I have a strange interest in all boxes. I used to collect tin and paper boxes, most of the time empty ones just because I enjoyed their outside graphics. Bizarre habit. A close friend of mine was brave enough to suggest that I should look for an explanation to the Freudian theory. In his general introduction to psychoanalysis, Freud discusses the symbolic interpretations of dream elements. The great majority of symbols in the dream, as he argued, are sex symbols. Boxes find their prominent place there. “The female genital is symbolically represented by all those objects which share its peculiarity of enclosing a space capable of being filled by something—viz., by pits, caves, and hollows, by pitchers and bottles, by boxes and trunks, jars, cases, pockets, etc.” I was not sure what to make out of it and thus pushed it under the carpet for a long time; until boxes started appearing in my scientific work and, more aggressively, in my daily life. Let me start with the second. After Greece’s first bailout in 2010, unemployment was rocketed from 9.5% in 2009 to 17.7% in 2011 and finally to 25,2 % in 2015. A massive wave of layoffs that started right after 2009, led many to unemployment and soon to homelessness. And as we know urban homelessness has a particular aesthetic: the cardboard box. Ironically, while the cardboard box has been always a symbol of economic success, commercialization, and industrialization, it now signals the increased numbers and visibility of homeless persons in Greek urban areas. My friend’s suggestion starts to make sense. The house of the homeless—the rumbly, crumbed cardboard box—upsets my sense of security by being enclosed in a motherly womb, cracks my trust to order, reveals the fragility of my social world, the fluidity of our borders…
excerpt from Rentetzi, Maria. “Cardboard Box: The Politics of Materiality”
Photo credit: Associate Press Photo/ Daniel Ochoa de Olza
A homeless man sleeps inside a cardboard box in central Athens on the early hours of Sunday, June 28, 2015.