Conceptual Cluster 7: Container Technologies

by sepidehkarami

Three Capsules -Footage from the movie "Taste of Cherry" by Abbas Kiarostami

Three Capsules -Footages from the movie “Taste of Cherry” by Abbas Kiarostami

What escapes the capsules? What can capsules escape from?

In the movie “Taste of Cherry”, Abbas Kiarostami depicts a one-day narration of a lonely, aged modern city-man, fed up with his life, in an absolute ‘capsular’ setup. There are three main containers or capsules in this movie: the car, the apartment and the grave. The man is moving between these capsules, while identified mainly by his car. He is rarely out of a capsule, perhaps for some short moments in transition between them. The whole story goes on in a car. He leaves his ‘apartment’ (first capsule) driving his ‘car’ (second capsule) in the streets of Tehran, to find somebody to help him. He wants to commit a suicide and he has already dug his ‘grave’ (third capsule). He is now looking for somebody to do the job for him; the job is that when he will have taken the pills, he will be laying down in the grave that very night and the employed person should come to the grave the morning after and make sure that he is dead. If he is still alive, he should help him out of the grave (liberating him from the capsule), and if he is dead he shovels the earth into the grave to perpetuate his encapsulation.

The grave is dug under one of the few trees somewhere between the hills, to where he gives lift to three persons and takes them to show where they should do their job. On the way to the grave, one sees the body-car moving around a strange landscape of gigantic road construction site where one sees only the machines and the bodies of workers, reduced to fleshes; all working with earth, digging and filling. Bodies out of the capsule are flesh, and that is what the man is in need of: “I need only your hands to shovel the earth to my grave. I don’t need your mind.” The world out of capsules is earth and dust:

–       Nice? It’s nothing! But dust and earth!

–       You don’t think earth is nice? Earth gives us all the good things!

–       According to you, yes, all good things return to the earth…

This contradictory feeling between a perpetuating encapsulation and liberating from one, is visible through the whole story. There is a permanent desire of escaping the capsule and being combined with earth. There are always elements encapsulated and liberated from the capsules: the persons (fleshes) invited to the car, confront the man’s mind, getting stressed and escape from the capsule. While the flesh stays within the car, the gestures, the voice, the look and the thought is what spills over the capsule. He looks out, he is looked in; he calls out, he is called from out; fleshes come in and going out; the ideas, desires and wishes stay in the car and at the same time duplicated by transferring into the invited fleshes and go out by them. These are what break down the solidity, the closeness of the capsule; isn’t it the potential capability of the bodies to transform the capsules to a womb, to an organic matrix through what escapes from the physical body?

The new public within the capsule

No doubt that we are living in a capsular society. We carry our capsules with us everywhere. We are identified by our compulsory or voluntary capsules. And it is all due to protecting our physical and mental entity; no matter if there is a real intruder to our entity or not. And it has become both unavoidable and favorable. We have become new species; we have become: “Capsulophiles”.

As Lieven de Cauter says: “the greater the increase in physical and informational speed, the greater the human need for capsules.” Within the world of speed and flow, capsules are the shells of protection. They basically protect man from the real and virtual and melancholic dangers ‘outside’; protecting against what endangers us in one way or another in a context that Ulrich Beck calls the “risk society”. Dangers are interpreted and have different quality in different contexts. It ranges from a propagandized risk and real risk as death to the intruder of privacy or whished life style, which could be against the conservative norms of society both morally and politically. In this sense many sorts of capsules can function as liberating medium rather than limiting ones. In a context where public spaces are not a space for public-ness because of control and surveillance, the reaction could be withdrawing to the individualized and isolated life or creating new possibilities. In Iranian society people resist the hyper-controlling of public spaces not by withdrawing to isolation but by creating new public-ness within the private or new private-ness within the public. Capsules play important role here. For instance the apartment is not a place for solitude as in its Western counterpart but is a place for gathering, for parties, for meeting, for celebration and discussion etc.; because it can be hardly monitored by the dominant power; it is a place of liberation; a private place that creates new public-ness. This influences the architectural design of housing units and apartments, where larger spaces are dedicated to more collective areas such as living room, kitchens etc. to facilitate the gatherings.

Personal cars as the extension of apartments are the same. They play extremely important role in protecting the freedom of being and strolling in the city especially for youth and women. Car has become a shell that detaches one from direct control while giving the options of connecting to the others. Here capsules play the role of not isolating individuals but facilitating the “being together”.

All to all, the main questions are: how can capsules become transformed to a breathing matrix, to a womb? How they can become organic? How they can open up rather than closing down? And how the body of human being can overcome the closeness of the capsules, through gestures, look, voice, or in general actions?