Lost, misplaced, and abandoned
To whoever found my keys,
Thank you for your caring response. My keys slipped out of my pocket, moving away from my place and time. They escaped my routine and left me without access to my possessions. However, not all is lost: Their random movements ended up connecting us. Now, on the other side of the screen, you exist as a mysterious fantasy behind a threshold. Your secret identity is safe within the realm of this message.
My keys went away, leaving behind an influential, almost tyrannic position. When they got lost in my everyday chaos, they forgot their power and transformed into useless objects. Like a coin of an outdated currency, they became a piece of meaningless metal. Still, their absence reproduces all the fragments that built my material subjectivity around them.
My keys granted access to the office I work at, the home I live in, the car I drive, the bike I use, the apartment of my lover, the lock I use at the gym… They were my way in. An affirmation of my adult life. The more you've got, the heavier the responsibilities and earlier the mornings. When the keys left, I felt lighter. Nevertheless, I missed them. I looked for them, resisting to give into my anxiety and call the locksmith.
Above all, I thought a lot about my keys: the interplay between control, resistance, ownership, and dispossession, and how these hierarchies are transcribed into inhabited spaces with mechanisms that reproduce exclusion. The wall, the door, and the key cooperate in turning spaces into organizational devices to separate and control bodies. Walls are robust, and with their built-in inertia, they delimitate spaces. The door opens up possibilities to modulate different gradients of intimacy, and the key closes those possibilities by enforcing exclusion. The key carried in the pockets of tenants, wardens, concierges, or landlords has a performative and symbolic meaning that crystallizes the authority of private property.
Since we need a roof of our own, we might ask for a loan – if we can afford it – and become invested in property. As a homeowner, we receive keys that grant access to an inexplicable and abstract ownership: that of space. The key is a manifestation of our earthly conquerings, an unminted coin with a perverse value —A key for your thoughts?
We lock the door of our new property, drawing the line between being and not being, owning, and lacking. The key renders a dominant discourse and fills it with oppositions. The key is privatization, and its absence is socialization. The public can be expanded by means of eliminating the key or making a common one, breaking the monogamous relationship with our possessions. We can also be free by changing the locks and taking over.
We hand-out keys to our hearts, and, in sporadic cases, we commemorate outstanding citizens or visitors with the medieval practice of presenting them the keys to the city to them. Our husbands lock our chastity with metal belts and Saint Peter guards heaven with his own set. Likewise, we receive chocolate keys from our real estate agents when we finally dare to ask for that loan.
Not in vain, we use keys that carry through an act of ownership. We use keys to name and colonize the unknown. Under the spell of keys, we name and categorize sounds, islands, glyphs, and organisms. The key for Rose is Rosacea,
for Daisies, Marguerites, and Dahlias Asteraceae,
for Petunia is Solanacea,
for Violet is Violaceae,
for Magnolia is Magnoliaceae,
and for Myrtle Myrtaceae. You probably discovered that those are the names of my lovers too. It looks like we use keys to appropriate the things we don't know in this interplay between naming and locking and between modes of being and belonging. We turn them into something recognizable, so it doesn't escape the premises of what we claim is ours.
When I lost my keys, they circulated, and at least momentarily, the dualisms inherent to their condition stopped. And then, they entered limbo. Lost, mislaid, or abandoned, they left their usefulness behind; they stopped being convenient, helpful, efficient, and adequate to function —affordances that only exist when they are used to control. Although we had a shared understanding of how to use them, in limbo, the keys found a static condition where power relations ceased. Limbo is supposed to be a limited place without doors, a place of ever-lasting confinement, not based on containment but in the absence of exits. Is it really such a bad place? You are not in a defined space. You are in the middle, in a grey zone where Saint Peter's keys to heaven won't work, and hell is far away.
You are now the owner of the keys, the new concierge: a powerless caretaker.
María Mazzanti is a spatial practitioner and researcher based in Amsterdam. Her work explores the interaction between communication and space. Her practice is committed to comprehending boundaries, classifications, and spatial interfaces that visualize hierarchies and framing mechanisms, translating her findings into circulating material, text, and installation.