The Island of a Thousand Failures

The Island of a Thousand Failures

based on an interview, with no direct but infinite correlations

Anna Kogut

This is what happens if you are not prepared. Not armed to the psycho. Didn’t
do your homework. Didn’t hit the books, a 15 years minimum of institutional
education, and now you are there full blanco and somehow trying to hide this
little fact away.

This is just an interview. This just a conversation. This is just communication.
Trying to find people with the same program. Trying to find these people in
the labyrinth of displacement. Berlin, a city like a hideout place.

Welcome to the club of failures. Coincidental, unconscious emigrants. Displacement
being the in and out of your self-positioning. And where is the in and out.
And who is interviewing whom here.

I am sitting here and how this feels like i am sitting for an examining committee
and not like an informal interview with three strangers. Blanco and half-drugged
by all the possible outcomes to the math teacher’s little quiz on the black

Remember. These last school lessons, just before the bell, how you were anticipating
the unknown, the falldown of a system keeping you in upright position, and why
did i feel such nervousness. Remember these acoustic signals, these bells, the
ringings, they are here, everyday. Little Pavlov-effects telling you when to
feel freedom.

You may wish and desire into infinity. The last sweet lesson of capitalism,
before school is out for summer: you know what, anything is possible, whatever,
wish for it, believe in it. You may become anyone, because we are all made out
of that star-stuff, materialism going into nothingness. And why does freedom
today make me more and more nervous.

Education. Information. Processing all the papers, fact and stats, files and

For the right order of modern communication, wouldn’t it have been better, if
we would have exchanged curricula vitae before this interview took place, cvs
thick like theses, with footnotes and all index and structuring.

This is just communication, the trick-box word of the century. In communication,
it is essential that you have one voice. So you can bring your message across.
This is what happens if you multiply your voices.

So i am sitting here. And how all four of us seems to sense the awkwardness
of it all but how all four of us will invest in normality, because hey, this
is basic human endeavour, trying to communicate. Making sense of it all.

Act normal. Keep your body in upright position. Don’t make moves, gestures or
expressions that may scare, intimidate or humiliate the person sitting opposite
of you. Don’t faint, be sick, die or cry on someone. I am a full, perfect functioning
individual. If not perfect, than functional, which is basically saying the same

All signs and immaterialising, distancing, and its getting harder isn’t it,
because human contact is one and only material closeness.

I am giving people my Curriculum Vitae. They tell me i wasn’t born for this
thing i am applying for. They can see this from my lifeline, there on two papers.
And when information will be inscribed in our bodies again, people will read
my hand and tell me i wasn’t born for this thing i am applying for.

Resume Position. Awkwardness still hanging in the room, it was time to clear
the situation. I was a possible interviewer from the Magazine Plotki (what is
Plotki?), and they were members of the club, full named "Bund der Polnische
Versager" — "Union of Polish Failures", possible members, as it seemed to me.

And this is why is was here at the club. So i pull off the normal act. Say where
i am at. Where i am from and heading to, as far as i know, the whole truth and
nothing but the truth. A little confessional session.

Truth. Never mind details. Never mind the waiting-time, the time lost on benevolent
matters which seemed important once. Incoherence. Erase loneliness, erase desperation.
Doubts. This is what this was about: i had doubts and i was looking for paths
worth taking.

The man sitting opposite was in the age of my father. I noticed the white sox,
gazing at the ground. His look, a hard time concentrating. He was sitting with
his back to the window and this made him shady. He was casual in dress, but
not so in the mind. He felt responsible for the situation. Me being there, questioning,
asking for explanations.

A young man to my right was hanging out on a couch, in a lock up body frame,
indicating this is not prison and i can go when i want, but why am i still here.
Dark eyes and small mouthed and you know the mouth doesn’t say much, doesn’t
want to.

Studying Eastern European history because he is, originally, from Eastern Europe,
Poland by surprise and aren’t we all. And how do you explain that and the what
are you doing here going in opposite directions. See and if i am not getting
any explanations then this is what i am explaining: that i am going in opposite
directions and this somehow means no progress.

But isn’t this the club of no progress. Yes it is and welcome. The woman to
my left was in eager position to help out if i would indicate for it. I had
a hard time figuring out her age; the only certainty was that it was before
my mothers. And how this was becoming a strange, belated relatives gathering
with a long lost unknown daughter. A daughter who was questioning the line of
kinship rather then asking and how are you. And don’t i do this also, with my
actual parents.

And isn’t this what failure is all about. Letting go. I fail to make an ideology
out of my lifeline. I fail to produce truth. This is why i try to let things
go, i try with tons of effort. But i sit there and have to try to collect myself.

I can’t collect my oppositions. And thank the thousand heavens, there are systems
outthere without this need, tao-learnings saying that everything is one and
still separate, everything is separate but connected and one, and wouldn’t you
have known this, you’d think you are the one crazy.

