Between Reader and Writer: An Interview with Dubravka Ugrešić
"This time last year, I was living in Berlin, where I spent an inordinate amount of my time sleeping. The days in fall and winter there look far too much like night: the sun rises late and sets early and doesn’t really do much shining in between. The sheer number of hours I spent in bed was something I felt perpetually guilty about, until one day, a friend sent me an excerpt from a novel she was reading, The Museum of Unconditional Surrender, by Dubravka Ugrešić."
"Finding Lucia in the archive was like catching a glimpse of myself. I took to her story personally; she became my companion as I mined a historical record that has not deigned to preserve many of history's women. [...] I read through her diaries, written as a young girl in Prague, and then later, as a woman at the Bauhaus, married to one of the school’s most esteemed 'masters.' And I looked through her photographs, taken of and by herself. I read her letters.
I’d stumbled upon her and looked into her life; an accidental intimacy."
"Look into the lake, Braid algae with your mouth and down below I fetch you, I lay you down in a paper airplane. And it flies…"
translated from the slovak
in molossus (february 2016)
Object of Desire
By the time Kracauer published one such essay, “The Little Typewriter,” in 1927, he was an editor at the Frankfurter Zeitung, the paper in which it appeared. (Walter Benjamin was also a contributor there at that time, and later a fellow exile in France, though he would not be as fortunate in his attempt at U.S. immigration, to tragic outcome.) In “The Little Typewriter,” Kracauer offers a cautionary tale against commodity fetishization with humor, while also conjuring an uncomfortable metaphor to do with the purchase of women and the use of their bodies for pleasure. The reader is left to wonder: is the story an exercise in making an object woman, or thinly describing a woman as object?
"I could not but think about renewed border controls in the EU territory within the context of, and in comparison to, travel in the period between the two World Wars. At that time, Europeans (as well as travelers from further afield) enjoyed a newly open, post-war terrain. The physical movement of bodies, facilitated also by new and faster modes of travel, helped to open up an unprecedented level of exchange between artists and intellectuals of diverse backgrounds and languages. In that brief window of freedom of movement between the two World Wars, Paris was a hub of such traffic, and many visitors came from Prague."
The portrait is central to Stein’s body of work; it appears in her own writing and in the renderings of her by the “geniuses” with which she surrounded herself, over and again. Stein’s life and image are alluring, and it is no wonder so many have tried to capture it. But it is difficult to paint a true picture of Stein. Structuralism would have us separate the biography from the work of the author, but with Stein, when the biography is so often the work itself, that is not so easily done. So I struggle to hold my admiration for this woman’s work, made among men and in her own image, alongside all the unpleasant truths of the woman herself.
But somehow the Picabia portrait at MoMA allows me in looking, just for that moment, only to love.
'To Reach Over the Border': An International Conversation between the Bauhaus and Devětsil
In the spring of 1923, Walter Gropius (1883-1969), who was then the director of the Bauhaus and was to become one of the most famous architects of the Twentieth Century, wrote from Weimar to Karel Teige (1900-1951) in Prague: ‘It makes me very happy that I have found in you a contact with the Czech architecture movement.’Teige was at the forefront of a cohort of young artists, writers, architects, and actors who had founded the group Devětsil in December of 1920. The circle employed a variety of strategies—including publication, lectures, exhibitions, and travel—to spread its influence both at home, and abroad, and the mid-decade correspondence between Teige and Gropius is a telling indicator of the success of this exchange.
"Between the two world wars, artists in Europe enjoyed an unprecedented level of exchange, and often worked together across borders to create a non-national, universal response to the shattering absurdity of war. The networks of the avant-garde were established and intensified through travel and correspondence, as well as the distribution of the material products of an art that boldly envisioned a new Europe: namely, the magazines. In the magazines, we can see editors, artists, poets, architects, and theorists grappling with the devastation wrought of mechanized warfare, and seeking to wrestle new technologies to wholly different aims. [...] The Ukrainian–born, Soviet writer Ilya Ehrenburg had proclaimed, “The new art is no longer art,” and this was a slogan picked up by avant-garde practitioners as a nonviolent call to arms."
guest edited special feature on central european avant-garde visual poetry for words without borders (november 2016)
"The period between the two world wars in Europe marked a moment of intensive artistic and intellectual exchange. One way such exchange was facilitated between the avant-gardes of various countries was in print, some of the better-known examples being L’Esprit nouveau in France, the Bauhaus books in Germany, and the (typically Anglophone) “little magazines” such as Blast and the international project Broom. But the capacity for magazines published in “minor” languages—including Czech, Polish, Serbo-Croatian, and Hungarian—to engage in this exchange and thereby reflect and inform contemporary literary and aesthetic trends beyond their borders, has gone largely unconsidered. The MoMA Library’s current exhibition THE ELECTRO-LIBRARY: European Avant-Garde Magazines from the 1920s helps to correct this oversight, showing how important these magazines are to the history of the interwar avant-garde and to the avant-garde periodical, and gives the visitor some insight into the strategies employed in these magazines, by which their editors engaged in transnational conversations. Through the use of non-textual cues, such as photography and graphic design, as well as the employment of translation and multilingualism, the magazines included in the exhibition, such as Disk and Pásmo (Czech), Zenit (Yugoslav), Ma (Hungarian, based in Vienna), Blok (Polish), and Veshch (Russian, based in Berlin), were able to reach wide audiences at home and abroad, and visually convey their shared affinities."