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Work / Publication

Kajet Journal on tackling the complex history and potential futures of Eastern European utopia

Kajet, a “journal of Eastern European encounters”, was founded by Petrică Mogoș and Laura Naum with the intention of breaking down the misconceptions and generalised ideas about the region. “Each issue is evocative of the socio-political and cultural realities that dominate our time and region”, the pair tells It’s Nice That. The first issue, on communities, considered the many ways communities are essential in times of unrest: via features on resistance, architecture, borders, and the counterculture. The second issue, Petrică and Laura explain, “was conceived of during strife and amnesia, uncertainty and distress”: “As we just honoured five decades since the Prague Spring – with its glimmering yet luckless hope – and as we are approaching the commemoration of three decades of post-communism, the notion of seeking an improved (read: utopian) future is for us more relevant than ever.”

Its theme is “On Utopias”, and Petrică and Laura haven’t shied away from taking in the complexity inherent to addressing such a principle – particularly in a context that has experienced real efforts towards so-called utopia. “It’s become a relic of the past, a symbol of failure,” they say. “At the same time, the fact that not much has improved in three decades of post-communism prompts us to try and recover the notion from its crumbled condition; toward placing utopian visions at the vanguard of a much-needed toolkit of action.” In their approach to the issue, Petrică and Laura have struck a careful tone – particularly exemplified by the cover, a photograph of a porcelain bust of Lenin by Natalia Drobot – of which they say: “It’s wary of the errors of the past – a motif that recurs throughout the entire volume – and, even more so, it’s intrinsically critical of the times we are currently living: precarious, powerless, disoriented, and unsettled”.

In the issue, they’ve “tried to investigate the notion of utopia from multiple angles, allowing an interdisciplinary exploration of Eastern European utopias” through fiction, non-fiction, anthropological studies, personal essays, photo essays and poetry. “From the anti-utopianism of the promised Westernisation of the East; to the utopianism of the Socialist Riviera as staged reality; and from the role of rag fairs as utopian islands of freedom in bazaar capitalism; to the importance of sci-fi cultural production in the Eastern bloc; to seeing the bretzel as a distinctive form of culinary utopianism” the pair summarise. Features include Age of Nothingness by Petrică, which explores “how the Eastern European utopia of Communism was suddenly demystified and fragmented into a myriad of individual utopias, as a new environment marked by commodification, precarity, dread, and alienation emerged”; as well as a short history of Eastern Europe’s relationship with counterfeiting, via a walk through the biggest outdoor rag fair in the region – “an enclave where outside laws don’t apply” – and an essay on architecture “and the production of sense without meaning”.

Issue two of Kajet has also taken on the questions at hand in its aesthetic, with Gabriel Barbu and Ana Maria Dudu giving the edition a full design overhaul: “The most important thing for us is that we produce a journal that is able to imagine and transmit – through both text and graphic design – the subject at hand. We tried to create a system in which all graphic and written components sustain each other; when you think about it, that’s kinda utopian in itself as well.”

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Kajet Journal: Issue 02, Utopias

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Kajet Journal: Issue 02, Utopias

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Kajet Journal: Issue 02, Utopias

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Kajet Journal: Issue 02, Utopias

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Kajet Journal: Issue 02, Utopias

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Kajet Journal: Issue 02, Utopias

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Kajet Journal: Issue 02, Utopias

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Kajet Journal: Issue 02, Utopias