The Absurd Reality of the USSR

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Gabriele Gudaityte’s magnetic field furiously attracted me with her amusing and intricate piece of art aptly named “The Chelsea Hotel Tooth Brush Club”, a collection of artefacts and information, some genuine, most fictional from the iconic Chelsea Hotel, New York. It was Friday 20th May and I had just managed to bag my first glass of free wine at Dundee University’s Degree Show. As if it was written in the stars, Gabriele’s illustrative work was the first I had stopped to look at and I was ready to leave straight afterwards, my mind and soul content with what I had already seen. I pushed through the crowds of the busy opening evening to chat with the student, who seemed to be overwhelmed with the reaction to her thought-provoking pieces.

We all have an affiliation with The Chelsea Hotel, may it be an association to a song or an artist that has walked the corridors of the Victorian Gothic building, the lines of a poem or the writer of our favourite book that’s written in or about the grande structure, maybe its the extravagance of philosophical exchange of the charismatic visitors who have stumbled over its famous threshold, or the abstract art that hangs graciously on it’s walls.

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I share Gabriele’s introduction to the historic Hotel, both establishing a bond with its eccentricity and surrealism through Patti Smith’s “Just Kids” a recollection of Patti’s life with controversial and ground breaking photographer Robert Mapplethorpe.

It was a combination of listening repeatedly to “Chelsea Girls” by Nico and a podcast from The New York Library, featuring Patti Smith, talking about her childhood relationship with her toothbrush that inspired the Lithuanian student to come up with the anomalous concept for her degree show piece. The archive, displayed as a box is a combination of lies and truths mixed up to allow the perceiver to come to their own conclusion as to what is hilarious fact or magically invented fiction. The clever creation incorporates iconic figures such as Allen Ginsberg, Sid Vicious, William Burroughs and Jean-Paul Sartre, but even more mysteriously there displays a printed black and white card displaying Chewbacca, who was arrested in the Ukraine during the making of Gabriele’s project.

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A self confessed box of nonsense that is sure to catch your attention is just one third of Gudaityte’s work on display at the prestigious art school and although it initially grabbed my attention through a common interest, it was Gabriele’s printed artists book depicting and illustrating Albert Camus’s absurd essay ‘The Myth of Sisyphus’ in a beautiful, screen printed and solar plate etched fold out, hardback book, as well as, a collection of stories and anecdotes passed on from different generations of her family back home in Lithuania, describing their motherland under the strict oppression of a socialist society, that really caught my attention and pulled at my heartstrings.

“The Absurd Reality of the USSR (a collection of second hand memories)” is presented in a fun, eye- catching comic book style, with cute illustration and light-hearted mockery towards Lenin and Stalin’s finger pointing, it is a refreshing approach to a serious, dark and grave part of history.

The story of Gabriele’s uncle, whilst on a walking trip with university to Siberia, where he illegally dug up the grave of his political prisoner Grandfather and brought his remains home to Lithuania in a specially adapted backpack, unbeknown to his fellow classmates, is a chilling yet absurdly romantic story of reuniting a family, torn apart by a political war and Soviet Occupation within the Baltic State.
The idea of communism has an air of romanticism, in theory the encouragement of equality and the eradication of a class divide plus any form of capitalist gain or bourgeoisie and proletariat society amounts to a view of favourable taste and a legitimate form of ruling. Communists fore fathers Marx and Engels original Manifesto included values of free education, a free healthcare system and equal salary for all, who wouldn’t want to prosper under a strong political, social and economical ideology that promotes impartiality, justness and fairness?

Sounds valid and warrantable but in reality Marx’s philosophy in trying to rectify society’s inevitable decline in development never reached fruition, instead in 1917 the Lenin led- Bolsheviks overturned their minority vote using violence and military force to gain leadership of the Russian people, contrary, Lenin supported an anti- war platform and successfully pulled Russia out of World War I, promising the people “Bread, Land and Peace” and implemented Marx’s Communist ideology.

Lenin established several state-serving government policies that continued throughout the reign of the Soviet Union but an uprising of anti-Bolshevik activists made him uneasy and paranoid and after attempt of his assassination he authorised the start of the Red Terror- an execution order of previous government officials and Monarchy, led by Joseph Stalin, Red Terror turned into civil war as Stalin proposed the systematic terror and killings, including mass executions not just for former government officials but civilians who disagreed with the Bolshevik’s reforms.

After Lenin’s death Stalin managed to over-throw all opposition within his political  party to become the unchallenged leader of the Soviet Union. During his time in leadership Stalin quickly revamped and replaced Lenin’s Economy Policy, industrialising the country and making it a controlled state. His affiliation and treaty with Hitler and Nazi Germany shocked the world.

