Veronika Shuster




IN BETWEEN:
NOSTALGIE AS A MEAN OF CONSTRUCTING REALITY

In the age of Covid-19, the fragility and instability of reality became clearer to me. Add to this the death, which for many of us came to the fore, and fear, the feeling of misunderstanding where and how to move forward. It seems that if the world is not moving to the end, then to a completely new reality - to the New Now.



And then, starting from the concept of movement, I looked at this New Now in terms of space and time: where and when are we living?

It seems so fragile and elusive, but one point is stable — New Now is always in Between. It is stuck between The Past and The Future, between two worlds and realities: one of them has already gone and one is always moving away with tremendous speed. There is something behind, and there is something ahead, it is the time between reality and dreaming. This is an eternally long period of time from point A to point B, in which no one can know for sure whether we will reach this ghostly B.

If the New Now would be a role model or a card, it would be `Angelus Novus`, created by Paul Klee.


The painting, created exactly 100 years ago, was purchased by Walter Benjamin and later described in an essay of the same name:

`A Klee painting named ‘Angelus Novus’ shows an angel looking as though he is about to move away from something he is fixedly contemplating. His eyes are staring, his mouth is open, his wings are spread. This is how one pictures the angel of history. His face is turned toward the past. Where we perceive a chain of events, he sees one single catastrophe which keeps piling wreckage and hurls it in front of his feet. The angel would like to stay, awaken the dead, and make whole what has been smashed. But a storm is blowing in from Paradise; it has got caught in his wings with such a violence that the angel can no longer close them. The storm irresistibly propels him into the future to which his back is turned, while the pile of debris before him grows skyward. This storm is what we call progress.`


Walter Benjamin

Where to find a pillar at the end of eras, when catastrophe accompanies us everywhere?

In my opinion, one's own personal history could be a base and an island of stability to move forward to the future in a more optimistic way. We could speak to our memory and find here answers. In fact, it is always easier to travel when you understand that there are shelters, cozy stops on your way. This shelter is an archive of our memories — both individual and collective.


To find a shelter in our memories

It is a kind of magic, but the memory turns buildings, objects, streets and whole cities to speak — but they speak to everyone in a different language. I propose to everyone who reads this text speak to your memory and create a mind map of the surroundings of your home in childhood, to create a relationship with space and time.

When these relations are stable we could feel pleasure of being lost, pleasure from uncertainty, fragility. When you change tactics to flannel, the neurotic search for the right route, typical of the current epoch, disappears, and the option of becoming a pioneer, a great combiner, appears instead. 

I love the quote of Mircea Eliade, considering this topic:

`Some special places qualitatively different from others: the native landscape, the place where the first love was born, the street or the quarter of the first foreign city seen in youth, keep even for the person sincerely non-religious special quality - to be "the only". These are the "holy places" of his personal universe, as if this non-religious being had discovered another reality different from the one in which his everyday existence takes place.`

Mircea Eliade


Thus, the geographical landscape is transferred to the poetic, unreal, or rather surreal. In space we find beautiful fossils of time, and their specific forms are due to a long stay in a certain place. The unconscious has a place. Memories are as still and as strong, as well they are placed in space.


These beautiful fossils could be not only the spaces, but also sacred nostalgic objects, which evoke special memories for you. You could see the examples of such objects in the mini-exhibition below this text.



Surrealistic border state of the space

It could not be so obvious why to speak about surrealists in New Now, while they could seem irrelevant due to the time passed by. However in this fragile state, in my opinion, we have a lesson to learn from these guys. They understand both heterotopy and heterochrony, they understand the tremendous amount of products (which are now produced even fast). But despite this, surrealists choose the way of nostalgia and turn their heads back to the Past, as Angelus Novus did. The quintessence of this nostalgia are Paris`s Passages.


Passages became a place for meetings, inspiration and literary experiments of the early French surrealists. As W. Benjamin notes, "the father of surrealism was dada; his mother — Passage".



However with the coming to power of Baron Osman, the passages were destroyed, and so that for surrealists the passages became the places of nostalgia, remnants of the former Paris, the city of the last century.

Louis Aragon writes in `The Paris Peasant`: `Only today, when the pickaxe threatens them, do [passages] finally become true sanctuaries of the cult of the ephemeral, ghostly landscape and cursed pleasures and professions. Places that were unclear yesterday and will not be known tomorrow. `

Passage became an intermediate space between public and private, between individual and collective and, as I wrote before about the New Now, the space that links the past and the future.

We live in the time which is metaphorically a membrane. I have written about a borderline state, but this border is flickering, it is unstable, vulnerable, not clearly expressed. Aragon called it  `the wonderful consciousness of transition` (conscience exquise d'un passage).



