Dec 7 2011: Four Photographs of Czech and Slovak Modernist Structures by Karel Plicka (c.1950s)

A few loose pages from a damaged copy of a photobook by Karel Plicka, taken all over the (then) Socialist State of Czechoslovakia (C.S.S.R.) showing some very impressive modernist buildings, ranging from the futuristic brutalist pods of the Slovak Monument above to the more conventional 1930s International Style flats and apartments below. Like many other posts in past days, the focus on what was seen as the future of a nation state – in Pakistan, Argentina or the Soviet Union – seems more revealing about the ideas of the time (both progressive and regressive) than the more picturesque shots of ancient churches and folkloric dwellings that proliferate elsewhere. Perhaps the lack of a vision of the future in 2011 (or, at least, a vision that isn’t broadly dystopian) is revealing in itself, of course: as Frederic Jameson noted, watching an endless procession of ‘end of the world’ movies made in Hollywood, present societies find the complete destruction of human civilisation easier to imagine than any change to the present version. Maybe this is why retracing our steps to the last moment when relatively optimistic future visions held wide currency is so necessary: a process akin to empathetically imagining we are seeing the world through a perspective far removed from our own.

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