Tuesday, April 7, 2009
Last night I went to a lecture at the Romanian Cultural Institute here in Stockholm. It was called "På tal om nationella stereotyper" and I got to listen to Dr. Vesna Goldsworthy speak about the various myths about Eastern Europe and in particular Romania. I had seen her on SVT's Kobra a few years ago and quoted her in my last thesis. Now, finally, I got to hear more than the snippet which I found so interesting on that show. I couldn't believe my luck.
Here are some of my notes on what she said about Dracula:
Brittish Victorian rationality pitted against Eastern superstition ("Bells and Spells"). Mumbojumbo, crucifix, garlic etc. A case of reversed colonization. Dracula studies English; he doesn't want to be a stranger in a strange land. Eastern Europeans can't be spotted. ( Under-cover).
In her book Inventing Ruritania- The Imperialism of the Imagination, she discusses Brittish novels set in invented, lovely, all-purpose Balkan countries, like Ruritania and Slovonia. Dr. Golrdsworthy describes the invented Ruritania as a mirror-version of the imagined Transylvania. I have to find her book.
Through the Roof n' Underground- Gogol Bordello
When there is trap set up for you
In every corner of this town
And so you learn the only way to go is underground
When there is a trap set up for you
In every corner of your room
And so you learn the only way to go is through the roof
Ohoh, through the roof, underground
Ohoh, through the roof, underground
And we crossing border after border
We realize the difference is none
It's underdogs who, and if you want it
You always have to make your own fun
And as the upperdog leisurely sighing
The local cultures are dying and dying
The programmed robots are buying and buying
Secluded freaks they are still trying, trying
Just like their meanings they lay between the lines
Between the borders their real countries hide
Their strategies, they advertise
Their strategy of being is one of in-your-face disguise
I listened to this song a lot when I was writing my last thesis. I thought about quoting it but I never found a good place for it. I just wanted to post part of the lyrics which touch on a lot of the things I've been thinking about when it comes to East-West relations, culture and displacement. When Gogol Bordello got popular some years ago, I remember how strange it was to actually be able to connect this music to my eastern European background. This was, in a way, my music. Originally from Ukraine, now based in New York, Gogol Bordello are displaced, enticing the West with their charming hybrid-music, and in the end bringing it back East again. Full circle.
My mom gave me this carpet with a snake-motif. She said " ...and of course, the snake is the protector of the home". Of course, I said.
When I put the carpet up on my wall it instantly made my home Romanian. Carpets are very effective in that way, combining the security of my childhood in my parents home with the one of cultural tradition.
I've visited Romanian relatives and friends in different countries, and their houses and apartments always felt like extended homes to me, mainly because of these beautiful, magical and comical carpets.
Well, things are finally shaping up. I feel like I know what I want to do with this now. After a talk with one of our guest teachers from South Africa I decided I really want to make many of these. At least 20. I want it to be like a strange upside-down forrest which is both beautiful and scary at the same time. And a litte dangerous, because some of those stakes are really sharp!
This is a picture of what was hopefully the last snow. I thought it was pretty. Pretty but wrong.