Janos Sugar on Wed, 26 Nov 1997 09:59:34 +0100 (MET)

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<nettime> Akos Szilagyi: The 'Raw' and the 'Cooked': Russia's Mediatization

[With the publication of this text we would like to start a kind of reverse
stream of writings. The main direction of publication of media theory is
from west to east, because of the isolation of minor languages plus the
moral, structural and economical crisis after the fallen communist system,
the cultural production of the former socialist countries are practically
unknown. The Media Research Foundation tries to find and support quality
translations in order to respond to the more or less one way system of
published thoughts. - mrf@mrf.hu]

"The 'Raw' and the 'Cooked': Russia's Mediatization"

by Akos Szilagyi

abstract of the lecture for the 6th international Vilém Flusser Symposium
March 15-19 1997 Budapest, Hungary - www.c3.hu

The one who looks at Russia (virtually, naturally!) today with a naked eye
(without ideological bandages) might not see more from the world than he
would normally, but perhaps s/he can see more clearly what the world is or
what it is becoming. I emphasize, s/he could see more clearly not Russia,
but the world as it congeals into fact-money-á la russe-in Russia, into its
electronic picture and number, and as the global mass culture is revived in
the postmodern fantasy games of virtual reality, totally unfettered.
Thus, for example, if the political anthropologist bows down closer to the
"eternal Russian soil," he will be able to observe with a naked eye how the
postmodern gourmet chefs -- the media experts -- cook everything to
tenderness in the transparent world-kettle of the simulacrum. All the
things are cooked, which, in the raw state of modernity were called
"Russian tradition," "Russian spirit," or "Russian idea," pickled in
Orthodox Christianity and Soviet Communism, larded with autocratic power
and Byzantine court games, garnished with xenophobia and aping foreigners,
served with Russian miracle and Russian catastrophe. At the same time, he
will recognize the anthropological changes that humankind is going through
The old Russian questions "Shto dyelat?" and "Kto vinovat?" (i.e.., "What
should we do?" and "Who is guilty?") eventually find their answer ahead and
beyond modernity: Money has to be made, Gentlemen, but a lot! And those who
cannot make money -- the penniless -- are guilty. The sky scraping utopia
and the most daring dream of the "new Russians," as the Russians of today
call themselves, sounds like this: We want to be a normal country, with a
normal economy, a normal political system, with a normal lifestyle. Normal
– one among many. Normal -- that is something comprehensible, something in
which you do not have to believe, but which you can live. No poetry, no
sacrifice, no miracle. A normal country -- that is a kind of place and a
kind of time where not frantic and magnificent ideas, not absurdities nor
utopias nor demigods, crazy monsters, wise leaders, rule any longer, but
rather the one and indivisible world norm does. Because to be normal is
good. Because to be normal is promising. Because the future belongs to the
normals. S/he who is normal is accountable. S/he is taken into account.
S/he can be counted upon. S/he counts. S/he can be part of the normal world
order of the global financial economy; s/he can take part in it. Normals of
the world unite! This is the latest -- already postmodern -- version of
abnormality in Russia. Fiat normalitas, pereat mundus! The secondary
wildness -- what modernity was called until now by the Western descendants
of humankind who consider themselves civilized; the secondary wildness with
its sophisticated torture that was characterized (to quote the famous
Hungarian poet) as "They don't impale anyone on the stake any longer."
(Instead, we are sent humanistically into the gas, as in the title of a
famous novella of another great writer, this time Polish: "Ladies and
Gentlemen! Kindly step this way into the gas!"); the secondary wildness,
the state of modernity, with its neoprimitive and neomagical idea-idols
(History, Intelligentsia, Nation, State, etc.), and with its fairy tales
lifted from the sky down to the earth (nationalism, liberalism, socialism)
is now being cooked to tenderness in the media-kettle of postmodernism, and
it is being consumed. History, Nature, the physical life of their own body
or that of another, in its "raw" barbar and own naked reality, evokes
sacred horror in every civilized image-eater.

The civilized world inhabitant is exclusively fed on "boiled" History and
"boiled" Nature (the latter is both in its abstract and direct sense). The
civilized human eats with his/her eyes. And because his/her eyes are
certainly bigger than his/her mouth, s/he devours everything and in every
quantity. History, cooked to well-done in the "media-kettle," is not even
History in its modern, hence "wild," sense. It lacks the flesh-and-blood
reality of History, the pure taste of History, every religious and
ideological promise. History that gobbled its children in the form of
revolutions, like a sly Chronos. History, where one can get into and fall
out of, which had a trapdoor and a stage. History, against which the truth
of the moderns could not win, which employed the "trick of the mind," and
by this means, its hidden sense, its secret promise, swung beyond
comprehension (nonetheless, its most virtuosic acrobats could catch its
flying trapeze). History, which clanked through the centuries in the irons
of necessity, and which was the plan of freedom. History, for which the
insignificance and "unwise" of the "pre-history" sacrificed so much. They
sacrificed everything and everybody, the past and the present; they
sacrificed peoples and whole generations, and even the world, if that was
the price to pay for the promise of the rationalized mystics.

Akos Szilagyi was born in 1950 in Budapest, 1974 received diploma in
Hungarian-Russian studies from L.. Eotvos University, Budapest (ELTE),
Faculty of Liberal Arts. Teaches literary aesthetics, media theory and
Russian cultural history in the ELTE Department of Aesthetics and Institute
of Russistics. Received Ph.D. in 1976. Founder and co-Director of the
Hungarian Institute of Russistics at ELTE. Founding Editor of the
sociological and literary periodical 2000. Has written books and essays on
the Russian avant-garde, Totalitarian culture of the Stalin era, and
negative Utopias.

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