Sunday, April 26, 2009

Books : East by Anzenberger (Part 3)

Third post decicated to East Book edited and produced by Regina Anzenberger , this time I will introduce 5 essays from the book. The first one was my essay done on my project done in Chongqing which is technically to be the biggest city in the world. Again i want to remark the great work from Robert Haidinger in preparing the texts on each essay:

Chongqing : The Megacity on China's Horizon (by me......)

Endless suburbs, speckled with fallow land of concrete. And in the distance, at the hazy horizon, shimmers the diffuse verticality of power: groups of high-rises that could delude the viewer into thinking this is a city centre but is simply bigger than the other districts. The new skyline is radiant with indifference, and yet its shimmer hypnotises. No, megacities generally do not look democratic. The measure of urbanisation remains behind urban growth. And when such places create identification, they mostly do so indirectly in the form of barrack villages that can be wiped off the map if need be – like fly droppings on an urban-planning master plan. A megacity has grown up between the Yangtze and the Chia-ling rivers. Two and a half hours by plane from Shanghai, the city is already home to more than 35 million people – more than New Delhi and New York combined. The city is called Chongqing and is a new beginning and springboard at the same time. Chongqing is intended to adopt its share of the 150 million Chinese who are part of the economic giant’s biggest rural exodus in history. The urban conglomeration is already the most important bridgehead in opening up China’s West. Chongqing simply grows and grows, by half a million inhabitants per year, in an area the size of Austria, that cost 160 billion euros, and takes eight hours to cross by car. Whether such anonymous, semi-urban zones can offer real protection? Seeing the jacket worn over the head and the solitary silk umbrella in Mattioli’s pictures can make one imagine it: a feeling of security will remain a private matter for some time to come.

Young Russian : The Post-Soviet Generation by Rafal Milach

No ermine in sight. But no pictures of the losers in the new system either: the people sleeping in the metro and the street children who today define the flip side of the Russian economic boom. And when these young Russians in their steel-blue worker’s overalls peer into the camera, they are certainly not uniformed working-class heroes. Rafal Milach preferred to avoid the commonplace extremes. The superrich and the desperately poor: those images of the country’s sharp contrasts would have been a too simplistic subject. Instead, Milach turns his lens to Russian society where its future is manifest: the generation of 30-somethings. These are Russians for whom the USSR perhaps provided their early upbringing but who have grown up under the dripping faucet of Western pop-culture. The sometimes strange backgrounds – the high-rise flats behind the military jet, the bare walls of a student dormitory – provide at second glance something that soon seems almost familiar in its unimportance. At some point Milach’s essay takes on a dynamism of its own. That is noticeable in the authenticity of his emotional nuances. The more time the photographer invested in his project, the sharper the focus became. Soon the locations of his first images – military academies, correctional facilities– were supplanted by pictures of young people, who often enough became friends. The increasingly close contact and intimacy, but also the variety of the individual characters, thus tell us more, and more exactly, about the mood of a Russian generation than thousands of images of the extremes.

The Legacy of the Curds by Fatih Pinar

Life between old songs and the soil. Resting in the shadow of villages that often only exist in the memories of the old. It would probably have been setting sights too low to try to depict the drama of fifteen million Kurds through the eyes of radical left-wing resistance groups such as the PKK. That should be clear from the range of violence alone. Three thousand Kurdish settlements have been wiped off the map in recent decades. The number of displaced persons is estimated at 378,000. Thus the depth of the loss is also great, along with the scale of the destruction to this people who have their own language, traditions and history. As a rule location is also an important part of cultural continuity. A people defines itself, when not by a country, then at least by a region. This formula is really the basis of survival and thus of the future for this group of Kurdish cattle breeders and farmers. The density, inevitability and immediacy of these bonds is clear in Fatih Pinar’s pictures, which he took over a period of six years. The people and their ancestral homeland seem to be of one piece. The colour of the soil and the skin of the faces, the traces of destruction and the aspect of the present blur into a single, homogenous subject. Even the Kurdish language, suppressed by the Turkish state, seems to have grown stronger. What these pictures exude is a silence with the same colour of clay as Anatolia’s dust.

Inside Georgia by Janis Pipars

Leonardo da Vinci never made it to Georgia. But the “Last Supper”, the prototype of every scene that depicts the communication between body and soul is found here nonetheless. Not once but dozens of times. Beneath the gnarled trees of this Caucasian land and in its dark and gloomy farmsteads. The plastic tablecloths of the postmodern age, which tell of the power of metamorphosis and of the new face of the old table, may underlie the related triptych, but not cover it up. Georgia: wine and soul – that could well be the title. And: Georgia, the country of the grand gesture, behind which an even grander generosity is hidden, and of covered tables of archaic power. Janis Pipars has repeatedly been reminded of Leonardo’s “Last Supper”. Not that he set out explicitly with that in mind. Rather one could rightly say: along the way it was Georgia itself, directly, sometimes in rubber boots, on the dance floor and, in any case, from person to person, from host to guest of honour, from the grey of the periphery straight into the heart. The keywords were always: an inspired landscape, spirituality. That is what flows from these pictures. With open pores, just as sensual fragrances take over a poorly illuminated room where a banquet is being spontaneously held. And never as strong as when Georgia’s spiritual depth is embracing the people where a break with tradition has apparently taken place long ago: amidst the armour-concrete-fragmented structural physicality of kolkhoz and suburb.

Not Natasha - The Sex Slave Trade in Moldova by Dana Popa

A chair seat that has broken away from the frame, telling a tale of falling off one’s chair onto a false floor. A face hiding behind a brunette wig, telling the story of people disappearing behind a tissue of lies. An arm showing the marks that a belt wielded in anger can leave behind. Still visible now, but even after they disappear they remain forever. A white bed sheet. If one thinks of a wedding, death may be the bridegroom. And a terse newspaper ad, circled in black. One suspects the circle will reveal itself to be a noose, or as a tunnel from which there is no escape. More likely the entrance to hell itself. These are subtle signs that appear next to the women or in rooms that they have long since left behind. Other girls will follow, and with them the same delicate fragility that provides the basic motif for this essay. Moldova, the poorhouse of Europe, is a hub for an industry that is just as illegal as it is profitable: the trade in sex slaves. The later stages of suffering are well known: prompt delivery to the meat market a bordello, rape, beatings, confiscation of passports, the pressure towards drug addiction. Often schizophrenia is the result, followed by AIDS. A vicious circle that the Romanian photographer Irina Dana Popa has analysed in all its subtlety. Her pictures are of a screaming silence, of women for whom only one pathway to flight remains: the ghastly realm of inner emigration.