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Fantastic series, from simone leuck at the equally fantastic polar inertia, of cuban television sets photographed in their native environment.

Figuring out what to take away from these images is as hard, in a sense, as any of the questions that I’m usually at work on. Or, perhaps, these are in fact illustrations, partial ones of course, of exactly the problems that I am generally at work on.

For one thing, there’s the persistence-despite-apparent-obsolesence of the sets themselves, which, like the famous American cars left over from before the revolution, are metonyms of the temporal situation of the socialist experiment in Cuba.

I tried to watch a little Cuban tv tonight via this site, but I’m pretty sure what I was getting (some sort of travel documentary) wasn’t actually live.

Anyway, it’s hard to articulate what exactly it is about this sort of thing that I find so alluring. The phrase “the aesthetics of publicness” keeps coming to mind – that is perhaps another way to describe what it is that I’ve been thinking a lot about lately…

(For a discussion of pseudonymous blogging and the tendency to circumlocution and half-hintery when it comes to one’s “project,” among other things, see here…)

One other good reminder on polar inertia – a partial transcript of the infamous “kitchen debate” between Khrushchev and Nixon from 1959:

Nixon: You had a very nice house in your exhibition in New York. My wife and I saw and enjoyed it very much. I want to show you this kitchen. It is like those of our houses in California. [Nixon points to dishwasher.]

Khrushchev: We have such things.

Nixon: This is our newest model. This is the kind which is built in thousands of units for direct installations in the houses. In America, we like to make life easier for women…

Khrushchev: Your capitalistic attitude toward women does not occur under Communism.

Nixon: I think that this attitude towards women is universal. What we want to do, is make life more easy for our housewives…This house can be bought for $14,000, and most American [veterans from World War II] can buy a home in the bracket of $10,000 to $15,000. Let me give you an example that you can appreciate. Our steel workers as you know, are now on strike. But any steel worker could buy this house. They earn $3 an hour. This house costs about $100 a month to buy on a contract running 25 to 30 years.

Khrushchev: We have steel workers and peasants who can afford to spend $14,000 for a house. Your American houses are built to last only 20 years so builders could sell new houses at the end. We build firmly. We build for our children and grandchildren.

Nixon: American houses last for more than 20 years, but, even so, after twenty years, many Americans want a new house or a new kitchen. Their kitchen is obsolete by that time…The American system is designed to take advantage of new inventions and new techniques.

Khrushchev: This theory does not hold water. Some things never get out of date—houses, for instance. Furniture, furnishings—perhaps—but not houses. I have read much about America and American houses, and I do not think that this exhibit and what you say is strictly accurate.

Nixon: Well, um…

Khrushchev: I hope I have not insulted you.

Nixon: I have been insulted by experts. Everything we say [on the other hand] is in good humor. Always speak frankly.

Khrushchev: The Americans have created their own image of the Soviet man. But he is not as you think. You think the Russian people will be dumbfounded to see these things, but the fact is that newly built Russian houses have all this equipment right now.

Nixon: Yes, but…

Khrushchev: In Russia, all you have to do to get a house is to be born in the Soviet Union. You are entitled to housing…In America, if you don’t have a dollar you have a right to choose between sleeping in a house or on the pavement. Yet you say we are the slave to Communism.

Nixon: I appreciate that you are very articulate and energetic…

Khrushchev: Energetic is not the same thing as wise.

Written by adswithoutproducts

January 12, 2007 at 12:16 am

Posted in socialism, teevee

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