Fotograf Magazine


The Archaeology of Euphoria: 1985–1995

I’m going to a Prague metro station full of artificial palms, completed in 1994, in a Russian carriage built sometime in the late 1980s; the carriage upholstery and handles were renovated in 2005, and most passengers are staring at their Chinese cell phones. And I’m wondering: Are we even able to fully experience our own lives and the history passing by like a conglomerate of disparate entities, together forming the train we’re taking to a familiar, but never entirely certain direction? 

The older I get, the more I’m fascinated by time and its context. Today, I’m a few years older than my parents were at the end of communism. Yet my birth year is closer to the beginning of WWII than to the present. (Please don’t try to count this.) If I lived in some wacky science-fiction, my life would not unwind chronologically, but in the direction, against time, my “now” would be somewhere between Hitler’s accession to power and the establishment of the Prague Surrealist Group, and I would hope to see the 19th century as a relatively healthy man. Indeed, even as a curator of the Fotograf Festival 2019 (and the editor of this issue of Fotograf magazine) I was approached by a representative of the “middle-aged generation”. My goodness! 

The history that I know and that I was very unwittingly shaped by is constantly washed by the ocean of oblivion and, as I get older and my own measure of temporality is changing, it is both expanding and shrinking. And although sometimes I feel I’m beginning to understand time a little, I’m afraid that I won’t be able to understand it until it’s too late. 

When we started looking for the theme of this year’s festival last year, the thirty-year anniversary of the fall of communism seemed already worn out, though actually still topical. The period of thirty years is longer than a decade or two, when we just get few more wrinkles and a later version of Windows. It is a slowly widening gap, irreversibly swallowing the people, memories and places around us. It is such a large gap that contemporary history suddenly becomes prehistory. 

And just at that moment, the perspectives suddenly begin to curve, and timelines and time points become meanders, peninsulas and constellations. That is why we have decided to examine the fall of communism and the rise of a new order as a diverse array of causes and effects, broad and narrow perspectives, high and low aims. We have tried to find new perspectives on how to look at both the historical events and their consequences from a distance to understand the broader time and geopolitical context. Because we think that this was the very beginning of where our train is heading right now…

Pavel Vančát