Issue: №3 2014

Section: Case Studies

Postcontinental Theory and the Rehabilitation of Place, or is there a Post-Soviet Chronotope?

Postcontinental Theory and the Rehabilitation of Place,  or is there a Post-Soviet Chronotope?

The material is illustrated with Said Atabekov’s photographs from the series “Way to Rome”, 2007. Courtesy: Said Atabekov

Madina Tlostanova Born in Moscow in 1970. Decolonial theorist, activist and writer. Currently lives in Moscow.

1.  And yet, is it time or space?

One of the persistent narratives of Western modernity has been a specific colonization of space by time, the rejection of geography at the expense of the accentuation of chronology. The concept of modernity itself presupposes the denial of the spatial dimension, emphasizing time, because it is grounded in the ideas of world history. Progress, and evolutionism, that had prevailed in the late eighteenth-early nineteenth century. Being itself began to be conceptualized in the European tradition through time, and not through space. Modernity is, in essence, the translation of geography into chronology based on a Renaissance invention of arbitrary constructs of modernity and tradition, with the latter accumulating everything inferior and backward in itself; of the juxtaposition of the “ancient” and the “modern” (at first, within Europe, and then beyond its frontiers, so that people inhabiting remote spaces began to be perceived as living in a different—past—time). The post-Renaissance modernity symbolically cancelled space in favour of time, whereas its darker side—coloniality[1]—has always accentuated place, or more accurately, spatial history.

Naturalized vectorial time of uniform historical development with a trail of similarly vectorial genealogies of knowledge, culture, and art—either in the form of Christian eschatology, or in the guise of a civilizing mission, in the rhetoric of development, or finally, in the blessed nirvana of the consumption horizon of globalization or the alter-modernity, eternally receding from the everyman—has seemingly forever ousted space. Proclaiming the arrival of deterritorialized and decentralized Empire.

An almost instantaneous disappearance of the second world at the beginning of the 1990s led to a strange symptom, expressed in F. Fukuyama’s famous dictum on the end of history[2] and the typically Western understanding of the post-Soviet as a time, and not as space. The denial of space in this case was connected to the goal of depoliticizing history. However, this rendered invisible and dispensable the lives of millions of people who continued to exist in that space. The term “post-Soviet” could only exist for the Western mind in the sense of a temporal succession to the Soviet, the full substitution of the Soviet paradigm for the post-Soviet. Whereas the spatial aspect of the problem—the post-Soviet as a place, and especially as people with their aspirations, fates, and interests—has been ignored for a long time.

J. Suchland formulated the feeling of our nonexistence for the world in a post-Spivak phrase: Can the Postsocialist speak?[3] On our end, this sensibility could be summarized as a rhetorical question: what does it mean to be a void, to be nothing and nobody in the new architecture of the world? What does it mean to be aware of the fact that the second-world narrative in history is over, the victory is already granted to the “enemy,” and nobody expects the defeated side to resurrect and pester the world with absurd claims to existence?

The masking of place with time is one of the most effective mechanisms of modernity's self-legitimation and a concealment of its unattractive features. This is tied to the claims of the Western system of knowledge production to its right to assign meanings to everything and everyone that it encounters along the way. The Renaissance understanding of the human and of humankind was, and remains, an essential tool in the process of disavowing non-European knowledge, science, art, and philosophy. This is a system of knowledge that provides justification and reproduction of human hierarchies. Moreover, such classification does not rest on ontology, but on epistemology; it is not contained in the object, but in the knowing subject and in the system of knowledge in which (s)he operates. The Western subject—in the form of individuals, or institutions and disciplines (universities and museums as machines of certain knowledge production are a vivid example of this)—colonizes knowledge (through the appropriation of its content and the pronouncement of other knowledges illegitimate) and therefore, being as well.[4]

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One of the most devastating consequences of modernity is a consistent cultivation and reproduction of the epistemic and ontological or, in decolonial terms, a coloniality of being and of knowledge. The idea of modernity and the system of knowledge that legitimated it, turned into a mechanism of the disavowal of all other systems of knowledge and the portrayal of all other historical processes as non-modern. Following W. Mignolo, A. Quijano and E. Dussel, this phenomenon could be called the darker side of modernity, or “coloniality.”[5] It is based on the creation of an ontological effect, independent of the subject. However, it is precisely through knowledge that modernity and coloniality as its inherent “underside”[6] are being conceptualized. The internal levers of a Eurocentric system of knowledge production, based on colonial and imperial differences, resonated everywhere that the Other in contrast to “the Same” was studied or represented, where it was either reduced to the common denominator of “sameness” or rendered as an absolute Other.