Taoism seems very helpful for people suffering from a social condition called
schizophrenia. I am saying social because i don’t believe this to be a condition
of the minds of few. See, there is more schizophrenia out there than meets the
eye, the im- and emigration, the import and exportations of cultures and the
whole mix-up of realities.

But you are here, and you want to make the loose ends fit, make One. Reconcile.
But you can’t and you notice you are switching positions like its tied to cosmological
changes, and how you notice the borders between your black and white schemes
are fading into a cloud of unknowing.

And i have been walking and looking, sensing off the cityscape of tidings coming
and the biblical what’s happening? And trying to make out things of graffiti
sign spasms on the wall. The writings on the wall. The writings in the paper.
And the whole industry of signs. And why am i so tired of decoding when its
basically the same message. Bring across your message.

Reading papers, and signs, reports, books, studying and analysing. Decoding
the works. And how you can and should produce these yourself. Give an in-depth
status quo plus your personal critique. Or just the critique and leave out the
apparent, the factoids. And this is what i did, i tried to do again at the club,
because don’t i do this all the time. And of course there is this point where
i am in a midst of a thousand discourses, to be honest all half-apparent and
i am still talking cause i don’t know when to shut up.

The young man in the room still doesn’t say much. Dark eyes roaming the small
room and looking for that flow of light from outside. The father in the white
socks has been patiently trying to answer my questions out of the shade. Shady
answers. Not white, not black. Nothing to make a text out of. We don’t know
what we are doing really. We don’t know why we are together really. We are simply
trying is all. It is not programmatic. This is their normality, but i don’t
get it.

The union printed a manifesto in its last issue. I read the manifesto. I repeat
the manifesto. I am already more of a programmatic member then they all are
together and doesn’t this shake my usual scepticism. Yes, ok, it is true what
is printed. We don’t care so much for making success. We are just trying out
things, and if it doesn’t work out then, that’s also ok.

Ok, ok, ok. This is understandable and i fully sympathize, i fully sympathized
already before ever entering this room, but still, my mind goes blanco the second
after. "Why are you asking about principles?" comes a stressful cry from the
man in his prison of light. Principles. Explanations. This quiz is getting trickier
now and why do i hear something ticking.

Your middle-of-the-day orientationlessness, that existential sting, no more,
no less. The occasional standstill. And i am roaming the streets all-a-round,
and the why i am here, and this is not a prison, but why can’t i go. Further
or back. Displaced. The union says it wants to unite the people feeling displaced.

I try to explain my family the why am i here, and they think i am crazy, i don’t
know what i want and they fully understand. My mother used to talk to me a lot
about Communism and Depression when i was small. Then i started being older
and talked about Capitalism and Depression. And isn’t this a little failure
in the generation cycle or the whole plan of things.

I can recall back to a conversation with a student in one of a million cafes.
After the what, where, who of personalities, he asked what i thought the difference
was between capitalism and communism. I don’t know why i was in such a dark-hearted
mood, but i said, hey, its all the same. "You are right" and surprised me with
this affirmative answer. And i felt like protesting. I felt like switching the
black and whites on the board. But, but, hey if it is all the same, then Houston,
we are in a very bad situation.

So, i want to protest and my mind is in a rush trying to recall back all the
wise lessons of my parents, history school books, political theories on democracy
and what not as long as its discourse. And i can’t. Blanco and i ask helplessly
so, friend, what do you do then, if it all the same? Dark eyes, and his answer
turns with a grin into a grimace when he says "Resignation".

I wonder if the union is for resignation or affirmation. And is this not the
same. And if you don’t want to be a schizophrenic you will want to resign. And
then maybe you will want to be Tao-religious, affirm the whole world and nothing
but the world, and all its meaningless oppositions.

But if you give me a position, i will give you the difference. I will produce
oppositions. And isn’t this what failure is all about.

And isn’t it hard to resign, feeling like you want to protest, join a demonstration.
Berlin, the first of May. The first of May and the politics of love. How you
hate the one who opposes you. How you love the one who opposes you.

But you know love, what it does. It resolves. The Berliner Dom and a philosopher
proclamating on religion: "God is Love and Love makes blind".It makes one. And
it’s getting harder isn’t it, to affirm, to believe in something that is one
and true.

How you fail to believe, anything, truly. Everything going through a distance,
broken through eleven levels of irony. And wasn’t irony the joy of the paradoxes.
How hard to be joyous today under the pressure of knowing. 15 Year of institutional
education, the thousand discourses and the island of failure. Berlin, an island
place, somewhere to sink a stone.

This interview took place after the first of May. Everything being over, so
what’s the point talking about a theme that will come back again. We talk about
Berlin being such a wonderful city on our way out. Such a wonderful city, all
hidden contrasts, such wonderful oppositions.


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