- Poor but Sexy: Culture Clashes in Europe East and West
- Political (N)ostalgies
- Culture Clashes in Europe East and West
- The East Sent to School
- Poor But Sexy: Culture Clashes in Europe East and West - Agata Pyzik - Google книги
Sexy and Unsexy Countries. Dark art for dark times. Berlin as capital of PostDDR melancholia.
Poor but Sexy: Culture Clashes in Europe East and West
A French migrant, Richard Boulez, known in Poland for wearing colourful clothes, became the chief stylist of Kora, the charismatic singer of Maanam. Kora wore Bowie-esque kimonos and excessive, heavy jewellery, on synthetic bright-coloured, vampish sets specially designed by Boulez. Shocking the public at the Opole '80 festival in dayglo-coloured clothes singing 'Divine Buenos Aires', Kora was all desire: to travel, to meet people, to shag men, to explore, to have everything she wanted.
Her composers dwelled on the earlier synthesized disco of Giorgio Moroder, but gave it the sassiness of Blondie and the sublimity of 'Blue Monday'. In Urszula's songs the most mundane neighboured the most fanciful. She also fantasised about luxurious commodities, as in the ultra-synthy 'The Seasonal Fashion Frenzy', where her character can't stop thinking about buying new, glittery clothes.
One could ask, where in the grey 80s could she find any? In her songs there appeared surrealist flights of fancy — or tales of journeys to Outer Space — which also appeared in Polish post-punk and new wave music, as in Kapitan Nemo's heavily synthed Electronic Civilisation. Kapitan Nemo aka Bogdan Gajkowski, self-styled minimal-wave futurist in a quirky bohemian black beret, was the great uncle of all today's 80s revivalists. In his Wideonarkomania he pioneered a still-fresh in PRL topic of addiction to television and the suddenly available world of VHS, with a pulsatingly-colorful video, where sexual lust gets confused with Cronenbergian Videodrome fantasies.
He sounds as if he already knew that 30 years later the generation of lo-fi 'hypnanogics' and Hauntologists will put the washed-out distorted VHS image retro aesthetic onto the pedestal of a hipster absolute. And after Bruce Lee a bit of sex before you fall asleep. Delicate female backing vocals, heavy synths and an interest in the harshest modernity put him close to a Polish Phil Oakey, with touches of Gary Numan. There are also common references to sotsrealism: in Factory Love , love is of course 'tough as steel' and 'according to the safety rules'.
Unfortunately, in reality, we couldn't be driving further away from space and the computer world, as Soviet technology had its most modern, forward-thinking years already behind it. Paradoxically, when we caught up with the dominating futurist fashion within pop-culture, time-traveling and computer technology, as in the children's trilogy of Pan Kleks Mr Blot , an outrageously colourful, almost 'queer' character with incessant fantasy and penchant for futurism — a Polish cousin of Doctor Who - we had lost any potential to ever overtake the West with our ideas.
Post the socialist utopia started to growingly morph into dystopia. The catastrophic SF of Piotr Szulkin, one of the most distinctive 80s Polish visionaries, disclosed a quite different realisation of the futuristic dreams, filled with fear first at the communist, and then capitalist, versions of totalitarianism. It's an Orwellian vision immersed in philosophical, existential deliberations over the media, cynicism and the mental destruction of the individual.
According to Szulkin's films, the Soviet Bloc will be destroyed by Communism, after which Capitalism will take over, and turn out to be equally destructive. In a very loose adaptation of Wells's War of the Worlds , one country, which due to English names could seem Western, is invaded by Martians, who are a 'higher' civilisation - one which ruthlessly oppresses the lower one on Earth, as the Martians are bloodthirsty, horrific creatures, who vampirically live off humans.
The world becomes overpowered by cynical media exploitation, and a brutal state apparatus assumes absolute control. Even if the intention was for Martians to stand in for the Soviet Union who were supposedly on the verge of invading Poland in , which was then 'prevented' by the introduction of Martial Law by General Jaruzelski's junta , in fact they rather resemble the other Cold War Empire — The United States of America. Their omnivorous media, popular culture and capitalist greed seem to be something that bothers Szulkin even more than the Soviet reality, as in Ga Ga — Glory to the Heroes , where in post-communist, twenty-first century Americanised reality, humanity has conquered other planets.
