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ZITA OBERWALDER

Part of the game 2020 | reloaded | Last Player

RIVERS OF WHITE SPACE 
Mittwoch, 10.06.2020 bis Dienstag, 23.06.2020, 16:00 bis 19:00 Uhr

Die Reise beginnt an der Grenze zwischen Europa und Russland am Grenzfluss Narwa, und führt in 7 Stationen zum Schwarzen Meer. In assoziativen (Vorschau) - Stills wird die Fortsetzung des Weges zum Projekt: Hotel Europa angedeutet.

OT_Narva_©zita oberwalder2019©zita oberwalder 820.jpg

Eastern Europe: wind in the curtains
By Andriy Lyubka
Horse is as everyone can see. In 1746 Benedykt Chmielowski compiled the first encyclopedia in Polish called “Nowe Ateny”. He had to describe a horse that had been on Noah’s Ark in the section on animals. The encyclopedic article began as follows: “Koń jaki jest, każdy widzi (Horse is as everyone can see)”. It was so obvious that the encyclopedist did not consider it necessary to describe the horse at that time. 

Something like this is happening with our perception of Europe today, for it is often misunderstood and thus limited to the European Union alone. Everybody thinks that they perfectly know and understand Eastern Europe. But we travel, cross the borders and see that in some way Eastern and Western Europe differ – first of all in the context of beauty. When Western cities are nice, with large historical city centers and rich medieval architecture, Eastern cities are rather poor and grey, full of concrete and ugly buildings. But still, they have some kind of magnetic charm, some taste of exotic and anachronistic times. 

I wrote a few sentences about a famous Eastern European city below. I don’t name it, because the following lines can refer to almost every region, town or city in our part of the continent: wars, pogroms, and fires have led to the situation when you can either see some ancient, mostly sacred architecture, or something recent and modern in X. You come across the excavations of the ancient polis that existed here prior to our era just amidst the dwelling houses in several parts of the old city. Modern architecture, especially the living quarters built in the seventies and eighties, is as ugly as it is in the rest of the world. I didn’t feel the lack of old architecture here in this city but I lacked people, genuine locals. The epoch of nationalism and two world wars destroyed X, they ruined the very idea of the city-universe. Clearing the city of the Others, of barbarians who speak a different language, believe in another God, wear other clothes and have a different shade of skin is like painting a tower with lime, trying to hide the true history. What was left here, in X? Is it only concrete and stones? The whole of Eastern Europe has experienced major resettlement and the persecution of minorities. Cities that used to be truly multicultural have become their own pale shadow. Once a great city now resembles Karagiozis – a famous Turkish theatre of shadows.  Walking through its streets, you can imagine its former greatness and multilingualism, a local Babylon, and all the exiled from X become only ghosts, shadows roaming the streets, looking at you from the windows far away, giving themselves away by a movement resembling the wind in the curtains. 

After all, my native Uzhhorod, Lviv, Chernivtsi, or Odesa do not exist anymore either, because there is no polyphony of their residents. Kyiv, Prague, Trieste, Minsk, Thessaloniki, Warsaw, Riga – many cities in our part of the world lost their souls due to the extermination and the exodus of the multi-ethnic population, and preserved only cold, dead outlines of the past splendour. Today they remind me of a pot that once used to cook a fragrant and delicious dish. Later the ingredients were taken out of it – and now there’s only some boiling salty water left in it. Salty water is as everyone can taste. Or at least see – on these photos, in the night dreams or behind the curtains of abandoned houses.