Strategy that surrealist propose to deal with the Now

The time of dozens of narratives, heterochrony and multiculturalism seems to look like chaos. However surrealists propose the strategy to deal with the chaotic structure, and this strategy could be implemented for the New Now. 

There it is: to collage, which means to link what at the first glimpse is unlinked. For me this way of thinking is the key to oppose dichotomy and deconstruction and to overcome the conflict. To collage means to accept all fragments of our reality and to consider all the spectres of colours.  And in this `multiobjectiveness` we could find tremendous beauty and new perspectives. Then the New Now could become, as Lautréamont said, `beautiful as the chance meeting on a dissecting-table of a sewing-machine and an umbrella`.



`MEMORY OF ABSENCE`
The exposition of nostalgic objects, collected by participants of the «NEW NOW Autumn School of Curating» `

`The past is hidden somewhere outside the realm, beyond the reach of intellect, in some material object (in the sensation which that material object will give us) which we do not suspect. And as for that object, it depends on chance whether we come upon it or not before we ourselves must die`.
Marcel Proust

We may not have an opportunity to travel right now, but we could move from one time and space to another thanks to the archive and our own memory.

We may not have an opportunity to return something important for us, but we could find the way to memorialize and to make memory voluminous. I asked my colleagues to refer to the past, to the personal, nostalgic reality and to share objects, which help to get in touch with what is fading away now (or with what has already gone irrevocably). These are beautiful, elegant fossils of the time, which reminds me of Proust's Madeleine cookies.

Together we made the collection of personal histories, the archive, in which we could relay to construct the New Now.



My object is a notepad with an embroidered Sun that was given to me about 10 years ago through a friend. The reason why this notepad means a lot to me is that this person was my first crush and this notepad reminds of our time together. Looking back at this, this person was actually a platonic love, but I didn't know that since I was so young and naive. A while back, this notepad was chewed up by my dog and it was the first time that I was mad that an object had sentimental value to me was damaged. At the moment, we're miles apart and even though we don't talk everyday, I know we're linked even as friends. What makes this notepad even more special is that this person's name happens to mean the sun in India.



This is an object with a funny story. My parents asked me a few years ago what gift I wanted for my birthday. I didn't expect anything from them, and as a joke, I said „o coacăză”, which means „a blackcurrant”, but it's more like a saying, which roughly translates to asking for something absurd as a way of emphasising the absurdity of the question. For us it makes sense, I don't know. So they got me one... a blackcurrant... in a honey jar. I haven't thought about it, and now that I picked it up from the back of the shelf I see the honey started forming crystals. This is funny in a way, it makes me think that this gift is suspended in time like the blackcurrant is now suspended in honey. It's a reminder for me of being humble and the value of the gesture as a symbol of care.

The object I chose is a human bone which I use a small tray for precious looking small objects. There were archaeological diggings after the discovery of the old cemetery underneath the city center and this discoveries were left unattended, unprotected, anybody could go and see and touch the human bones that were once humans. So I took this small bone, I never knew from which part of the body it was but it became a symbol to me. Using it as a “tray” seems cruel, especially after putting in it only small objects that look/are very precious (usually gold colour). But for me it is a constant reminder that things, no matter their preciousness are just materialities, which it seems, is the same with us. After we die, all that is physically left of us  is our bones. I think a lot about “who my bone was” and resurrect its existence just by thoughts. It is among my dearest “objects”.

I have many objects which are mostly useless, but better fitting the emptiness. They remind memory of a place (for example I got Gift from the tannery, Gift from the silo/bin, Gift from the cemetery, Gift from our old flat). I got this object from my father 4 month before he died. It was his almost his last trip “outside the home” together with my mother.



On the move, again

and the only dear objects I have with me

Are my coats

You asked me for a description and I obey:

A traveller to cold places

Dark

Scary

And wet

But it's not what it seems

There are also:

Warm

Happy

And curious

Empowered

Slippery

Fluid

For my age of 23 I was playing with my father in some special “game”. We started spontaneously, after I was getting back to life (after a really bad car accident) and my parents took care of me, kept walking slowly with me around czech countryside and trained my memory and svolving my imagination. Sometimes my father found or “stole” some object during his job as a geodesist, sometimes he found it on the Sunday trip, where he was going with my mother. He was one of the last people at the space, which was reconstructed and changed. I am fascinated by this from my childhood.


Not thinking about death by Georgiana Toea

I lost my father 3 years ago and now when I visit his grave I also get distracted by the life in it.

This brings me joy and distracts me from the death thing I often think.

I call it the ‘death thing’ ‘cause it pushes it distant and becomes abstract so put it on a shelf and try not to think about it too much.

But it has life in it so it bends over the shelf and I hold it and think about it some more.

When I see death, I see the life in it.


For more about Veronika Shuster: http://shuster.performer.tilda.ws/artmanager