Adaptation of Marginalia
Sergey Popov

It’s obvious that we live in a country of the periphery. But understanding of one’s own marginal status is not necessarily a negative thing. On the contrary, it guides us in an interesting direction in the current situation. We are unusual, non-ordinary, we only can be “measured uniquely”. And as we know from the great Russian literature, this can produce an interesting narrative. The fringe status is not only bohemianism or an outcast identification but – and it’s crucial – the ability to act precisely at the margins of culture developing these very margins, which can be defined geographically, temporarily or according to the position.

Marginal types that had a decisive impact on modern culture, especially in the XXth century mainly were people who – consciously or not – changed ordinary strategies of any action and broadened the collective vision. They turned out to be the true engines of culture by extending and expanding of its field. We know well that the core principle of cultural renewal is an infusion of uncontrolled peripheral energy and violation of conventions in behalf of creating the new.

Today all the actors in art field are initially marginalized. And they don’t fight to be presented in the mainstream, which should give them titles, insignias, and leadership. Indeed, there is a struggle of all against all for recognition of which exact marginal person will be described by the society as the most perspective.

Important condition for periphery, for margins is to be seen and approved in the center. Though acceptance of these new forms by the center is also an essential condition of its development. Market helps reinstalling the values globally. New centers of culture changing today’s world (Hong Kong, Shanghai, Taipei, Abu Dhabi, Doha, Singapore, Bogota – all, to say, are located south of Russia and Europe) connected in first place with financial flows. It doesn’t mean that they a priori reshape social or particularly cultural rules. But they have more chances to make it than the cities and countries that are not concerned about the questions of global cultural identity and their own position in this system. So these places risk, vice versa, slipping into the marginal position of international losers. And it’s not clear if they have any chance to fix the situation due to the rapid dynamics of today’s processes.

From this perspective, the whole contemporary Russian as well as related Soviet culture can be defined as marginal, waiting for its reassessment alongside the culture and history of the “Eastern Bloc.” During the XXth century we experienced many times quite radical decisions in approach to the human, social organization, economy and culture. Meanwhile the amplitude of the pendulum’s swing in culture was very wide – from Suprematism and Contructivism to Socialist Realism. Both ways, extremely modernist and orthodoxically antimodernist, can be called peripheral or marginal in comparison with “medial” ways of arts and culture. And that’s why they are still highly interesting for the whole world. But cultural adaptation of this interest in different regions of the world won’t happen by itself; it requires financial support and positioning because there are other marginal zones of our planet that compete with us for the dominance.

April 3, 2020