The system of knowledge production that has established itself in modernity, turned out to be based, according to S. Castro-Gómez[7], on the hubris of the zero point, giving Europe epistemological superiority over all other cultures. The hubris of the zero point is the place of the observer and the locus of enunciation that in Christian theology was taken by God and in secular philosophy by Reason. The zero point is the limit in which there is an observer than cannot be observed. Anyone connected to non-Western thought and language systems is unlikely to ever enter the house where the hubris of the zero point reigns. In the framework of modernity, they become people with deferred subjectivity. Instead of a neutral-universalist question of Western philosophy: “What does it mean to be human?” a Duboisian question is posed, “What does it mean to be a problem?”[8] Such “misanthropic skepticism”[9] leads to negative subjectivity, to painful attempts to comprehend the experience of people downgraded to the status of anthropos, deprived of the right to be considered humanitas[10], becoming property, a part of nature; people, whose knowledge and local histories were deliberately erased as part of a hushed, darker side of modernity.

The shift in the geography and biography of reason from the Western place of knowledge production to other local histories, subjectivities, and languages could be regarded as one of the persistent tendencies of the last several decades. Here, the concepts of body- and geo-politics of knowledge[11] acquire special significance. The latter is connected to the importance of specific local histories in the formation and distribution of knowledge in modernity. It is built on the basis of diversification of colonial and imperial differences, and it is defined by the perception of knowledge-as-such as a prerogative of a specific geo-political space (Europe) and the erasure of the very possibility of creating and distributing knowledge from other local histories. What occurs is an epistemological dislocation of former geopolitics of knowledge with an emphasis on precisely how knowledge is produced and consumed, and how our seemingly abstract and disinterested choice of particular methodologies is capable of changing the real world; how the structures of knowledge themselves are accomplices of global inequality.

The body-politics of knowledge can be defined as the individual and collective biographical grounds of understanding and thinking, because our bodies, existing and journeying in space, inevitably weave memory and place, enriching the concept of spatial history. Colonial and post-colonial subjectivities are the products of racialization of non-European bodies under prevailing theo-logical and ego-logical interpretations. Geo- and body-politics of knowledge shift the former geography and biography of reason.[12] This is due to a conscious rejection to be simply written into, or discarded from, European genealogy; with the construction of one’s own alternative genealogy based on the principles of pluriversality, instead of universality as a particularity claiming to be universal. Pluriversality is aimed at maintaining and taking into account a multiplicity of lifeways, knowledges, subjectivities, and worldviews existing in the world. It represents equality-in-difference and the possibility for co-existence of many worlds (spaces) in one complexed, trans-modern world as an overcoming of modernity and its constraints.

The modus of border thinking as an intertextual discursive practice, and not an assertion of autonomy of a thinking subject distantiated from life and the world, is connected to the rehabilitation of place. Hence, Walter Mignolo’s formulation: “I am where I think.”[13] He underlines the epistemological dimension of colonial difference, or the “color of reason.” Then, an important goal becomes the liberation of epistemology after “epistemicide” (a term coined by Portuguese sociologist B. de Sousa Santos), which was the outcome of coloniality, and the emphasis on an inextricable link between biography, geography and knowledge.

Paraphrasing Anthony Bogues following Du Bois, it could be said that the problem of the twenty-first century would be—next to the problem of the color line announced by Du Bois— the one of the “epistemic line,” which neither replaces nor displaces the color line.[14] Today we see a shift in which the epistemic line is interrogated from the perspective of the color (gender and sexuality) line. This is a shift in the very goals and objectives of knowledge and understanding. Presupposing the denunciation of coloniality of knowledge and a radical reinterpretation of its foundations and principles. The goal is not the destruction and violent confrontation, but the creation of a trans-modern model of knowledge and understanding of the world and the human being.

Here, the concept of pluritopic or multispatial hermeneutics comes forth, connected to the double critique of modernity from the position of coloniality.[15] It destabilizes the homogeneity of a knowing subject, and moves in the direction of interactive knowledge and understanding reflecting the very process of constructing the space which is being known. In plurotopic hermeneutics it is important where the locus of enunciation is located, from which the knowing subject cognizes the world. It is opposed to the monotopic hermeneutics, where the knowing subject has always been localized inside the Western tradition itself, traced from Ancient Greece to postmodern Europe within the framework of the myth of modernity, launched by the monotopical act of understanding and later, forcefully imposed onto the multi-linguistic and multicultural spaces.

