Sunday, 8 July 2012

Ostalgic Flying Circus



Dear reader,
I really wish I could break the bad and boring habit of only posting the already-printed-elsewhere material. Unfortunately, at the same time I'm now too incredibly busy to write anything fresh. Meanwhile, with the beginning of the summertime, I start a book-writing regime, and to inspire/divert myself (and you, hopefully), I'm going to post here with a great regularity bits and bobs from my vast archive and research and maybe also fragments fo writing. My book, published on the hopefully still cool & sexy Zero Books, if you didn't figure it out already, is going to be on the productive or not, encounters/misunderstandings/exploitations between the Cold War East and West and beyond. It will encompass art, politics, philosophy, design, film, culture, music; but I don't want it to be purely cultural, conventionally attractive as a book (although this wouldn't be that bad). As if writing in a second language wasn't an experience weird enough, the aim is ambitious and it's also political: especially since I've become a "British journalist", I see a growing discrepancy between how I perceived my life when I lived only in Poland and how it is perceived in here, regardless of education or ideology; that noone got the communist years and then the transition right, on both sides. Post-communist countries tend to repress it completely and condemn unilaterally, the western perception is often lacking the experience and is foreshadowed by fetishization. It made me curious, where we, the former Soviet camp, are in the end: are we looking backwards at the past history in a melancholic 'ostalgic' gesture or were we indeed the forerunners of the present crisis. What was indeed the effect of the cold war: maybe rather than split us irretrievably, it provided a mutual great narration, a great history, in which both me and my English partner, who couldn't grow up in different conditions than mine, can find each other?



I felt I have to tell this story of a peculiar transformation from victims to pioneers and back to myself: do I still feel that I come from a "post-communist" country, or did it just become an excuse; worse, do I want to be exotic (are we exotic?); I hope this will also enable me to understand better the current crisis and to construct a new map of influences and tensions, that were and are the shapers of the world I grew up and live in. Wish me luck.



Meanwhile, here's a brief recollection of my current writing in the UK press, which I cannot simply connect under some mutual thread; perhaps this multitasking is very telling of what is necessary for a writer today. Most topically, I written on the Yugoslavian modernism, yugo-nostalgia and its contemporary "albumisation": how a complex story is being condensed to an elegant, palatable and somewhat vain form. This for Architecture Today.



Then, unfortunately paywalled, I'm trying to reassess the vast and splendid career of the Ukrainian photographer Boris Mikhailov and his Berlin retrospective for the German edition of frieze. Mikhailov's vision of the USSR public/private life is a complex and unique questioning not only of the image of the daily communist ideology, but also image as portable ideology. Here, you cannot easily speak of communism as something that was simply "done" to people; question of subjugation and repersentation dissolute within layers and layers of image, that denies to unfold itself. It's neither critique nor apology; it's very funny, he's clearly making fun of the ideology, as if he could place himself outside of the system, which is impossible; the girl's buttocks may be only her buttocks, but through the color they start to belong to the revolutionary landscape; is the ferocious color just to prove the life under communism wasn't only miserable? He's intelligent enough not to suggest whether it's good or bad.



For the UK edition of Frieze I interviewed Eyal Weizman on topics, that are beyond anything on this blog; lesser evil, liberal idea of evil, famines, Holocaust, world order, forensics - interview had to be censored at the wish of its hero, because the truth of the Mittal Olympic Tower was not supposed to be given away - now its a public knowledge to everybody. Next, for this month's issue of ICON magazine I reveiwed the much-talked about show of the every archi-cum-psychogeo coat-wearing aspiring London bohemian favorite artiste, Patrick Keiller in Tate Britain. If that wasn't enough of my expansionism, I also dared to review for #342 The Wire an exhibition on socialist experimental music + art "Sounding the Body Electric" in the Polish city of Lódź, which is the most inspiring show I saw this year and items from/around it will feature a lot in the book/on the blog. This issue of the mag also contains my review of the Tri-Angle label showcase in Salford, UK and the reissue of my favorite band's Deutsche Amerikaniche Freundschaft debut album "Ein Produkt de...".



If that wasn't enough, for the venerable Sight & Sound magazine, I also written an essay on one of my favorite German directors, the provocateur, trash lover, social fuse and "a bit of a dick", as certain fellow artist called him, Christoph Schlingensief and his retrospective in Tate Modern. There may be more of that, unfortunately, but I forgot for now. I'll be back here next week with my regular Ostalgic pictorial/musical/other installments. Stay tuned.

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