The word “plotki”, in the sense of “small plots”, suggests a policy of telling diverse stories instead of one sanctioned history. Plotki is not an established magazine and doesn‘t want to claim expertise on Central and Eastern Europe. Talking about clichés: it‘s no coincidence the zine wasn‘t named “Kafka”. Our picture policy is appropriate: As coverpicture for the first issue we chose a photograph of an asian looking person – a Polish citizen of Vietnames origin. A couple of issues later on the cover you can see a picture of four ladies in fur coats; again this is somehow a swindle, because in fact these ladies are not Russian, as one might guess first, they are German models presenting a Munich fashion designer’s fur collection in a Swiss hotel. Or consider the work of Arnis Balcus, Latvian artist featured in the “normal”-issue: Do his photographs reproduce stereotypical images of Eastern Europe? Isn‘t he allowed to snapshoot his daily life, as, say Wolfgang Tillmann does? Arnis Balcus pictures normality: a clique of friends smoking pot in a car, a young man with an office suit sleeping in a squat house, two men lying side by side in a double-bed holding hands. Looking at these pictures, how would we know who belongs where and who longs for whom?
The rumour mill
Correctly translated “plotki” means “rumours, gossip”. This is a field which is usually associated with femininity (or effeminate masculinity). So “plotki” as topic is an ideal titbit, a pearl for feminist analysis. This approach involves: unproven speculation, voyeurism, romanticism, secrets, community, alternative narrations, banning of so called experts, contamination, parasitic embedding in history, queering of history, low culture. Speaking of contamination: We have to translate our writings into English in order to be able to gossip with each other. That‘s a bit like Chinese whisper…
The cultural theorist Irit Rogoff regards gossip as a form of “feminist objectivity”. In her text Gossip as testimony – a postmodern signature she writes: “Gossip is not fictional, but both as oral and written form, it embodies the fictional…as subject matter gossip impels plot…while gossip‘s fascinations are; voyeurism, secrets, stories. [..] Gossip involves exchange not merely, not even mainly, of information, and not solely of understanding, but of point of view.” Within Rogoffs reading gossip is the discourse of the excluded “others”, who use it as a subversive strategy.
Plotki has a problem. It was formed out of a network of friends from Berlin, Warszawa and Praha. Berlin, the most Western city in this triangle, has always supplied the editorial board as well as the art direction. This means that the decision-taking regarding both content and style of the magazine has taken place in Germany. And from the viewpoint of the West everything east of it is always the “other”. Thanks to the recently introduced monthly web issues times are obviously changing: to a culturally more pluralistic editorship.
Difference in the context of Plotki does not only show as cultural difference but also as gender difference. A theatre performance on the editorial meeting in Rumania some years ago illustrates this. Two of the male initiators of Plotki were staging the genesis of the project: they reenacted how they came up with the idea for plotki, three boys, being all love-sick, creating something out of their desperate state. Fellow plotkisty were asked to come up on stage, to enact their role within Plotki – a rather subordinate role being confined to implementing the vision of the “founding fathers”. This performance caused some discomfort, and not only among female members of the community. When men up on stage congratulate each other that they have created something in differentiation to women, who they represent first and foremost as their object of desire, we have some real “gender trouble” on stage. A performance like this conveys a paternalist view of history. Being a designer myself I truly find it arguable to base an act of invention upon the unreturned desire for a woman. The pattern then is (within a heterosexual matrix):
man – rejection – sublimation – creation. It is an old patriarch narration to link creation to male desire, construing in the end geniality as male. This very narration has kept women off the art-scene. Women’s purpose in life, it seems, has been confined to giving birth, their means of creation.
We femzine activists disapprove of a sort of Plotki genesis, we want to spread different rumours, disintegrate myths and possibly create alternative ones. Feminism is a term that is not very popular at the moment. We have difficulties to agree upon it. Theorists in the Russian speaking sphere have started to speak of feminology, because the term feminism has been discredited in public. Maybe the dilemma of not possessing a collective voice, but to sense the desire to speak up is the force that keeps Plotki together?
Is Plotki a fanzine? Throughout this text I claimed it was. But frankly speaking this is an inconsistency. Fanzines don‘t need editorial boards or artdirectors and they are rarely sponsored by EU-institutions.
Why did I nevertheless claim Plotki to be a fanzine? Because I‘ve put the focus on the experimental aspect of Plotki. Classifying Plotki is a little complicated: It is in-between a fanzine and a cultural magazine, a bastard child of career ambition and wanderlust. There is a subtle tension between grassroots advocates and pragmatic professionals within the Plotki community. Yet, this could be another interesting topic to discuss…