Bonus January Edition
a few conversations with some friends during the last few days, as well as some good resources that i’ve found, have inspired me to write tonight. this will likely be a stream of consciousness that i won’t edit too much, it feels important to me right now to just get out. song for this read:
the makers of Kajet (very cool pub, check it out) have launched a sister publication called The Future Of, with the first edition focusing on nostalgia. one of the essays, titled Boym’s Berlin touched on something interesting about the city:
[Berlin’s] identity cannot be reformed in the ruins of history or in the illusory reconstruction of an arbitrarily selected past. The new city comes together into life as a collage, a mosaic, a palimpsest, a puzzle. — Svetlana Boym, The Future of Nostalgia
as many of you know, i have been seriously thinking about moving to berlin once i graduate for several months. i am intrigued by the potential project of living in a city that is struggling with the same. this also hit another nerve that’s been on my mind…
i oftentimes feel frustrated by the spaces i find myself in in nyc (mainly nyu) for a few reasons - i have discussed this in a few of my previous posts, especially the one prior. this frustration feels most acute when it comes to my identity and my peers lack of knowledge about it. besides oftentimes not knowing where romania is on a map, i too experience numerous microaggressions. my culture is assumed to be russian, my lunches were made fun of being stinky when i was younger (my parents actually worked overtime to be able to afford the pizza lunches at my elementary school so i could fit in…), my name is mispronounced and misspelled constantly, i have been told my english accent sounds great for someone brought to the us only for my parent’s computer science knowledge. not to mention the jokes that are told about balkan men and women that are seemingly thrown around from people who consider themselves as ‘woke’ and largely ‘politically correct.’ (for some reason i am reminded of the ‘is italy real’ memes that genuinely pissed me off so much.) not even to mention the long history of racism within europe against southern and eastern europeans, or the history of wealth extraction (read: colonialism) under the rule of the romans, ottomans, austro-hungarians, nazis, soviets, and now western european financial powers like france and germany. it is no mistake that romania and ukraine are the two poorest countries in the eu. don’t get me wrong, i am in no way trying to completely equate my experience in any way to other marginalized groups - i am still a white man in the united states attending class in an elite university who will likely work in big tech. romania was colonized, but this was not the same form of colonialism that has existed (and still exists) in other parts of the world.
still, my journey to where i am now is not a simple one, and i am incredibly frustrated (i feel a deep-lying anger even writing this) when people assume things about me that contradict this reality. this would be less frustrating if people were to be more open to learn about this, but oftentimes people do not seemingly care. does my culture matter less because it is a small one? this is the impression i often get. there is so much to romania that is interesting and nuanced: it has been on the borders of empires for much of its history, creating a true ‘melting pot’ of culture (i actually hate the term melting pot as its been co-opted in the us, more on this later), it can be considered both part of the east and west, i could go on and on. i feel as if i need to go on monologues when someone says something that really ticks me off. this feeling reminds me of another article that stood out in kajet, patricia couvet’s “the inherited division: an essay about artistic research on cultural heritage and the platform ‘archiving gaps.’” it focused on cultural heritage, which is an ongoing romanian project.
Cultural heritage refocuses attention onto one event or one person to shape a counter-memory to the 19th and 20th-century disillusionment with imperialism, communism, and capitalism.
but even this is being commodified by capitalism. made me think of this tweet:
… which relates to another quote that stuck out from couvet’s piece:
To what extent can we consider that our globalised world produces a common heritage? Will this help us consider a non-hierarchical reflection on heritage that decentralises Western knowledge? The project “Rituals 2020” shows similarities that spiritual practices share between various societies in order to reduce oppositions between cult practices. Arnaud’s visual research represents another view on immaterial cultural heritage which is often considered exotic, folkloric, or national.
again - american ‘melting pot’ multiculturalism being co-opted imo.
moving in a slightly different direction, another reason i feel particularly frustrated when faced to recon with my cultural identity in various contexts is because of romania’s very own ‘lost generation’ turning its back and attempting a nation re-build. pair this with the wealth and educational flight in the country for the last 100 years.. so much cultural work (art, archival efforts, public monument and land preservation, etc.) has been severely diminished. couvet comments on unequal preservation of heritage in europe:
There is inconspicuous inequality in the preservation of heritage in Europe and, through the injection of funds, most central or eastern European countries can afford to legitimize the appropriation of their heritage. On the other hand, there is standardization in this appropriation which Shabohin associates with consumption. We have become used to design images of the Vitebsk heritage; their legacy has been commodified as another product of consumption. Beyond the East vs. West dichotomy, we share the same globalized world view that instrumentalizes cultural heritage for the socio-cultural profit of national policies and the accumulation of private capital alike.
she also later also grounds the discussion to the present day with further discussion of EU initiatives and the delicacies this entails re consumption. (p.s.: i lightly discussed sexuality and masculinity in my last post, which add another layer of complexity of my own personal frustration when facing identity more broadly in nyu spaces.)
it is no surprise that my own (as well as romania’s) sloshed and converging identities have led me to ingest a lot of žižek recently. i have particularly enjoyed philosophy for cynical times and why white liberals like to humiliate themselves.
to conclude, i’d like to share a poem from my friend Aarushi’s latest collection that i liked a lot:
exchange In january we wait for longer days and tips of noses heated by soft kisses You may look at me crazy when i say that all i've ever dreamed of was a yellow lamp in a dark room filled with clutter and empty cardboard boxes All i wanted was for you to share your sound and accept the silence i share in return In this and all my life i promise i'm listening
misc. links (mainly design)
Why Don’t We Kiss Our Friends More? - especially post pandemic, it’d be interesting to see if i could change my relationship with touch. as one who still kisses his parents.
Reggie James designed a conceptual church - pretty cool!
The Density of Happiness - I am skeptical of people using substances for happiness. while i think it’d be cool to experience these highs, i approach this with the POV of someone who has struggled with happiness for much of the last 5-10 years, and is therefore made uncomfortable by the idea of relying on substances for more happiness. dear reader, what’s your take on this?
that is all,