Turning space into place: why we love exploring forbidden places.

A closed-door represents a wealth of temptation. It is a barrier between two separate spaces and can represent a change between any numbers of dualistic properties. For example: private and public space; exterior and interior, as well as the segregation of people for any number of socio-political reasons. But unlike a wall, a door is imbued with the potential for movement and the process of opening it can eradicate the certainty between extremes. Doors create grey areas. They make some people very uncomfortable. 

Privileged space is one where a person must have special rights, advantages or knowledge to enter. This is often achieved by holding a key (an object of privilege) or by gaining permission (a contract of permission). For some people it is one of life’s greatest temptations. To want that privilege, or to want the knowledge those privileged people have, is irresistible. It is a very human urge to want to break down doors.

From the outside, I think a lot of our instincts make this sound like a noble pursuit. After all, it is akin to crashing down the gate of classism, racism, sexism and any other ‘ism’, which institutionally works to keep certain people out of certain places. But sometimes, places are barred for our safety. In particular, the rules to stop climbers scaling our skyscrapers consequently endangering themselves and others. And yet, despite my better judgement, I still enjoy reading about the horror and daring of such attempts.

Privately, houses are aimed at letting in the minority of people, i.e. the residents whilst offices and factories are reserved for the workers. These spaces are exclusive but can create strong bonds between the residents or workers. Places give us a sense of belonging. These are the doors that we don’t often wish to break down. They demand a higher level of respect.

Holding an object of privilege or a contract of permission gives someone a greater amount of personal control (be that illusionary or real) over a space, and also over transitions within that space. It could be suggested that just the act of imagining these internal space is enough to reproduce a similar feeling of control, as well as reconnecting people with the emotions associated with them, such as safety, intimacy and belonging. For example, sometimes we can stare through an unclothed window from a moving car. Doing this gives us a view straight into orange lit rooms, we watch families on sofas around T.V. sets and we share that comfort. But we also simultaneously feel we are intruding in place we really shouldn’t. Cars are similar – ever caught the eye of a driver beside you. It feels wrong somehow. Cars are public places that feel private or is it the other way around?

When we see images of places on social media we feel the same sense of familiarity that we would towards places significant in our day to day lives. Is this the sense of entitlement people always complain about? The mass of images that saturate our lives makes us feel at home in places we’ve never been. Meaning that search for the new becomes more and more elusive. Now, it’s found by the ignorant, the extremely curious – or those that shun the stories of others.

Tickets, passes, swipe cards, tolls, stamps, wrist bands, keys, codes – all giving us possession over spaces – turning space into place. Is this why I have a box of tickets placed squarely on top of my bookshelf. A list of places that have touched my consciousness: a box of privilege.


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