stop the hotline of death

𝔴𝔥𝔞𝔱 𝔴𝔬𝔲𝔩𝔡 𝔶𝔬𝔲 𝔰𝔞𝔶 𝔦𝔣 𝔱𝔥𝔢 𝔫𝔢𝔴𝔰 𝔴𝔢𝔯𝔢 𝔡𝔢𝔩𝔦𝔳𝔢𝔯𝔢𝔡 𝔱𝔬 𝔶𝔬𝔲 𝔦𝔫 𝔰𝔲𝔠𝔥 𝔣𝔬𝔯𝔪?

I deliver to you bits of news from Poland, in an English-language, bright, and accessible format.

surrealists stuck at home

On St Andrew’s night (Andrzejki) I participated in a Surrealists Stuck At Home workshop ran by Luisa-Maria MacCormack and Philip Webb Gregg (lots of double letters, I know) from the London Drawing Group. Philip writes for the Dark Mountain magazine, studied English lit and creative writing at the Cambridge School of Art, and generally, he writes. Luisa is an artist and gives lectures on feminist art history at LDG.

The session was composed of a number of quick exercises (and lots of nice chatting) with paper, scissors, pen, and markers. It was a lot of fun and here’s what I produced.

Accidental poem composed of written fragments cut out at random
(from a book on Robert and James Adam).
The drawings are random objects from my room.
A poem made by markering out random fragments (from a book on Robert and James Adam)
My room, sketched from four different angles on one sheet of paper.
Materials: pencil, brown and grey pencils, red pen.
A composition of fragments of two surrealist paintings, one by Magritte and one by someone else (it included a scary green gnome), before applying colour.

I’d recommend that kind of session to everyone and anyone, the entry was by donation so you can give as much as you can and want.

complaints video v. 2

Exclusive video content for all blog readers because this video is listed as Unlisted on YouTube so you and only you have access to it!

If that’s not a reason to watch it then I don’t know what is! Oh, wait, I know – my face (although this time from a more unflattering angle) and my collection of photo prints above my bed (see: to the left of my face).

I will talk about: Rietveld, Truus Schroeder-Schraeder’s house (aka the Rietveld-Schroeder House), Le Corbusier peeing on Eileen Gray’s walls, Brno and its position relative to Western Europe, etc.

14 minutes of me talking about what’s wrong with the architectural history course I took this semester. What a treat to start your December right!

Happy last month of 2020!

Week 9: Gorgeous Poland

Oh how fabulous it is to live in my room on the 4th floor in our apartment. I’ve got a gorgeous view and the smell of burnt trash and coal makes me feel right at home. Here I can ultimately relax.

I started watching Gilmore Girls, they’re absolutely amazing. Other than that I’ve worked on my two assignments, both due in week 10. On December 10th I’ve got an exam and then that’s me for the semester. Apart from two subjects, I’ve got my dissertation ongoing, and I need to write a personal statement for this masters course and submit my application.

No pictures right now because I’m feeling lazy.

Typespotting’s the Polish trainspotting

The recent couple of years saw a massive increase in alternative place photography Instagrams. The app started with square, oversaturated, filtered photographs. Then we got the polished photographs, more subtly filtered (thanks vsco) but still severely detached from things looked like in reality. Now we’re blessed with crude authenticity, all ordered with appropriate hashtags, that shows us everything in between the idealised spots from travel grams and tourist brochures. We get seafood store fronts, forgotten communist street sculptures, abandoned holiday resorts. Signage, mosaics, fences and gates, and all sorts of other elements of built environment that are in some way uncanny, outdated, or spectral.

It’s not just a shift in aesthetics, though. It’s a hallmark of the special role Instagram has taken in the media. Insta serves not only our vain attempts to promote ourselves or our brands, or document our daily lives. It’s a platform for connecting like-minded individuals, here: the explorers of hauntology, the spotters of the unordinariness of ordinary things. And it has surely helped take shape many a research project.

The first hashtag I’ll talk about is #duchologia. The prime domain of Olga Drenda (@ducholozka), the author of Duchologia polska. Rzeczy i ludzie w czasach transformacji [Polish hauntology. Things and people in the times of transformation] (Karakter, 2016). But it seems to have been since taken up by many others, predominantly Polish men between the ages of 20 and 40. Each ugly storefront becomes an opportunity for an Instagram photo. If it displays a particularly inventive typeset (composed of self-adhesive vinyl), it receives the hashtags #typopolo, #typehunter or #typespotting.

