How can the full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine, which has been going on for over a year and a half now, be confronted in an artistic-activist way? What cultural networks, in terms of transnational solidarity, but also concrete assistance, have formed in this regard? And what lessons can be learned from the history of post-socialist developments, i.e. the decades since the collapse of state-communist systems in the former East, for the construction of such new solidarity networks?
Questions like these form the background of the Queer Postsocialist issue, which attempts to expand the topic addressed in several directions. The title, especially in relation to the current war situation, may at first seem perplexing. But it is precisely in this – the linking of post-socialism, queerness, and, it should be added: various diasporas – that the promise of a more comprehensive and, at present, perhaps all the more necessary articulation of community lies. It was also our concern to not merely depict expressions of solidarity coming from outside, but rather approaches that have been involved in such a construction in the region itself for some time: Initiatives and practices that have begun to emerge in the post-communist space, often unnoticed by a larger public.
For this reason, we invited Masha Godovannaya, an artist and activist who has dedicated herself to precisely these agendas, as a guest editor to design the thematic section of this issue with us. The starting point was to make the “aesthetic practices of the queer diaspora” (a term coined by gender studies professor Gayatri Gopinath) usable for the current situation and activating the potentials inherent therein in the face of hostile threats. One of the leitmotifs was the extent to which affinities and reciprocities can be promoted in the unifying, but at the same time very differentiated framework of post-socialist spaces. At the same time, the question is to be explored to what extent specific treatments of queerness and diaspora motifs within such a framework contain a utopian political promise, indeed to what extent a hope for alternative social worlds is inherent therein. Can, as Godovannaya asks, “trust, respect, affection, care, intimacy, and desire be built between queer and war-affected people across national borders”? Moreover, what differently situated life-worlds and forms of community could consequently emerge– forms that resist the maxims of time and reality “in times of war and global turmoil”?
The contributions to this issue take on the task of tackling these complex questions. Based on their own practice, the artist duo Maggessi/Morusiewicz addresses the problem of what aesthetic registers can be used to “queer” artistic research. Using “wormholes”, methodological devices that ensure leaps in space and time within their cinematic works, the two artists present their view of a new politics of archives. The Freefilmers collective has created an archive like such, especially concerning the recent history of the now almost completely destroyed city of Mariupol where they were originally based. In the multi-perspective tableau of conversations included here, the members reflect on the status and prospects of their film projects, which are as dedicated to documenting the downright unspeakable as they are to reminiscing about fleeting moments of happiness.
Dijana Jelača and Tonči Kranjčević Batalić set contemporary counterpoints to the current catastrophic situation in their contributions. Jelača recapitulates the utopian dimension that often shines through in memories of former Yugoslavia and makes this point with examples from the film and performance field. In his case study of the collective queerANarchive (Split), which he co-founded, Kranjčević Batalić presents the cornerstones and trajectories of a decidedly counter-hegemonic project – evidence of how free spaces can be created in the midst of a homophobic majority culture. Such free spaces, in terms of a more general aesthetic of queer diasporas, are discussed by Katharina Wiedlack and Anna T. on the basis of motifs from, among others, science fiction, in which non-normative gender and social orders are often secretly at work.
Such non-normative orders come to bear in a number of art projects presented here. The arc spans – with different aesthetic accents – from the cinematic investigation of queer science fiction following the writer Samuel R. Delany (Marko Gutić Mižimakov) to abstract-experimental approaches to “anarchafeminist” coffee divinations (Işıl Karataş) and the filmic treatment of an attack on the queer Latinx community in Florida (Sofía Gallisá Muriente and Natalia Lassalle-Morillo). Complementing these are spotlights on the post-Soviet space with short features on works from Central Asia and the Caucasus (Ruthie Jenrbekova and Maria Vilkovisky) and a reflection on a film project from St. Petersburg (L. Y.) that is overshadowed by the effects of Russia's grim war reality.
What connects all the contributions is the search for modes of affective and at the same time pluralist connectedness. The issue Queer Postsocialist puts a whole range of such modes of interconnectedness up for discussion – hoping to spark moments of hope and solidarity in times of war.