In order to grasp the meaning of the critical shift in the geography of reason, it is necessary to imagine Europe not as a place on a map, but to see it as an epochal spiritual phenomenon, which, according to Lewis Gordon, has successfully implemented its own claims at ontology. Absolute European being was opposed to human being. Europe’s self-representation was based on the “ratiodicea,”[16] in the framework of which, Others, rejected by the self-sufficient and self-referential Western thought, were relegated to exist in an unattainable, contradictory and self-deprecating self-deception—to accept the values of Western civilization without criticizing it, and at the same time, to recognize their own exclusion from this civilization. Out of a conscious rejection of ratiodicea, the present-day post-continental position is born as a thought after continentality—the main principle of dividing reason, thought and subjectivity in modernity. One of the central goals of post-continental philosophy is to rehabilitate place.

2.  Spatial Revenge and Post-Continental Theory

The discovery and inhabitation of a particular place, and the return to spatiality, is an important tendency in the so-called traditional, as much as in postmodern contemporary cultures. The frozen time of globalization—with its only remaining horizon of consumption and the withering “end of history” sensibility—forces people to turn to forgotten spaces (local and global), to spatial histories and glocal identities, as well as to the possible paths of re-rooting in new spaces—real as much as imagined, or constructed.

Post-continental thinking[17] attempts to decolonize the concepts of space and time, rooted in the national and continental ontologies, calling into doubt the unconditional acceptance of European continentality as an intellectual project together with its byproducts—the Eurocentric concepts of place and time. This leads to an appeal to sources that have never before fallen into the framework of high theory. Until the last few decades of the twentieth century, the only opportunity for the majority of non-Western intellectuals to enter into the spheres of knowledge production was through the doors of artistic creation, and even then, only within the bounds of a fairly limited set of options (ethnic arts and ‘crafts’; local colour in literature, socialist in its content, national in its form—in the Soviet version of modernity/coloniality, etc.).

Others in modernity inhabit a fractured locus that questions their belonging to any continent or nation. The myth of continents is part of a broader racial myth of modernity connected to the spatial-temporal matrix corresponding to the European religious, alphabetical and cartographic imaginary. Today, in many corners of the world, it is possible to witness border thinking in action, coming from the internal exteriority of the border, from the outside created from the inside.[18] It is grounded in overtaking the categories imposed by Western epistemology. Border thinking and consciousness are not based on the inclination to study borders and those who cross them, but to be a border, and to think from the border, re-making geographic frontiers, imperial-colonial subjectivities and territorial epistemologies. What happens is not a mere change of one (Western) epistemology to another, or others. All the models continue to exist and remain viable as resources and targets of critique. This corresponds to the principle of Mexican “Zapatistas”, borrowed by the World Social Forum: it is necessary to create a world in which many worlds would be possible, and where there would be no previous hierarchies. Critical border thinking leads to a breakdown of the former epistemological zero point, accentuating epistemic boundaries between European imperial categories and languages, and models destroyed by contemporary epistemology. Without this breakdown it would be impossible to create a more just world, in which there will be a possibility of many worlds.

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Post-continental philosophy, according to Nelson Maldonado-Torres, comprises critical theories focusing on problems emerging in the interstices, on the boundaries, in the racialized spaces of the contemporary world—in diasporas, migratory movements, secluded rural areas, ghettos, and wherever the radically abject dehumanized sub-others of modernity are forced or choose to inhabit.[19] The existential dimensions of race, gender, ethnicity, and religion mark the spaces of exclusion, ruptures, ontological Othering: marginalization, and simultaneously, ways of their overcoming and radical humanization of the idea of humanity. The latter is impossible to imagine outside of local histories and with the persistent automatic correlation between any knowledge to epistemology and the history of continentality. After all, a continent is not simply a place, but a well-organized hierarchy of views, customs, and abilities that are ascribed to its inhabitants. In the process of decolonization, this matrix of power is dismounted, and the idea of continents is demythologized. Emancipated from the layers of modernity, the concepts of place, time, experience, subjectivity, etc., come to the fore. High theory is then forced to rethink itself in relation to critical meta-geography, ethnology and other post-European sciences that are not limited by the continental or national imaginary, and reveal a trans-modern future offering alternatives to the continental imaginary.