On the other hand, we also get specialisations. If you’re particularly ardent about fishing, you’d likely tune into the hashtags #szczupakcore. A man named Ross (not really, @podpis_nieczytelny) goes around taking pictures of fishing equipment shops and local offices of the Polish Fishing Association [Polski Związek Wędkarski]. One account (@sklepyrybne) focuses exclusively on seafood stores. There are also large numbers of bus and train station aficionados, using respectively the hashtags #pkscore and #pkpcore, and those who’ve taken to abandoned holiday resorts and cabins – check #ostatniturnus and #osrodekwypoczynkowy.

This is not simply urbex – it’s urbex for the intellectuals. #duchologia began as a strictly academic project, exploring the Polish culture and its material expression of the ambivalent period of late ’80s and ’90s. It may seem obvious that since the photographs are in themselves quite ugly (I mean, decaying furniture and peeling paint are not typically the definition of beautiful), they must have a value beyond their aesthetic quality. That value being: their contribution to research on the material culture of the Transformation. We have e.g. the discoveries on the Diogenes holiday cottage, an innovative design of the 1970s, by @susy_z_doliny_muminkow and @maciejdusiciel. They document actual cultural heritage.

Actually, the photos are actually quite charming. With the postmodern tastes of the 2020s, really, anything goes. Somebody has to listen to vaporwave; my best guess would be that the people who do would also take warmly to the #pkscore aesthetic. But as you roam these decadent regions of Instagram, you can’t rid of feeling like they’re somehow above you. See this ugly peeling storefront that you walk past indifferently? You don’t see what’s behind it. I see it. Your seeing is too narrow… and you surely have not read about Derrida’s hauntology.

Perhaps to fully understand them, we should go and read on Derrida’s hauntology. But if you don’t want to, you can still take delight in the decomposing architecture of the 1970s and shabby, peeling vinyl stickers. And look around you closely next time you take a bus or a train – the hidden charm of the long outdated design of the station might just sway you.

TypoPolo, Album typograficzno-fotograficzny, Rene Wawrzkiewicz (ed.),
Fundacja Bęc Zmiana, 2014.

Hashtags and accounts that inspired this post (thanks be to):
#duchologia #newtopographics #typography #postsoviet #typehunter #typespotting #duchoszyld #reliktyprl #pkscore #pkpcore #szczupakcore #duchologiapolska
@ducholozka, @maciejdusiciel, @podpis_nieczytelny, @susy_z_doliny_muminkow, @szumyzlepy, @kratki_furtki_plotki, @sklepyrybne, @prspctiv_, @cosmoderna, and many other.

Week 8: Move to Poland

This week was quite busy but wonderful. I spent a lot of time sorting out everything before flying back to Poland to study from home. I have to say I was quite well organised, and I managed to see everybody I wanted to see before my departure. On Monday I saw my DPD courier (just kidding… I mean, he did come to pick up my book+clothes parcel I was mailing back home, and he was Polish. Best wishes to Driver Karol). On Wednesday I saw my former flatmate and two postgraduate students from my architectural history course. They’re both doing MSc Architectural History and Theory, the programme I was so obsessed with last year, but by now I have completely fallen out of love with it. Which is fair enough. I’ve even managed to fall in and out of love with MA Research Architecture at Goldsmiths. I feel like choosing a postgrad programme has a lot to do with emotion, but you still have to have cold reasoning behind your choice to make it really solid, so that it stands even once your emotions cool down.

I saw my friend L. on Tuesday and we had a fabulous coffee and walked up Castle Hill. On Monday I also had an appointment with the careers advisor from my university, and it was very productive, I think. I still haven’t got my MA personal statement anywhere near completion, but I’ve got a better idea on how to approach looking for something to do from May onwards.

On Thursday, I met my artist friend R and we hung out, had free coffees, ate doughnuts and sat in the basement brainstorming colour ideas for the courtyard mural. I also finished up moving everything to my new room one floor up and packing my suitcase. It was obviously overweight, so I had to leave some precious books in my room. Fortunately, I got to the airport alright and the journey was relatively pleasant. The only drawback was the worst sort of Polish emigres, the kind that doesn’t wear the mask on their nose, or doesn’t wear it at all. But Poland is a red zone anyway and two noses probably wouldn’t save it from its other self-destructive tendencies.

Friday was all Adolf Loos; luckily this time there were more questions from other students. Saturday was beigels and coffee from Pers, and Sunday was a walk with my dearest Bydgoskie friend M. It was also sunny and so I went on another walk in the afternoon and got some nice snippets of the beloved UMK campus.

