ESR 3 Blog February 2022: Maria Mkrtycheva

The deadline for this blog entry coincided with the beginning of the war in Ukraine. I felt shocked, angry, desperate, and disempowered and I missed the deadline.

Now mainly understood as a time-related concept, the deadline, however, has emerged as a spatial element. Not making it to the deadline – a fence, a railing or a ditch that surrounded Confederate prison camps during the American Civil War – would mean staying alive. Passing the deadline, on the contrary, resulted in being remorselessly shot down. Yet some prisoners would cross this line deliberately – crazed by punishments and poor conditions, being lost of hope and utterly reckless of life.

This type of state of mind to a great extent resembles the modern (time-related) meaning of the word ‘deadline’. The deadline cancels the sense of the future both on a temporal and spatial level. On a temporal level, a set due date, be it for a project, paper submission or one’s life, blocks the continuity of time and leaves one frozen in the ‘now’. On a spatial level, the deadline creates the constrained, solid, and undialectical system of the ‘here’. This ‘here and now’ grid denies history, as well as hope, and is the perfect embodiment of the ultimate power structure. Whether it is the ditch surrounding the prison or the closing date for applications to a curatorial summer school, a deadline is entrapped in a system which can be communicated with only through the obey/disobey pattern. Choosing one or another strategy is, however, an endlessly losing lottery because of the non-transparent and non-negotiable nature of the grid. Together with the flow of time the deadline prevents the notion of becoming, including the fluidity of personal identity. In the deadline there is always death – a fixed entity that interrupts the dialectic of life, either literally or metaphorically.

The day Russia started the war in Ukraine served as such a deadline. On a temporal level, it marked the superiority of ‘now’ over both past and future. It canceled any possibility to predict, envision, build, dream about or hope for the continuity of time – which equals the impossibility of predicting, envisioning, building, dreaming about, or hoping for a transformation towards a desired world. On a spatial level, there was a throwback to the initial meaning of the word ‘deadline’: the territory – and people in it – were encircled by the uncrossable ditch overnight. Yet many would cross the line deliberately – being lost of hope and crazed by the unpredictability of the future and the unintended consequences of the past. Those who remained (for many reasons) within the ditch, found themselves in a world of abstraction and relativism. In both cases there was always ‘death’ that interrupted life, and not only metaphorically.

When I missed the deadline for this blog entry, I was expecting to find myself in the afterlife. In it I would finish the text without any deadline; and there was no strange numerologic coincidence in dates with the start of the war. But like any utopian image, I saw my afterlife in its final form, not as a process of transformation. So, I hope that the deadline can change its connotations with death and become the point of departure.

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