Post-continental theory signals the appearance of a new horizon tied to the formation of a certain ethics, ontology and epistemology outweighing the continental ontology of belonging to “the same,” and the exclusion of the Other. Metaphors and realities with their own epistemological and existential potential then emerge, such as the border, the archipelago, the sea, transit, etc. The Border is a key meta-metaphor in this series (any space always begins at the border) and serves as a prism through which time and space are perceived.[20] Attention is focused on the experiences of intersection and narratives of displacement. This problematizes the understanding of a contemporary national state and capital in their relation to territory, which makes it necessary to reconsider once again the concept of culture as a process.

As a response to the colonization of space by time, today. Place is taking revenge everywhere, as though dismissing and displacing time. This place is not just the land, however native, but to some extent, a synonym to a constantly shifting, incomplete, malleable language, which each of the artists, writers and film directors working with this theme recreates dozens of times, correlating these new languages with the topos in which they exist. Thus emerges the concept of spatial history. The place becomes a certain palimpsest of overlapping traces of successive “inscriptions,” bringing forth the naming and inscription of names on the symbolic cultural map. The place turns into an experimental field of constantly intersecting borders, spaces and times, where the signs of history exist in the lacunas of signification, semantic slippages and renamings.

Memory materializes in unexpected places—from language, to real physical space—so it becomes necessary to cleanse language contaminated by the rhetoric of dictatorships and totalitarian regimes so as to use it extremely carefully from then on. Place also requires an exorcism. Thus, in our country, there are many places that remember, the contaminated spaces. But we still have not decided how to treat them, routinely favoring to impose the newer images onto the half-erased old ones and ignoring the restless ghosts of the past. Yet even a symbolic and public purification might not be enough. What is needed is a painstaking effort of gazing into the face of the past. And art is the best instrument for such purification.

3. Post-Soviet Chronotope and the Rehabilitation of Place

Modernity in the twentieth century was implemented in two forms - liberal-capitalist and socialist-statist. Each of them had a sunny side and a darker side, each of them had its own kind of coloniality. In the darker colonial side of the Soviet modernity a highly problematic Soviet colonial identity was constructed that had common features with a fractured and negative postcolonial self-identification, rooted in unhomeleness and in-between-ness. The Russian/Soviet empire, on the one hand, attempted to construct its own separate version of modernity—an orthodox empire, then a Soviet, and broader, socialist world. On the other hand, specific strategies for the construction of a Russian/Soviet modernity had to be attuned to the Western metanarrative, because they were its product—despite vying for independence—they copied it and depended on it in their basic orientations towards progressivism and developmentalism; in the principles of Othering and in the inversion of human rights;[21] in the imitative imperialism with its borrowed discourses of secondary Orientalism and caricature Eurocentrism.[22]

Non-self-reflected neo-imperialist nostalgia continues to exist today, as well as the belated post-Soviet Russia’s cultural policy of saving and conserving the shrinking post-Soviet as an imagined community, disappearing before our eyes, succumbing to centrifugal tendencies—linguistic, spiritual, axiological, cultural, etc. This community acquires an increasingly virtual nature, losing its unity, and vanishing together with the last generation of people that were formed as individuals before the collapse of the USSR. It is very difficult to talk about any kind of common future for a population that had the misfortune of being born and stuck in that space—still speaking in the same language, but nothing more—and seemingly no longer connected in a spiritual, value-based or ideological sense. The transcultural translation of the post-Soviet space into a language comprehensible for the rest of the world happens, by and large, in visual, rather than verbal arts, which are more amenable to such transcoding, and in the synthetic theatre and film as well. Not infrequently, they move towards complete visuality. Pantomime, animation, dance, etc.

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In today’s post-Soviet chronotope, in contrast to Bakhtin’s. Place had clearly outweighed time. Moreover, it is not simply place, but places. Permeated, stitched through by multiple histories, at times parallel, and at times intersecting with each other and with departing metanarratives of modernity. These spatial histories have lost the archaic and stagnant spirit of the return to the roots—the ethnic renaissances that were typical for the last decades of the twentieth century. They are dynamic and volatile, marked by the principle of non-exclusionary duality that can be found not just in polysemantic logic, but also in many indigenous cosmologies. The crucial drive here is overcoming, in the existential or Zen-Buddhist sense, transcending in the Kantian sense, and trans-modern delinking, in the decolonial sense. The post-Soviet subject remains in dialogue with modernity, but often interacts with it critically, through ludic methods, and following trickster pathways of detour; that is, in a transmodern paradigm. In this new aesthetics, topicality or activism in art do not negate the preservation of local cosmological roots. The critique of modernity does not mean a withdrawal into archaics, but rather, a search of a projection into the future, which could be found in the dialogue with ethno-cultural memory, forgotten cosmology, rooted in ecosophical spiritual practices that exist in all non-modern cultures. Archetypes, leitmotifs, repeating images of such post-ethnic art illuminate contemporary global. Political and social problems from unexpected angles.[23]

