ESR 1 Blog April/May 2022: Gabor Erlich

It has been two months and there seems to be no ending to the war in Ukraine. In my previous entry, I called it Putin’s war in Ukraine, which, I would like to take back now, based on what I’ve learned from Ukrainian comrades as well as people from many different national identities who have been living under the imperial aggression of Russia. Yes, it is clear, that this war, or the entire machinery of Russian imperialism, cannot possibly be carried out by one crazy man in power. It has and will always need many crazy people aspiring to ‘power’. The scariest thing is to honestly acknowledge the sheer volume of those who perpetuate, legitimise, or just approve a murderous regime.

Saying that a month after the fourth consecutive supermajority won by Hungary’s Viktor Orbán is not at all an attempt to present the two murderous regimes as equal. But there is definitely something to be told about the reasons masses vote for (post)fascist autocrats.

This time I will not go down on that though.

I really appreciate the saying by Jeremy Deller, a statement of his artistic practice, that goes along the lines of ‘creating context rather than content’, although, in these days, I feel that all the context around is suffocating. Yet, the answer, at least in my understanding, cannot be one that advocates for a sort of neo-contentism, that is, the return to the challenged domain of autonomous creation.

I guess what I want to say is that I have started my fieldwork in Warsaw and it’s been confusing and fascinating and heavy and wonderful.

Confusing, because it’s yet another new city, and believe me when I say that after a long winter in Reykjavik, Warsaw feels enormous. I am learning about the city, or better, I have to learn the city rapidly, given my limited amount of time here; and also on multiple levels. The psycho-geographic part is great, but I’ll admit that often I submit to the power of online maps in order not to be late for a meeting. Confusing also on the professional level – as you might already know, I am not an academic, but am trained as an artist and have become somewhat of an artist/activist. This dual position does create some confusion around the border between participation and observation, which, I believe, will have a fruitful impact on my future writing, although, this takes time to grapple with.

Fascinating, insofar as I feel I am enlarging my professional network. I have met excellent practitioners who are more than accommodating, and for that I am truly grateful.

Heavy, because, well, because this is a crazy war, and because of its impact on the everyday life of people, many of whom find refuge in Warsaw, or have found refuge, such as the amazing young artists behind the Sunflower Cultural Centre. Plus, the results of the Hungarian elections and the ways it will influence the region.

And finally, wonderful, for all the aforementioned reasons.

In the upcoming two months I will be focusing on this question of the position of the researcher, and the distance he or she (doesn’t) have between their activity and the field of research. I tried to plan this fieldwork so that different research approaches would enable different level of involvement. I will carry out long semi-structured interviews and will organise and facilitate focus-group discussions. In addition, Sophie and I are planning an event around decolonialism as part of the Biennale Warszawa, and thinking about many more smaller collaborations to come.

Here’s to that!

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