B East Issues

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Volcano proves why east sides are cool

As Europe sits paralyzed by the Icelandic volcanic explosion, we’ll take this pause to reflect on how it confirms our theory about why the east sides of cities are cool.
In our ‘East Sides’ edition, B EAST editor Joel Alas explained that patterns of urban development in European cities have largely been shaped by the dominant eastward direction of winds across the continent.
It was first demonstrated by the Chernobyl disaster, which mostly affected the areas to the east of the meltdown.
Now, as newspapers print reams of infographics explaining the eastward drift of volcanic ash clouds, we can clearly observe in play the forces that shaped the urban geography of cities.
If you want a full explanation of how the winds made East Berlin, East London, East Prague and east sides everywhere more creatively vibrant than their western counterparts, you’ll have to track down a physical copy of the edition. Or wait a few weeks, until our whole archive is available online through our new website.

Photo I, Photo You

– by Alex Jackson

Eastern Europe: (failed) Russian Empire or extension of the West? Twenty years after the Fall of the Berlin Wall, Eastern Europe perhaps seems to have forsaken the right to be interesting as a geopolitical whole. What used to be the East’s defining factor, Socialism and belonging (or not belonging) to the Soviet sphere of influence, is what makes a revisiting of the region and its ideologies most interesting – at least to the artists being shown in Photo I, Photo You, the latest exhibition at London’s Calvert22 gallery.

Opened in May 2009, the cool art space just off Shoreditch High Street is the city’s first not-for-profit foundation specialising in and promoting Russian and East European art. Finally, London’s own creative eastern-bloc has a place to get its fix of Eastology.

The aim of this, the gallery’s fourth exhibition, is to trigger a double-take on the East of Europe, leading us to reconsider what is presented. “Most things in the world that we think we know, in fact demand a second glance,” explained¬† Moscow-born exhibition curator, Iara Boubnova. “The known demands attention just as much as the unknown,” she said. So nothing is here obvious, nothing is what it seems.

Getting us revved was Boris Mikhailov arresting Yesterday’s Sandwich 1960-70s series, featuring his signature superimposed photography that hybridizes the seemingly mundane into scenes imbued with fresh statements and complexities. Jan Mancuska’s The Other (I asked my wife to blacken all the parts of my body which I cannot see) 2007, not only blurs boundaries between author/subject/object but also questions the (un)known and the misleading tendencies in the obvious. Kiril Prashkov’s Responsible Painting 2006, of flaking apartment buildings presents an unofficial Utopian ‘alt-art’ while Olga Chernysheva’s peeping-Tom style video installation, Windows 2007, a meditatively exposes the beautiful banality of strangers’ lives beyond the curtains of an unknown tower-block – such as our favourite, a forlorn guy gazing from his kitchen before simply standing up, swigging from the kettle-spout and leaving the frame. Melancholy magnificence.

“This exhibition is about challenging our collective assuredness over what we think we already know,” said Boubnova. “It all comes down to the mission of art: to show us something that usually we don’t see. There is something about these artists and their works that helps to better define their subjects of interest which, in turn, helps understand and remember that we are now all together and not really divided by walls anymore. I think that each of the works confirms the existence of ‘others’ – whoever they are and regardless of East or West.”

Above right: Jan Mancuska; The Other (I asked my wife to blacken all the parts of my body which I cannot see), 2007; Developed photographic negatives, Perspex and MDF light-box, aluminium hanging rail Courtesy of the artist; West london Projects, London; Andrew Kreps Gallery, New York and Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary, Vienna.

Above: Boris Mikhailov; Photograph from the series Yesterday’s Sandwich, 1960s-70s; C-Print, 136 x 95 cm (framed) ed.5; Courtesy of the artists and Suzanne Tarasieve, Paris.


Photo I, Photo You runs until 28 March 2010

Iara Boubnova is the founder of the Institute of Contemporary Art, Sofia

The Lairs of the B EAST: Where can you buy us?

B EAST Magazine is a pan-European project and is sold all across the region by established distributors & specialized magazine stores.

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Here is a breakdown of distribution by country.
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