Krakow Diary Day #10 (Tuesday Sep. 26): On the Funkiness of East European Sculpture

I cannot avoid the subject any longer. I have been challenged to explain why I insist on 1) calling a sculpture "East European" and on 2) calling East European sculptures funky."

It was Katja, in her comment below and in the background of this photo), who put this challenge to me. To make matters worse, a friend of mine write, in an email to me (he was apparently too cowardly to publish it as a comment. He wrote, somewhat threateningly:

"Noch schreibst du mit ironischer Distanz über die slawische Bohéme. Warte nur bis die östliche Subversion dich von Grund auf - wie man früher gesagt hätte - bolschewisiert haben wird! Erste Anzeichen werden sein: du stellst die Friseurbesuche und das Rasieren ein, und plötzlich verweilst du auffällig länger vor den Pfeifenauslagen von Tabakgeschäften! Weitere Anzeichen: sich anbiedern, in ukrainischen Problembüchern verewigt zu werden - und sei es als sterbendes Kapitalistenungeziefer! Vom Wodka ganz zu schweigen!

"Und soeben lese ich von den haarigen Diskussionen, die unter Autoren, bzw. unter Autorinnen geführt werden. Let me tell you one thing: Wie du siehst, haben wir komplizierten, individuellen und unetikettierten Deutschen/Europäer noch immer das letzte (intellektuelle) Wort - hah! Und was für ein fantastisches Wort! Sag ihr, ich liebe alle sich auf Moleküle berufenden Erklärungen! 1:0 Leipzig vs. Honolulu. Die Zeit ist jetzt gekommen, dass es sich rächt, immer nur Mittelalternovels gelesen zu haben statt die Werkausgabe von Marx/Engels."

I see no other choice but to apply myself herewith to the Funkiness Question.

Here, dear Katja, is my answer:

That sculpture is East European neither because it is in Eastern Europe nor because an Eastern European made it: It has an East European flair (which is very similar to a Scandinavian flair.)

This is clearly a sculpture about the condition of man – run down by the machinery of life, fleeing but taking his burden with him, etc. But at the same time it is pleasing top the eye. Even beautiful. The man portrayed could be flying (or, as my hero Woody once said, falling with style). Eastern Europeans tend to do this kind of thing – they take a drastically depressing background theory and make something out of it that you would be happy to have in your living room. That is how I define funkiness.

The Germans are exactly the opposite: When they make a sculpture about the futility and hardship of life, there's nothing "pleasing" about it. It's all glass shards and barbed wire and blood. You can hear it scream, it's full of tension, pain and depression. When it comes to tension, depression and pain, the Germans are very serious. You don’t want to put that German sculpture in your living room. But you want to abstain from eating or drinking anything for several hours after seeing it.

That's what often makes East European sculpture recognizable. Of course it helped that I asked our babysitter Renate, and she confirmed that the artist was a young East European.

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