Frequently, the post-Soviet chronotopes are artistically embodied through rituals of recollection and reconstruction: these are attempts to draw out and carefully recreate the spatial memory of the forgotten through the “merger” with a place, the physical and bodily inhabitation as a palimpsest of multiple cultural layers, historical events, and natural landscapes. The deciphering of the fragments of the past often becomes a daunting task. They do not neatly fold into any holistic picture. It is no longer possible to decipher one level from another and to say which is the present-day reality, and which is a print of that same place on an old photograph or on a celluloid. They are all equal, and they all flow into one another, merging in the face of eternity.

But is it at all possible to speak of any kind of commonality grounded precisely in the (post-)Soviet experience? After all, any communities today grow out of some other trajectories and laws of attraction on local, glocal, or alter-global levels. Having stood still for a while, entertaining the rosy idea of globalization as the end of history, the global time has once again begun to move forward, acquiring neo-eschatological dimensions with political, economic, social, ethical and undoubtedly global-ecosophical, rather than religious, overtones. In the new pluriversality of the post-crisis world, what has once again become relevant is the commonality of the human condition as such, and consequently, the perception of our planet as a home, as our (human) space, equalizing the rich and the poor, the inhabitants of the global North with the global South, the young and the old, the men and the women. The post-Soviet has not been spared these sentiments. But here, the local overtones added on to them, connected to the tragic premonition of the end of the country, the epoch, the civilization, with the feeling of our exclusion from the world history, as well as from contemporaneity (after all, the real big world is only now bursting into our stifling-but-conveniently-predictable existence, and in the joyless forms of the colonial underside of globalization—a second-rate modernity, which we are buying with increasing distaste in the supermarket of expired products).

Postsocialist. Postcolonial and post-imperial overtones constantly intersect and interact in the imaginary of the post-Soviet space, especially in the conditions when it turns into a void, a lacuna, which leads as much to nostalgia and a recycling of imperial and nationalist myths as to a conscious resistance, and in the future, to re-existence as a (re)creation of positive life models, worlds and self-awareness that overcomes imperfection and injustice in the world.[24] Due to the double dictate of the market and the state—combining the Western modernity and the defeated Russian/Soviet and local post- and neo-colonial discourses—decolonization is still difficult to fulfill in any forms sanctioned by modernity (such as institutionalized rational knowledge, civil society, etc.). And such intuitions are implemented much more saliently in art, literature, film and theatre, than in some unwieldy scholarly theory.

The present-day interest in the post-Soviet amongst the artists, writers, film directors and social theorists has acquired the form of local history; the trajectory of human lives on a layer-cake of the post-Soviet space, speckled with cultural signs and traces of most diverse traditions. Here, the Soviet has undoubtedly already taken its place on the shelf, has been archived and is most frequently perceived no more painfully than other eras and epochs. That is why in many cases, one encounters playful, sometimes fantastic overlays of the pre-Soviet, Soviet and post-Soviet, lacking any evaluative labeling. But the Soviet no longer prevails over other times, as it did only very recently.

The imaginary topos of transculturality is oftentimes fantastic and stylized as a fairytale. This is a deceptive place, an alternative reality, which does not even claim to be objective, frequently existing entirely in the minds of in-between characters, narrators and authors. Hybrid transcultural heroes, inhabiting these (half)imagined spaces are the counterparts of the topos of transculturality—changelings, involuntary wanderers, juggling their “selves”—with whom constant metamorphoses occur. Existing outside of linear time and stable space, they are initially otherworldly, transcendent and eternal.[25]

Meanwhile, the post-Soviet spatial history is still clearly constructed into an intuitively grasped independent narrative, impossible to be taken reduced to either postcolonial or post-Fordist models, although there are attempts to do the former and the latter and even efforts at their hybridization in the so-called post-dependence discourse, which encompasses both postcolonialism and postsocialism.[26] But this kind of post-dependence is, in essence, a diagnosis. An extracted core of dependence leaves a lacuna behind, a craving for a new rootedness, which could prove to be far from benign.

