Dystopian Restrictions


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Spaces - media studies class

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  • The poet Kahlil Gibran once voiced how “there is a space between man's imagination and man's attainment that may only be traversed by his longing.” We, the 12th grade A1 English students, traversed such a space at Spaces. Fundamentally, after reading George Orwell’s 1984, Yevgeny Zamyatin’s We, Margret Atwood’s A Handmaid’s Tale, and Rohinton Mistry’s A Fine Balance we commenced the task of building a bridge. Much like the protagonist of Ivo Andric’s “The Bridge on the Zepa” we determined to build both a concrete, substantial bridge between our respective dystopian literatures and an intangible, ethereal bridge that ultimately connects these works in space and at Spaces.
    The space between man’s imagination and man’s attainment, as is reflected in Gibran’s utterance, was the foundation for our bridge. Namely, this paradoxical conflict between imagination and attainment- where the two transpire as eminent oxymorons in our four novels, was what we aimed to highlight in our Spaces exhibit. In essence, the respective protagonists of the four works are jailed by dystopian restrictions. Imprisoned by glass walls and dictators with hearts of glass, Winston Smith, D-503, Offred and the four protagonists of A Fine Balance yearn to grasp concepts such as a soul, faith, honesty and crucially- the color green which epitomizes revolutionary liberation for them, yet there are nevertheless eternally deprived of all these things. The parallel between the protagonists of the four novels and the Ancient Greek mythology hero Tantalus is evident. Specifically, Tantalus was assigned to stand in a pool of water beneath a fruit tree with low branches. Whenever he reached for the fruit, the branches raised his intended meal from grasp and whenever he bent down to get a drink, the water receded before he could get any. Thus, the theme of temptation without satisfaction is embedded into our four works and this is what we aimed to illumine at our Spaces presentation. The protagonists are restricted, yet there are miniscule, forbidden branches of hope which they feverishly attempt to grasp, but which are, by such figures such as the Big Brother or the Commander, forever raised from their reach.
    Hence, in our Spaces exhibit, we wanted to put our audience into dystopia. We wanted to restrict their sense of liberty and independent thought and we aimed for them to question physical and emotional boundaries of human nature and its constituents. In terms of the physical boundaries, we performed this by building a narrow tunnel, enveloped in whiteness and emptiness which each of the Spaces attendees was to walk through. Furthermore, we employed sound to highlight our theme of ‘dystopian restriction’ and totalitarianism by projecting harsh, discordant orders of a mechanized, computerized voice. The voice uttered the crucial quotations from each of the novels and henceforth established the sense of governmental control and individualistic desperation embedded in the works. Thus, we strived to connect and build a bridge between the works not only based on their thematic linkage, but also in terms of the similar atmosphere established in this group of works. The atmosphere is “glass”- it is an atmosphere which swallows the independent thinkers in its control and inexorability. Namely, the mood in the four works is a mood of glass, because the protagonists become aware of their immediate transparency in the society which they are part of and the fact that they have nowhere to run, much like the individuals above, below and to the right and left of them. In addition, in terms of the emotional boundaries which we aimed to convey in our Spaces exhibit, we isolated three concepts from each novel, which we believe are the most intangible for the principal characters of the specific works. For instance, we determined that the concepts of the soul, imagination and the color “green”- alluding to the Green Wall and the supposed bliss of liberation which lies within its boundaries, are the three concepts which tantalize D-503, the protagonist of We the most. Likewise, we came up with three of such insubstantial concepts for each of our novels and then presented them to our audience at Spaces. Namely, we built tubes, which were ‘cacophonically’ arranged around the tunnel and at the end of each tube we included one of the concepts which our protagonists yearn for. The exhibit attendees were to look through them and uncover miniscule figments of hope which the major characters of the four novels unearthed, despite their dystopian restrictions and the ‘glass’ atmosphere in their societies.
    Crucially, as Spaces puts emphasis on the effects of media, communication and technology on our lives, our objective was also to explore the manner in which the authors of our four novels present the scuffle between independent thought and mass control, through the employment of media and technology. Namely, the omnipresent, and more importantly- omniscient screens in 1984 or the megaphone avowals in A Fine Balance present the strength of mass control in our works. Once again, this refers to the ‘glass’ atmosphere and underlying theme of transparency in the novels, because, through the media and ever-present technological control, the lives of the major characters are but copies of one another and enveloped in an air of supervised nothingness. Nonetheless, the authors entwine the oasis of independent thought into their novels, where imagination- defined as “the worm gnawing at sanity” in We commences in the cerebral cortexes of the protagonists and thus, much like the authors of our novels, we contributed such an oasis to the Spaces attendees. They were essentially constrained and encased in a dystopia of spirit, however, if they were courageous enough to look through the bizarre tubes which we created, then they unearthed the small pieces of light in the kaleidoscope of dystopian literature.
    Finally, we presented the conflict between independent thought and mass control to our audience through initiating a conflict within them. Namely, we stuck numbers on them at the beginning of their journey through the tunnel and at its end, we asked our audience if they wanted to keep or take their numbers off. This was symbolic and our deliberate objective was to plant them into the shoes of dystopian novels’ protagonists, by giving them two evils- either opting for revolution and envelopment in ‘green’ by taking their numbers off and obtaining a flower, or agreeing to the safety of dystopia and a numerical identity. In essence, we forced our Spaces audience to question themselves, glass, concrete and abstract bridges, green, tantalization, flowers of freedom and numbers of imprisonment. We forever plunged our audience into the world of dystopian restrictions.

    ---Masa Saranovic 12
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Dystopian Restrictions

  2. 2. FREEDOM IS BRAVERY<br />
  3. 3. love<br />
  4. 4. WAR IS PEACE<br />
  5. 5.
  6. 6. pleasure<br />
  8. 8. reason<br />
  10. 10.
  11. 11. prosperity<br />
  12. 12. HOMES FOR THE HOMELESS<br />
  13. 13. independence<br />
  14. 14. THE NATION IS ON THE MOVE<br />
  15. 15. faith<br />
  16. 16. SOUL IS THE DESEASE<br />
  17. 17.
  18. 18. family<br />
  19. 19. NUMBERS UNITE<br />
  20. 20. dignity<br />
  21. 21. PRIDE IS VICE<br />
  22. 22.
  23. 23. honesty<br />
  24. 24. BLESSED IS THE FRUIT<br />
  25. 25. green<br />
  26. 26. MAY THE GOD OPEN<br />
  27. 27. imagination<br />
  28. 28. GUARDIANS OF THE FAITH<br />
  29. 29. soul<br />