personal photographs, musings and recommendations

february 20, 2023

i’ve spent the last few weekends embroidering a portrait of uladzimir kniha for rufina bazlova’s ‘framed in belarus’ project. the fabric i’m working with is a pillowcase my grandmother began embroidering, around 1967, with a flower motif on the border for protection. 

montreal, january 2023

i re-watched larisa shepitko’s “the ascent” recently, and noticed the way she films the snow of belarus elevates it to a motif in the film, almost a character. something i never noticed the first few viewings.

january 22, 2023

stills from oleksandr dovzhenko’s “earth” (1930) 

montreal, january 5, 2023

i’m working on a poetry collection that has me digging through belarusian and ukrainian state archives, where I came across this illustration by Nikolay Andreyev from Odessa, titled “Summer rain,” 1920:

andreyev’s illustration is especially moving in light of rain being symbolic of god in embroidery and folklore, or rather, that rain is god.

montreal, december 14, 2022

yesterday I went to my local sports bar (bruno) to watch the quarter finals of the world cup; but the bar was at capacity and I wandered further into little italy until I found a mostly empty cafe playing the game. it was me, hot chocolate in hand; scott; and the owner of the fine establishment, who wore a suit for the occassion.

have you ever watched a football game without cheering for one team or the other? is it possible? the last time I followed the world cup would have been in 2018, when I was wandering around aimlessly in berlin. I have this memory of walking down wrangelstraße, towards motto books, when I notice three men on the patio of a bar holding each other, arm over shoulder, arm over shoulder, with their other hands over their hearts. they’re gently singing the Swedish national anthem together and the glare from the yellow and blue flags they’ve draped themselves in casts a glare in my direction. I pause for a moment and watch them sway together. I wonder if the sports bar is one of the few places carefully constructed masculinity can discard itself with abandon. 

my mind wanders to an essay I had read earlier that day, adorno’s “education after auschwitz” as I watch men sway together and place their hands on each others shoulders with a gentleness that seems to be reserved exclusively for the football game. I hear one line in particular resounding in my mind: "the single genuine power standing against the principle of auschwitz is autonomy… the power of reflection, of self-determination, of not cooperating.” 

‘of not cooperating.’
‘of not cooperating.’

why were my thoughts taking me to an essay on the rise of fascism, and how to circumvent its recurrence, while I’m watching football players walk across a fluorescently green field in slow motion? for adorno, sport can have an anti-sadistic effect by means of it’s commitment to fair play. on the other hand, it can also promote sadism, “above all in people who do not expose themselves to the exertion and discipline required by sports but instead merely watch,” that is, those who shout from the sidelines. for adorno, the aggressive sport spectator epitomizes blind identification with the collective, which in turn epitomizes the fascist personality.

I would have watched the 2014 world cup in vidzy, belarus, sitting cross-legged on the rug in front of my grandma’s television. outside the window, the sound of lady gaga’s ‘born this way’ playing softly in the distance, mixed with the sound of horse-hooves. the continuity of all these memories, like beads on a necklace. the reassurance of tradition, like watching the world cup, makes the passage of time (and all that occurs in-between) feel predictable. this is a comfort; but it is also a lie.

montreal, september 2022