Russian Postmodernism: New Perspectives on Post-Soviet Culture

By Mikhail Epstein; Alexander Genis et al. | Go to book overview

Chapter 22
ONIONS AND CABBAGES Paradigms of Contemporary Culture

Alexander Genis

D uring World War II, the psychoanalyst Carl Gustav Jung wrote that Germany's tragedy did not come as a surprise to him because he knew what Germans dreamed. We, by contrast, cannot claim to know what Russians dream, despite the opening of an Institute of Dreams and Virtual Reality,1 in 1991 in Moscow, whose purpose was to collect and analyze the dreams of fellow Russians. Here we shall investigate the domains of art and aesthetics; and art, according to the same Jung, has the capacity to "grasp intuitively the transformations of the collective unconscious." A "tectonic" shift has occurred in the post- communist Russian psyche, revealing a new cultural paradigm and provoking a restratification of values, modes of perception, philosophical strategies, and metaphysical orientations. In trying to make sense of the changes that have taken place in Russian culture and life, we shall consider not only artists and writers, but viewers and readers as well; for the crowd of readers and spectators participates just as much in the formation of a time's "Picture of the world" as the artists who produce that picture. It is the crowd that selects works of art which best reflect the views of the times. Thus the book shop also presents a portrait of the epoch.

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