This autumn marks the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall and subsequent fall of communism across Eastern Europe. Born in Bucharest, Kajet Journal emanated out of an urgent need to provide a platform for Eastern European narratives. Petricā Mogos and Laura Naum are its creators presenting a fresh, authentic and challenging voice on Eastern Europe.
“Our future, we like to believe, needs to be constructed with indignation, solidarity, persistence and systematic planning.”
Where did the idea for Kajet Journal emerge from? Can you tell us a little bit more about your backgrounds and roles as ‘Founding Mother’ and ‘Founding Father’? Is it fair to assess you as radicals?
The idea to start an editorial project about Eastern Europe came to us while we were doing our studies abroad, out of a certain kind of nostalgia, perhaps even a sense of alienation or displacement. Laura comes from an Economics background, but she’s always been interested in the cultural sector, in the arts, in the ethnic melting pot that characterises Eastern Europe, in the cultural politics of minorities, but also in representational issues: how Otherness or the Other is represented? Or more often misrepresented in contemporary society. So I have managed to combine both while studying Cultural Economics. Petrică did a research Master in Sociology and he is primarily interested as a writer and researcher in archives, issues of marginality, precarity and periphery, in marginals and outsiders and their relationship with post-socialism.
We divide most tasks that running a magazine in the 21st century entails (except graphic design) and we are fortunate to say that it has worked well so far. The radical component is a pretty flexible notion that we try to maintain and stimulate further, although we have been involved in any sort of political/activist ventures so far. It is mostly a discursive radicalism, perhaps, by choosing to focus on critical theorists and thinkers that find themselves on the margins of mainstream academia.
Kajet Journal is a marriage of the academic and artistic. How did you approach this in terms of considerations and decisions made?
That is true, we consciously seek to deconstruct Eastern Europe by merging academic means of expression with artistic or perhaps more informal tools. That is because one of our most important objectives is to leave some space for critical explorations of Eastern Europe to emerge. At the same time we try to shy away from the rigidity of academia and frame strong theoretical standpoints though more accessible overtones.
You have explored Eastern Europe through the prism of communities, utopias and struggle in your three issues to date. In your editorials, you speak of how the region has doomed itself to “decades of stagnating, catching up, and forever emerging”, how it suffers from the “crisis of post-socialism” and how your struggle is “internationalist and collective in shape and form”.
So if we were to delve into the editorial vision of the project, we have to account that each issue is evocative of the socio-political and cultural realities that dominate our time and region. With each issue, we deal with a different theme, basically an overarching subject, what we like to call a timely and timeless topic, timely because we choose subjects that pertain to the contemporary world, are relevant to our present times; and timeless because our subject matters are chosen in order to be reflected upon and read at other times as well; in this sense, we seek to give an archival value to our publication. Our first issue (communities) was made during the migrant crisis, the second one (utopias) during the May 1968 commemorations that truly revolutionised the way we look at utopias and utopianism, third issue (struggle) under the premise of three decades of post-socialism.
What is the new futurology of Eastern Europe?
Although we talk a lot about the past, we do so in order to think more efficiently about the future. For this we believe in the necessity of a future-oriented kind of internationalism, one where a community of struggle across borders can be constituted, one that goes beyond Eastern Europe. Our future, we like to believe, needs to be constructed with indignation, solidarity, persistence and systematic planning.
What interesting connections and talking points have emerged from the publication of Kajet Journal?
Our most interesting interconnected activity has to be this sort of zine-production workshop that we have given several times already. Done in collaboration with our friend from Choriso Press, we show young designers, writers and artists how a zine can be made in a matter of hours. It is a pretty empowering feeling to know that your thoughts/ideas can be disseminated so quickly!
In an essay ‘The Age of Nothingness’ which Petricā contributeS, you expound about how, “Capitalism has fragmented us into self-contained, individualistic beads, deeply eroding our ability to solidarise and act” and how only “intelligent planning can save us from a decaying future.” How do you see this being applied and achieved?
That is the question that we are trying to answer with each issue somehow. Above all the future should be about thinking of each other.
This winter marks the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall and also the execution of Ceaușescu in your home country of Romania, is it fair to say you feel somewhat deflated about the level of progress, or lack thereof, in the intervening years? Do you have personal political allegiances?
We agree that Eastern Europe needs to change more and for the better. However, we are conscious that this kind of discourse is liable to perpetuate other ideas that we try to oppose with the journal: that Eastern Europe is lagging behind, that this region is forever under construction, that the West needs to liberate it from its own perils and constraints. In this context, we considered the commemoration of three decades since of the fall of the Berlin Wall as the perfect framework to critically explore the struggle of post-communism with the last issue. And touching upon similar themes, we choose to focus on the idea of periphery with our forthcoming volume, asking ourselves: how has the region dealt with its own condition of marginality?
Can you discuss some of the visual projects which accompany these series of essays in Kajet Journal? What is the balance between submission and commission?
We start every issue with an open call, where we welcome as many angles and perspectives on the main topic. Upon structuring them in several chapters/ideas, we discover gaps that we try and fill in with new material. For this, we contact writers and artists that we appreciate and that work in the field or cover the subject matters that we feel are missing from the issue.
You look at an array of aspects such as counterfeit culture, the appeal of porcelain in 1980s households, Teknivals (free parties) – how important is the lens of culture for your academic explorations?
We consider culture to be the first layer of interest that we try to explore through our publication. There are also articles on politics or economics or philosophy for instance, but these are often tackled from a cultural premise. We choose to focus on the cultural realm because it can reveal broader manifestations of power that exist in our contemporary society. Power that is often hidden, but a kind of power that subverts and divides.
What excites and deflates you most about Eastern Europe at the moment?
It has to be the sense that we are lacking alternatives. And here we are referring to alternatives of all kinds, not just political. It seems that our society has accustomed itself to a primary mode of operation, to a self-perpetuating system and a recurrent discourse. The youth of today know that change is needed (again not just political but also social and economic), yet the existence of any alternative on the horizon does not seem likely very soon. In terms of excitement, it is this idea of being able to work with a rich history, full of interesting traditions and customs, imbued with personal histories and narratives, and naturally this makes Kajet a process of documenting and archiving the past.
You both run Dispozitiv Books in Bucharest also. How important is the ease of access of international journals and ideas to your creation of Kajet Journal?
We returned to Bucharest initially with the idea to open a bookshop, but lost ourselves in the bureaucratic and financial tangles of it. So we started Kajet and given the (arguably) successful feedback we received with it, we received this much needed encouragement to continue our initial ambition. We saw that people are interested in such editorial projects, we got to know people who know and constantly read publications that unfortunately cannot be found in Romania. So we took it upon ourselves to fill in this gap. It is certainly an intricate process of educating the local audiences, but we are learning with them.
How has it been received by the political classes? What’s next for you?
We don’t think that the journal managed to burst our bubble of people and enter new worlds, let alone be received by the political class. To a certain extent this is a struggle that we have, how do we end up popularising the project even more here, in Bucharest and across Eastern Europe, how do we end up democratising the knowledge that we think is so valuable for the region. In terms of the future, we are now working on two new projects – an archival platform seeking to unearth Romanian printed matter published between 1947 and 1989 and to revamp our website and focus more on the production of interviews. Both these separate projects will also exist as two separate books that will come out by the end of the year under our new publishing venture, Dispozitiv Books.
Issue No. 2 (On Utopias) and No. 3 (On Struggle) are available at kajetjournal.com, €20
Words: Michael McDermott