo.

Ahmet Soysal