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not safe for viewing at work (or in communal apartments)

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Whoa…. I… Excuse me… I thought that no one was… I’m sorry…. I’ll come back later… 

Fascinating, strange photo-collection from Françoise Huguier, who in 2002 subleased and moved into a room in one of the still extant communal apartment buildings in Russia. Apparently, 11 million Russians still live in the kommounalki, as they’re called. The story’s a little bit hard to follow, at least for me, but you should go take a look at the Rue89 piece about it. 

I’d love to see the book, but won’t likely, because it costs €46, which comes out to something like $460 or so according to current exchange rates.* But what is interesting about the images on display at Rue89 is the fact that they seem to enact what I imagine to be a relatively common fantasy of one upside of life in this sort of situation would be like, a fantasy that takes up probably the oldest and deepest utopian projections going. I mean, of course, the combination of communal economic life with sexual commonality. I have no doubt at all that these places weren’t at all like that, and if they are now I’m sure it ain’t a pretty scene, but it is something that Huguier makes it seem so, for her and our benefit now. 

How long do you imagine it will be before we see the first ad spread derived from Huguier’s pictures? American Apparel? Beyond what I’ve said above, what are we to make of the fact that they are so deeply reminiscent of one of the dominant ad aesthetics of our time? It may well be that the photographs are simply derivative of the ads themselves, but if something like the reverse is or is also the case, then, well, things do get a bit more interesting… 

* Unrelatedly, I visited Buenos Aires not long after the devaluation, and noticed in the big bookstores that were clearly set up to cater to a very cosmopolitan population, with big sections bracketed off for libros en Inglés, francés, alemán, that clearly a resupply hadn’t happened in quite awhile and only the unsalable dregs were left. This seemed incredibly sad to me, the thought that a place like Argentina suddenly simply couldn’t afford to import books. I don’t rely all that much on imports, but I used to buy them sometimes, but not so much anymore… 


Written by adswithoutproducts

April 20, 2008 at 12:39 am

Posted in socialism

2 Responses

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  1. Hmm. I also find the pictures quite alluring, rather against my better judgement. One should however make the distinction between the Kommunalka – usually a 19th century building subdivided and accordingly somewhat claustrophobic – and a Dom Kommuna, which were built for that purpose.


    April 21, 2008 at 4:38 pm

  2. Thought you might like it, and thanks for the clarification.


    April 21, 2008 at 5:14 pm

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