But on the colonised new worlds, mankind installs prostitution, vice and omnipresent media rule. In the finale, the hero is to be executed at a gigantic stadium media event broadcast across the entire solar system. We live in the world after the apocalypse, that's obvious: in 's O-Bi, O-Ba, End of Civilisation , after the nuclear war the whole humanity is reduced to living underground, like worms several years before, and in a much more convincing way, than it was done by Emir Kusturica in Underground and in these humiliating conditions they wait for the mythical Ark to take them away, the Second Coming, not knowing it's only the criminal state apparatus's propaganda.
Instead of the Ark coming, the copula over the pitiful hole humankind lives in is collapsing.
Still, the light revealed by the cracks is taken by the humans as the arrival of the Ark. Space in Szulkin's films is nearly always one or another form of prison: people vegetate in claustrophobic, dirty hovels, waiting for miracles that never come. At the time Szulkin was developing his visions, People's Poland was in some of its darkest periods.
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We had rather more mundane problems, with austerity after the Martial Law and a collapsing economy. The topic of scarcity, strangely enough, must have become domesticated in the pop landscape of Late ommunism, because it kept coming back obsessively in pop music. Too down to earth to seriously debate about flying to space, Izabela stuck to disillusionment.
Poor But Sexy is out now on Zero Books. Share this article:. In the end, all the pop cultural phenomena from the East and the West analyzed— often very brilliantly—by the author turn the book into a kind of post-communist curiosity shop, a collection of items for nostalgic consumption. Most importantly, the book in a sense falls into the Orientalist trap it was meant to disarm. The peculiar experience of pop culture and post-Communism, characteristic for the smaller nations of the region, is completely lost in this narrative—for example, Hungary and Czechoslovakia are absent in Poor but Sexy.
Additionally, many analyses are written in such a way as if there had been no constant tension between the culture and the regimes of the Eastern Bloc countries, as if culture had not been one of the areas where society, deprived of the possibilities offered by normal political life, was seeking at least some autonomy for itself. In effect, we also often have an impression of observing someone who is looking at the East of Europe from afar, from a distance which causes Moscow, Warsaw and Budapest to merge into one—rather than a narrative of someone who can break up this optical illusion by looking from close up.
Looking at how this discourse transforms the region, we even more poignantly see the necessity to break away from the vicious circle of imitative modernization and neo-nationalisms. Agatha Pyzik displays an apt intuition when she points out that the key to this is rethinking our attitude to the Communist experiment and our situation against the East and the West, going beyond the naively anti-Communist self-Orientalist stereotype. Although the book does not always develop this intuition in a satisfactory fashion, it does point towards intellectual quests which could be very rewarding.
He is part of the editorial team of Krytyka Polityczna — a leftist think tank, publishing house and internet daily. Apart from commenting on contemporary Polish politics Mr. Majmurek writes about new social movements in Europe and the US, politics of popular culture, political dimensions of contemporary cinema and art. The support of our corporate partners, individual members and donors is critical to sustaining our work. We encourage you to join us at our roundtable discussions, forums, symposia, and special event dinners.
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Aleksander Kaczorowski. Jakub Dymek.
Culture Clashes in Europe East and West
Robert Kagan. Robert Schuster. Alexander J. Jan Sowa. Magdolna Csath.
The East Sent to School
Benjamin Cunningham. Martin Ehl. Roman Joch. Zbigniew Rokita. English content only.
Poor But Sexy: Culture Clashes in Europe East and West - Agata Pyzik - Google книги
Jakub Majmurek. Not just ruins? Untimely Reflections Four years have passed since the English edition of Poor but Sexy, and unfortunately you feel it when reading the book. Beyond Self-Orientalism Most importantly, the book in a sense falls into the Orientalist trap it was meant to disarm.