Binaries

© JStadnicki 2014

With the Doomsday Clock adjusted to one hundred seconds to midnight, it seems that the scientific community points a finger to the inevitable end which could engulf the world any day now. It is a narrative we are used to from history manuals and our recent past. Textbooks are full of numbers and data.

Unifications and destructions, wars and peace treaties, revolutions and resolutions. The collective conscious, mapped by dichotomies, makes better sense of realities when they are placed in opposition. It is a cultural binary thinking, focused on good-better-best and bad-worse-worst. It is easier to make meaning of things in conflict, as it is easier to understand war better than peace.

History always takes a closer look at how cultures come into being and how they are destroyed, and takes less time to look at what happened in between. The complexities of development entail, besides time, a higher level of engagement and perception. The consistent preoccupation with the specifics of our apocalypse is not just the measure of our own selfishness, but a fundamental thinking flaw, characterised by fear and apathy. Looking at how communities got to meet their ends, without taking time to reflect on solutions, is bound to bring the finale even closer. Fear and adrenaline rush end up in apathy. They have done so for thousands of years, and brought us where we are today.

© Maria Stadnicka 2020

Otherhood

Last time my brother and I talked poetry, we ended up

arguing. His five-year old daughter found my book easy

to read, though it had a major flaw. No pictures. It made

everyone rather uncomfortable. Having to explain words

like ‘deluge’, ‘carnal’, ‘empiric’ without visual clues, it is

beyond my fatherly competency, he said. I often thought

that …Plus, he added, each time you write about me, things

get so twisted I’m not sure whether it’s me you refer to or…

I often think it’s the idea of him, or a bucket of old stuff

we picked up together moving about in the world. They are

mostly words he now repeats facing a neurologist, hoping

to pass a memory test. It’s me… the… fourth… ofTuesday…

The last time him.

 

© Maria Stadnicka 2020


 

Human Currency


© Maria Stadnicka 2020

Hermit Age

© JStadnicki, Paris 2019

Technology and I are not on good terms as of late. Due to limited memory space, mobile apps keep freezing. Vodanex contacted me a few times already with updated offers then with sound advice which I politely requested to have mailed over. The experts suggest that my memory clutter is most probably coming from the BooksApp; too many pages left open in standby. The longest kept on the waiting list has been Is God Happy?* I flick through an essay on socialism which Leszek Kolakowski started at page fifty-eight and finished at sixty-four. My phone pings: Congratulations! Time for a break! You now reached your daily reading goal!

© Maria Stadnicka 2020


* Kolakowski, L. (2012) Is God Happy? Selected Essays, London: Penguin Modern Classics.

Vertical Takeoff

On 1st October 1972, having just left the Soviet Union, Joseph Brodsky wrote in New York Times a five-thousand words article in which he condemned the political climate in Europe, and worldwide, evaluating its dangerous principles and hunger for domination and destruction. Brodsky expressed his scepticism in reference to all ‘political movements’ which he described as ‘structured methods used to avoid personal responsibility.’

Brodsky defended his belief in a different, and superior, system built on ‘personal movements – movements of the soul when a man who looks at himself is so ashamed that he tries to make some sort of change.’ The article, translated from Russian by Carl Proffer, appeared tangled, verbose and aimless; it sounded like so many other disoriented voices coming from dissidents and defectors of the era, but those who managed to read it in full recognised its unswerving accuracy in describing a failing world system.

Seamus Heaney called it a moment of literary ‘vertical takeoff’, crucial in establishing the capacity of language to go farther and faster than expected and thereby provide an escape from the limitations and preoccupations of the self.

It was, in itself, a warning signal that politics became a psychological danger for humanity, as it engaged people in external fights with the Evil, which automatically made them begin to identify themselves with the Good. And when mankind begins to consider itself bearer of Good, it slides into self-congratulation. This is a state of complacency which Brodsky, who was stateless in 1972, saw it as the source of everything that was radically bad about people.

Brodsky carefully re-considers the role of a united writing community which is vital in opposing official points of view and which should support ‘personal movements’ by engaging with our society in real exercises of reflection and learning. This engagement, however, is built on access to books, not articles about books; direct contact with ideas, not ‘pre-packed’ blurbs.

The latest PN Review editorial comments on the closure of nearly 800 British libraries over the past ten years. The Trump era defines how we conduct literature not only politics. ‘The triumph of the tweet’ reduced our engagement with books to a suite of emoticons, in which the responsibility for personal engagement with ideas is a constant forward-re-tweet and a sum of likes. Bring me someone who sits down to read War and Peace or a five-thousand words article in New York Times. I’ll be either their friend or their follower.

© Maria Stadnicka 2020


Brodsky, J. (1972) ‘A writer is a lonely traveler’. New York Times, 1st October 1972. Available here.

Brodsky, J. (1997) On Grief and Reason. Essays, London: Penguin Books.

PNR, January-February 2020, vol. 46, no.3.

 

Art Climate

Sculpture © Khalil Chishtee

Artist Khalil Chishtee creates work from discarded plastic bags, expressing feelings of sorrow, dejection and even victimhood. He creates art from used plastic bags and he believes that art needs to lead to self-discovery and to a deeper understanding of ourselves and others.

Before the climate change entered the public debate, Chishtee (2010) reflected on the notion of recycling in some cultures which was not directly linked to environmental awareness, but with human greed. He referred to his experience and life in Pakistan, before moving his studio to the US.

Here is an interview with Khalil Chishtee, published in Art Now: Contemporary Art of Pakistan.  He currently lives and works in both US and Pakistan.

© Maria Stadnicka, 2020


More information about Khalil Chishtee’s work and major biennales participation is available here.

 

Kafka

© JStadnicki, 2019. London.

 

The other day, during an afternoon nap,

a tramp came to my door with a letter

for the man in apartment three, ground floor.

 

The knock made me jump, then I thought

I could give out some change in return,

but the beggar refused; he was holding

a bunch of keys and left saying ‘till tomorrow.

 

When I opened the envelope, lying flat

in my bunk, a pair of handcuffs and

steel neck chains dropped on my chest.

 

(From Somnia, collection out now at Knives, Forks and Spoons Press, 2020.)

© Maria Stadnicka 2020


 

Somnia is available here.

Reviews available in International Times and Stride Magazine.