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12 Nautical Miles

Kobi Logendrarajah

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Concept Proposal
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Third Prize, Fairy Tales 2016 Competition

My father sailed to Barena on a billboard with nothing more than the clothes on his back and a sack of second-hand electronics. Yeah that’s right- he modified a dismantled Malaysian billboard into a raft and wound up a few hundred miles east of the Philippines. It was there where he was greeted by an anonymous silhouette of an offshore oil platform, who we would soon call Barena. My father met this abandoned oil rig during its repurposing into an “off-the-grid” marketplace. It served as a hub for cheap illegal trading in the South China Sea. The unidentified oil rig was stationed in international waters, away from the jurisdictions of countries that would seek to confiscate or end these dealings. This allowed people from all over Southeast Asia to illegally buy and sell cheap merchandise under the radar, propelling Barena to be one of the busiest black markets. That’s where my father comes in.

With his bag of knock-off electronics he brought over on the billboard, he started to build his business by rebranding and selling these second-hand products, climbing his way up the sales ladder. Since Barena laid in international waters, it was outside the boundaries of any country and my father took advantage of this capless market. After building up his empire, he erected the same billboard he used to find his way here and propped it up in the centre of Barena; a salute to the spirit of the free market. After his passing, I took his dream a step further. Why not go all the way? Instead of selling cheap electronics, why not sell man’s biggest asset he can own, his land – or better yet his property.

They call me the Lock(e)smith. I created the real estate game in Barena, developed subdivisions, and controlled the flow of the market. John Locke once said “Whatsoever then he removes out of the state that nature hath provided, and left it in, he hath mixed his labor with, and joined to it something that is his own, and thereby makes it his property.” I’m firm believer in this ideology, the epitome of practicing the full capabilities of one’s freedom. With the strength of Locke’s words and the financial backing I inherited from my father’s enterprise, I began constructing buildings in the market spaces on the oil platform. I created the world’s first offshore private community and I targeted the wealthiest entrepreneurs in all of Southeast Asia. Not just your ordinary millionaires and billionaires, but anyone who wished to soil their hands in dirty business. A sanctuary where they can deal without the eye of the state judging and condemning them. What better place is there than Barena!

With these new property lines, I redefined the internal boundaries of this makeshift city. I live by the matrix of these lines and the values attached to them. They bring order to this oil rig, they make sense of everything. Whenever I take a stroll on this oil platform, all I see are potential ventures and opportunities, shaped and restricted by property lines. The distinct organizational separations between buildings, units, and programs is the key to planning. Giving each tenant the precise area of property he or she has paid for, it gives each of them their full liberties to do whatever they will. No need to blur the lines of public and private space, no need to deal with the gray. The world we live in is black and white, rich and poor. Yes and no. Ones and zeros. To understand the past, the present, and the future, the craft of property development is truly handed down from the Gods.

Transforming Barena from a black market grounds to a neighborhood for rich mercenaries wasn’t an easy task. I was faced with resistance. You see, the old mercenaries during my father’s time stood in front of my vision. They wanted to keep Barena as a centre for the common merchant, where everyone can make a living. Claiming that my real estate empire was a monopoly and how it was unjust of me to own a space that is meant for public trading, these low-class peasants were talking about morality. These same deceiving merchants who loot cargo ships like pirates and sell their goods on the black market are pleading for fairness. Go back to shore if you want to play a “fair game”.

You can’t expect Barena, which was conceived from the seed of capitalism, to treat her children equally. She pulls her teat out of the mouth of the weak and feeds it to the strong. The weak will only drink what trickles down from mouth of the strong, the nerve of them! They have even gone as far as breaking into my housing developments, inhabiting the vacant units alongside the units of my valued paid clients. Unbelievable, acting like old fashioned squatters! My tenants have even started complaining about the excessive noise, implicating to the insistent cock fighting and betting. What’s even more despicable is that some of these dirty pests have infested the mechanical rooms to spread their infective conduct of black market trades. They clearly don’t understand the concept of private property…

Perhaps there were a few things that I have overlooked. I should have prepared for this. Lousy scoundrels…These barbarians have occupied the majority of Barena with their persistent squatting tactics. They are hard to defeat while their numbers continue to multiply. Their mob-like mentality is infectious, assimilating even my tenants as they occupy tower to tower. This viral-like growth seems to be enhanced by the form of my density towers, making them circulate easily, floor by floor. Cutting out voids in the cores of my towers and in between floors, these squatters behave like termites. They are reclaiming the property by retrofitting the towers into vertical market spaces with atriums, grandiose circulation, and created bridges to connect the towers to form a network. What rubbish use of space! They completely ignored the property lines I laid down and you can’t even tell when you step into one building and when you exit another! No one will ever profit off of this, this environment isn’t ideal for real estate. I have resorted to take refuge in my father’s billboard. This monument represents everything that I stand for. Perhaps I should restart my father’s voyage. Take the billboard it on another course, perhaps maybe I can find another oil rig, or even an offshore wind farm. I should act fast; it’s only a matter of time until the resistance will find me here. There’s no telling what they will do to me if they find out who I am.

The ocean and sky tell an ongoing love story. When we look up to the sky from below or down at the ocean from above, we witness the separation of these two lovers. Rain and evaporation become like love letters, constantly expressing their relationship. In between is the land, a mere spectator. The land is envious of this love, and we humans resonate with land. We drain and divert lakes to create space for development. We build soaring metallic prisms to obscure the sky. All in efforts to interfere with this love story, a story we wish to be a part of. Land itself is a possessive being, trying to control both ocean and sky. However, these soul mates eventually do find a place to meet in the absence of land; the High Seas. It’s only in high tides where these two lovers can reunite and kiss along the horizon.

It’s been quite some time since I thought about my life in Barena. I’ve renewed my father’s journey across international waters, sailing on the same billboard after being exiled from the oil rig. Although, I must say there was something interesting that I witnessed while fleeing Barena. Down by the concrete limbs of the oil rig, I noticed there was a whole another world evolving beneath my feet. It was a world of marine creatures, living off of the underbelly of the oil rig. From vibrantly textured fishes to majestic egrets, it was another dimension simultaneously living parallel to ours. It was truly a sight to see. Clueless me, I thought, I was the sole possessor of Barena but I was too naive to see that my scope was limited. I couldn’t fathom to see the bigger picture that my “possessions” were shared among something greater than me. It makes me think if we can really own anything in this world. We are born out of the womb with nothing and die without bringing anything into the afterlife. So why do we feel we are entitled to possessions while we live? Perhaps we should treat this world as a gray ocean, aimlessly being seduced by the rhythm of the currents. To leave everything behind and to give up even our bodies to the pulls of the moon…
- Courtesy Blank Space
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