NCR-04 (Horoscope), a text by architectural historian and critic Uğur Tanyeli: Perfection, Imperfection, Reperfection
Tokyo – Uğur Tanyeli
Although it provides this biennial with a main concept and a motto, the tension between perfection and imperfection does not only define Istanbul, but the whole modern architecture and urban planning history. On the one hand, there is a possibility for freedom, which flourished along with the dissolution of the premodern episteme, and on the other hand, there are fears and paranoias produced by the same transformation. The first aspect of the world-historical scene was characterized by the premodern condition that trew every divergent beyond the limits of legitimacy, the second one is the modern epistemical system, which gives, at least potentially, every divergency a chance of survival. However, a modern approach, almost the mainstream of modernity, does not accept this emancipatory transformation as a positivity. It discusses every social reality including architecture with a fear of loss. What is believed as being lost is a world, once meaningful and orderly, that could create aesthetical and social consensuses, full of possibilities to produce harmonies; ie. a perfect social and physical environment. Beginning with the first theoreticians in the early 19th century, who tried to return to a world of architectural orderliness, which was organized according to a sequence of styles, the modern world was diagnosed as being in a condition of imperfection waiting to be cured. They intended to produce reperfection. Even when they left their obsession of regaining the world of architectural styles, they did not change their search for perfection. They are still working to found new regimes of aesthetical consistency. The modern man and woman are still unaware of his/her modernity. They do not believe in that the modern world is just a historical condition of constant and ordinary imperfection.
The result is to try to recreate an impossible condition that is perfect, which did not exist in the past and never will in the foreseeable future. This means to intend to build harmonious urban environments, homes that can hold everyday life perfectly well like a glove, or a universe of meaningful and authentic architectural forms, which are coded within the „place“ they are conceived. Theirs, however, is a desperate search. As was written by Nietzsche in his „Beyond Good and Evil“, modern man has a weakness like not to accept his unability to be wholly well-dressed, thus he constantly tries this and that. For this reason, modernity is schizophrenical. It simply produces no consistency other than the acts of trying and throwing away ceaselessly what it has got. Every dress can be easily put on or left behind. Therefore it can be expected to reliquish the quest for what perfectly fits us, but this is exactly what we cannot do.
Those who are still diagnosed the world through a dichotomy of the East and West, problematize this situation of imperfection and even think of it as chronical. When their gaze is shifted away from the West and focuses on the East, they think that the imperfection is diagnostic, for example, in Tokyo, Jakarta, Bangkok, Shanghai, or in Istanbul. However, they sometimes compliment them on their urban qualities. They believe they love them for their imperfection. They think that they found in them humane, almost natural and indisciplined an urban environment full of life. What they do not understand is that the dissimilarity between Jakarta and New York, or New Delhi and Paris, is not so radically different as that cannot be found between New York and Paris. Those directing the same dichotomic gaze at the West or Europe, who are looking from Istanbul, or from the East or from non-European societies in general, are much more ruthless to themselves. They complain about the physical perfection the Western cities have got, which cannot be found in the East. This provides them with a sense of mission and a program of action to cure the situation. They aim to make the environment reperfect, or they are going to restore its imaginary perfection. What do not realize is the fact that they only see –in the East as in the West- the same signs of imperfection that become manifest in the metropolises. They actually do not become face to face with almost uncurable malformations. They just live in an environment that provides modern man/woman with dynamical existential conditions. Alas, they complain about the very same environment. It consists, however, of different modernities, different means, different hybridities, ie. different imperfections.
Dear Libra (et al.), for the whole present century, it seems no possibility of producing reperfection in the metropolises. If you will be able to get rid of your prejudices, you can grasp this simple metropolitan reality. I know you have had a lot of tension last century, but times of transition are always that way. Take a moment to look back to where you were only two or three centuries ago. Look how far you’ve got benefits of urbanization and metropolitanization! When you think back, those days and places probably seem like another planet! You’ve worked hard to be where you are today. Be proud of your achievements, instead of ceaselessly expressing dissatisfaction on what you’ve got.