Warsaw’s Mounting Obsession with its Stalinist Skyscraper
(And Other Seditious Syndromes of Still – Socialism in Capitalist Sities)
Tuesday, Feb. 27, 2018, 5pm
Wolff Conference Room, D1103
6 East 16th Street
Michał Murawski (Department of Russian, Queen Mary, University of London) will give a talk on “Warsaw’s Mounting Obsession with its Stalinist Skyscraper (And Other Seditious Syndromes of Still-Socialism in Capitalist Cities)”. The lecture is part of a joint critical studio intensive course led by Parsons School of Design and the School of Form at Uniwersytet SWPS at the Palace of Culture and Science in Warsaw this coming March. With generous funding from Instytut Adama Mickiewicza. Team: Susan Yelavich, Mateusz Halawa, Jola Starzak, Michał Murawski (Gold Zamt), Marta Jazowska.
What kinds of urban forms and architectural aesthetic did ‘actually-existing’ Soviet socialism produce, which other types of political system could not have? How were these forms and aesthetics, styles and shapes linked to types of rhetoric, ways of speaking, economic logics, modes of everyday behaviour, which were also unique to the socialist world? Which of these styles, shapes, moods and modalities have survived the collapse of the socialist regimes in 1989-1991; and how do they continue to reproduce themselves and mutate into new norms and forms of existence – new types of normality – in the ‘wild capitalist’ East European cities of today and tomorrow?
This talk will delve into the progressive potentials and reactionary pitfalls of still-, zombie- and mutant-socialism, with particular (but not exclusive) reference to Warsaw’s Stalin-era skyscraper, the Palace of Culture and Science. Three decades following the collapse of its guarantor regime, the Palace continues to loom, with increasing intensity, over the social, psychopathological, symbolic and aesthetic lives of its host city. At the same time – all the more so since the advent of Poland’s current reactionary proto-Trumpist regime in 2015 – it also radiates a potentially seditious energy (a ‘public spirit’) over the surrounding ideological landscape.