A. Penzin contemplates the unique inversion of postcolonial sensibility in the post-Soviet space,[27] claiming that today, the post-Soviet person is becoming a new subaltern, suffering from a non-self-reflected complex of a lost battle, the lost greatness of the Soviet modernity, which is compensated only by the questionable rhetoric of geographical span. However, if Penzin codes this sensibility as an analogy to the postcolonial, I prefer to see it as a post-subaltern-imperial syndrome, adjusted for the special status of Russia as a Janus-faced-empire. In the conditions of global coloniality, Russia is experiencing a longstanding sensibility of a mental and cultural colonization. A. Penzin calls this a dislocated (delocalized) postcoloniality without colonization. In my view, this specific complex is better explained through the concept of imperial difference, that is, the difference between the Western capitalist Empires—the winners in the post-Enlightenment modernity—and those who lost, remaining Empires, but acquiring the status of imperial difference (i.e. a second-ratedness). The futility of imperial difference has remained a specific Russian problem for several centuries, long before the opposition of capitalism and socialism emerged. Subsequently, the marginal Western discourse of socialism was overlaid onto an already-existing imperial difference, generating the constructs and the rhetoric of Soviet modernity with a familiar, though distorted logic of coloniality at its base. The post-Soviet subject today comes under the direct influence of the harsh global coloniality, which has not required colonialism for quite some time, and which has acquired a virtual character, but did not become any less suppressive or totalitarian as a result.

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In my opinion, the post-Soviet is still poorly conceptualized as a traveling theory, owing to its radical heterogeneity. After all, the inheritors of the second world have completely different local histories, goals, roles, and most importantly. Perspectives in the global world. Whereas some of them/us could hope to enter modernity, although in the role of poor relatives, others are doomed to disappear and never even get a chance to be recognized as people. Some will achieve a critical understanding of their situation and decide to delink from modernity and its myths. But all of that will no longer have any direct relation to socialism.[28] In order to comprehend these varied experiences, there needs to be a transversal, dynamic principle of intersectionality[29] based on the interaction in everyday experience of various types of discrimination which cannot be simply combined or regarded separately.

The post-Soviet space increasingly gravitates towards the unhomeleness, in the spirit of H. Bhabha,[30] as a fairly normal state of plural identity, not requiring any immediate re-rooting. That is why so often in novels, films. Plays, and art-objects created in the last decade. Place itself turns out to be increasingly imagined, virtual, unsteady, fluid, liquid, as though the disappointment of unfulfilled stability (nowadays frequently perceived as stagnation and death) runs parallel to the vanishing physical stability of space. Of course, we are far from the philosophy of the Black Atlantic in the spirit of Paul Gilroy. But the weak rootedness of the post-Soviet subject in the world—the radical dispensability of the lives of the new nomads of global coloniality—is undoubtedly one of the important leitmotifs in the post-Soviet reality and its artistic comprehension.

Many post-Soviet artists, writers and film directors transcend the opposition of tradition and modernity—the tendencies of juxtaposing contemporary (resembling Western) art, and some backwards path into archaics, albeit occasionally stylized (in the so called, national or ethnic art). The elements of traditional national culture or lifestyle are no longer marked once and for all as archaic, but intertwine with contemporary traits (not necessarily seen positively) outside the familiar “either/or” logic. What happens is a shuffling of times, grounded in a rejection of the vectoriality of time, of a straight arrow from tradition into modernity. One gets the impression that everything in these works exists simultaneously, and does not exclude, but rather complements one another. What emerges is a harmonious combination of rational and emotional: a sensibility—liberated from the shackling aesthetic canons and emanating from the heart, from childhood, from the soul—and at the same time, a conceptual analytical interpretation of an educated and aesthetically savvy individual, well-versed in contemporary (Western, by default) art, all the while, owing to his or her border position. Possessing a stereoscopic vision unattainable in any holistic, monotopic model. They do not attempt to return to the imaginary primordialism, which becomes an ersatz before it is fully embodied; instead, they oppose an Other unofficial identity to today’s postcolonial third-rate modernity, thus producing a shocking and sobering effect.

The carriers of this variety of post-Soviet sensibility respond to Maria Lugones’ model of the playful traveler, juggling cultures and traveling to other people’s worlds with a loving perception.[31] At the same time, they always maintain an ironic distance, a border balancing on the verge of the tragic and the comic, as well as a grotesque estrangement from both Western allusions and non-Western imagery. Such border trickster art at the intersection of ontology and epistemology becomes effective in the process of liberation of knowledge, being, and perception, from the myths and limitations of modernity.

Moscow, 2014


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