And so this week I am treating you to some beautiful photos of my Polish town.

Dog Pleasantville
It’s coal season bby

Actually you know what?
If you want more photos, just go to my Instagram. There are tons. I posted like nine pics this weekend. (Including beigel pics).

Thanks for reading/watching/sharing!

Week 7 of online learning. The last one in Edinburgh

Is it too early to call it a week? I believe not. Today (Sunday) does not seem to be particularly eventful, so I might as well sit down and relay to you what happened in the last seven days.

This week went extraordinarily well. It was bound to, with the kickstart of a thorough clean-up and pack-up of my room, and the early submission of my TTWA essay plan. (I’m joking, these two things are not related to my success in life at all). On Monday we had an online ‘town hall’ meeting for all the students in the School of Geography, apparently. I couldn’t wait for that meeting – I needed to find out what teaching next semester was projected to look like… and I liked what I found out. Well, sort of. Teaching next semester is supposed to be the same as this semester, which means online (let’s forget that the word ‘hybrid’ even existed). This is bad news in that I really hoped things would be back to normal and I could continue my University Student’s Lifestyle (which means entire days out of home and late evenings in the library). I can’t do that now. But it was good news in the context of me having decided to go home for the next couple of months; honestly, an undefined amount of time as of now. It could be until January (if things go awry), it could be until March even, if fate throws at me some extraordinary subletters. So overall, that ‘town hall’ meeting made my mood good.

Flat white 1, Tuesday.

On Tuesday I decided that I’d been wilting in my horrendous flat for too long, and it was time to stretch my bones and breathe fresh air for once. So I went on a long walk along the Canal, having grabbed a flat white from Costa beforehand. That was the best decision I could’ve made; my coffee even came with a cute little latte art flower. And the Christmas cups are back. Now that’s a herald of change.

The walk was so good that I returned well after 11am, and my not having read emails properly (I’ve been getting SO MANY in the last couple of weeks) resulted in me missing half the class on that day. Who could’ve predicted that the lectured would be delivered live? It was by a lecturer I didn’t know, I think she was a new staff member because she kept being nice and said ‘I’m looking forward to meeting you all’ in the email. What a lovely Scottish lady. But I still missed half of the live class.

Oh well, it was just Ruskin and Stones of Venice. I hadn’t prepared for that class at all, so I may have just saved myself half the embarrassment.

Princes Street Gardens, Saturday morning. I love it when the streets are empty.

Wednesday was the dissertation conference. It was long, but really great. The live contact with staff and students simultaneously was very much needed at this point in the semester (perhaps it even came too late?). It seems like my presentation (which I recorded on Thursday afternoon) was well received, although I’m not sure about the comment to think about how I could include audience reception of the pack in my analysis. They’re always telling us not to do too much; why am I now being told what seems to be the opposite?

Sunny Thursday afternoon in Bruntsfield.

Thursday – a zoom chat with my PT about my plan to go home. He said it’s fine. In the afternoon, a walk with my friend. Sunshine, air, and autumn Edinburgh was also needed!

Friday, I had a lot on. A TTWA Q&A session with the best lecturer in the department, which ended up being just me asking questions for 90% of the session and two other people asking one question each. That’s because no one else volunteered any questions. Well, I didn’t complain; it was very insightful and explored some very interesting topics that lay outside of what we are normally taught in class.

A picture of me with the soldier by Wojtek the soldier bear. Courtesy of a friend! (who might be reading this)

Afterwards we had a not-so-much helpful tutorial on essays, which could’ve just as well been aimed at first year undergraduates. Straight after I went to Roots, and then got back home for my 3pm chat with a lecturer from the methods course. I needed to discuss something about my report feedback, about interviewing and recognising emotions. It was helpful, but I still need to sit down properly for that assignment. Things have naturally been a bit distracting this week, but at least I temporarily moved to a much better room, one that’s much more comfortable and less depressing than my old room (which I paradoxically so loved in third year; though this might be because I only spent nights in there…).

I loved these 50 Shades of Scotland cards a ton.

This is how the weekdays went; and since the weekend had little to do with online learning, I won’t mention it here. I’ll just say that I tried to get as much fresh-air Edinburgh time as I can before my departure. Don’t worry though – my reporting on the online (‘hybrid’) learning experience will continue no matter where I am, continental Europe or otherwise.

Coop coop coop, the source of joy and misery at once.