Fotograf Magazine

Stephanie Kiwitt

The 1990s Is a Girl with a Potato

To look back means to look into your own fabulous face. In principle, it is like looking at an old woman’s face trying to see a girl in a school photo. The girl was sitting in front, second on the left, and the old woman still has the same lips and eyes like when she was eight. But there is nothing old in the girl yet. She will become the old woman, but she’s not her now, while the old woman has had and always will have something girlish in her: the most vulnerable thing – her charm, her fairy-tale. It hurts. The old hurts, the new doesn’t. It’s like: name all the potato dishes you can think of, and I will find the potatoes in each of them. But it doesn’t work the other way round; everyone sees a different dish in the potato. While I imagine potato salad with mayonnaise and you mashed potatoes, she imagines potato dumplings with poppy seeds and he sees chips. And then there is the game. The question is: what potato dish do most people name as “a typical potato dish”? In this case, I bet it will be potato pancake, although I don’t associate this dish with potatoes and don’t particularly like it.

There is nothing moving about what a little girl or a potato can become. In childhood, the future is a motorway without a horizon, a giant ribbon leading to ultimate happiness, and a potato is a potato. The old woman, who was once a girl in the school photo, or the potato dumpling, which was one of the very concrete potatoes from Kolín, they’re both the nineties in retrospect. Unlike this period, we know what happened to them. We sit with the old woman and eat the potato pie, looking at the potato and the school photo of the eight-year-old girl. These are the nineties.

We ask what happened to them, and we’re a smart alec: broken dreams, messed up transformation, post-communist embezzlement, everything drowned in alcohol of the first rock clubs, a journey to Vienna which meant the world, establishing businesses in pram rooms in prefab buildings, and so on, etc.; the reality increasingly deboned into phrases, luminous laces, purple jackets of the contemporary entrepreneurs, this pictorial rubbish that has infested our imagination and built the myth of the decade that means nothing from a global perspective. We are crazy about the nineties… yet the main thing they were characterized with was complete loss of judgement. In another word – euphoria. 

In the nineties, there was nothing but the nineties; they occupied everything; they were everywhere. With the increasing benefit of hindsight, they are becoming less significant; the sheet with the slogan “Truth and love must prevail over lies and hatred” becomes a towel, then a washcloth, and finally a fold on the carpet with the slogan “Say and do what you want, but buy our stuff” – a folk saying which has completely replaced the original motto “A good housewife jumps for a feather over the fence” or “Those who play are not naughty” embroidered on housewives’ dish towels. You can tell by the fact that, today, the Truth and Love motto has only an ironic meaning, even to those who accept it, and although this isn’t perhaps called a failure, it’s an absolute historic collapse, no kidding.

In a few years, the concept of the nineties will cease to exist. What seemed an eternity will be so insignificant from the perspective of archaeologists it won’t make any sense to even mention it. What seemed respectable in its time is simply not enough. Ridiculousness is more common. It mixes with the unlimited pain around the heart shooting to all directions. As if you kick your legs in the air in anger.

I’m looking for art that doesn’t react to the states of its heart and the heart of the society with kicking. I’m looking for art that knows that the heart of the society is folly. I’m looking for art that knows that there is nothing but the heart of the society. The nineties to the nineties with the nineties. This is always true. We still settle for little when we shouldn’t, and we don’t settle for little when we should. And above all, what we say everything is incomprehensible. Let’s stop carrying coals to Newcastle. The archaeology of euphoria means we’ll find out what brought us to the haughty state. Most of those things are ridiculous, and those that are not leave an outrageous carbon footprint. I also think that nothing is worth it except being positive after all. It’s always been like this anyway. It just happens again and again. In the slightly shifting constellations of the spiral we move along.

And yet – my heart seems to ache.


Petra Hůlová