At end of World War II Stalin wasn’t ready to give up his control, he and his Red Army invaded and occupied Lithuania. Stalinist repression intensified, thousands of Lithuanians rebelled, culminating and creating a guerrilla warfare against the Soviet regime, fighting for their fundamental goal of independence for Lithuania. With no help from the West, the Partisan War continued and chance of success against the far stronger opponent seemed unreachable. Lithuania eventually became part of the Soviet Union.

Lithuania declared independence on March 11, 1990.

 

 
“My Mum was born in Magadan, more than 11,000 km away from home, where my Grandmother was taken to a concentration camp, in 1946 for hiding a Lithuanian Flag.

 

My Grandfather was imprisioned for helping Partisans in the Resistance in 1946.

 

My Grandmothers parents were successful farmers, they were exiled to Irkutsk, more than 5,000 km away from their daughter.

 

They came back home in 1963”.

 

“My Dad was born in Krasnoyarsk Krai, where his father was taken to a concentration camp for helping in the resistance in 1945. His family was also exiled for his actions.

 

My Dad’s Mother, my Grandmother was exiled for her brother’s connections with the Partisan’s along with her parents in 1948.

 

They came back home in 1966”.

 
“Naturally I have heard loads of stories about my home country, Lithuania, under the Soviet Occupation.

 

They make me sad.

 

Even more so, they make me unbelievably angry.

 

But I am choosing to laugh at it – not at the pain and the suffering of the oppressed. But at the incredible stupidity, irrationality and absurdity of the system…

 

Because it really, definitely, surely did not work”.

 

“My Mum submitted a fake marriage application once, just to get luxury items such as a couple of tins of peas and a jar of mayo”.

 

“This collection could be a never-ending one. I am sure that every Lithuanian family would be able to gather many more stories and anecdotes about the absurdity of the USSR.

 

These are the stories that I have heard, I was lucky enough to be born right after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

 

However the effects of the Communist era are still present in Lithuania. Many lives were lost and a lot of people are struggling to move on.

 

I believe that it is very important to remember what happened, even though it is painful, and to share this with others. Those that were lost and those that got hurt and those that didn’t have anyone to bring them back home are worth remembering”.

 

Gabriele Gudaityte

 

 
Gabriele Gudaityte you have blown me away. You have opened my eyes and taught me the history and struggle of Lithuania’s people. It’s welcoming to see the mind-blowing strength you have gained from your ancestors, whilst delivering a thought-provoking, inspirational and provocative piece of art. Congratulations!

Long Live the VEF and Gudaityte is my QUEEN of Absurdity, YEAH!

Gabriele’s work can be viewed in the illustration department at Duncan of Jordanstone, Dundee until 29th May 2016. 

“For the Strength of the Pack is the Wolf and the Strength of the Wolf is the Pack”

We are all familiar with Rudyard Kipling’s childhood tale “The Jungle Book” set in the Seoni Jungle India, the exotic collection of stories plunges us deep into the colourful depths of the Animal Kingdom and into the life of Mowgli a young man-cub, abandoned and disowned by fellow man, lost, only to be rescued and taken under the paw of an otherwise fierce wolf-pack headed by wolf-father, Akela. Kipling’s story telling gives us an undercurrent of constructive morals, allegory and symbolism, combining entertainment plus knowledge and understanding of deeper political and social issues of his time through a story which is wrought wth the taste of indifference and a primitive idea of who we fundamentally might be underneath our civilised facade.
The social issues Kipling raised in The Jungle Book written in 1894 still bring strength and optimism in the political climate of 2016, as austerity brings deprivation as well as crime and social decline, raising issues such as child neglect and racism. Metta Theatre director Poppy Burton-Morgan has interpreted The Jungle Book with a visionary genius, her adaptation of Rudyard Kipling’s most famous work, transformed into current day and depicted through the art of hip-hop, dance- theatre and narrative-circus, is rich in skill and talent, with an effective set, mood enhancing lighting and hilarious puppetry.

 

 

The amorous and high spirited character Baloo has been moulded into a beat loving bin-man, Shere Kahn a ghetto gangster rapper and Mowgli, introduced as a baby, separated from his businesswoman mother Messua. On parallel to the authentic outline, the wolves (a skateboarding crew) protect baby Mowgli from the claws and the jaws of Shere Kahn and raise the man-cub as their own. The performance follows Kipling’s original tale, breaking down scenes into distinctive stories that flow seamlessly into one another disregarding any hint of Disney and ‘The Bear Necessities’, solely concreting ‘street cred’ with flashy, well executed rap, jaw dropping break dance and hypnotising Chinese pole.

 

 

Attending the theatre with my partner Darren and daughter Ruby, I left with an intense mindset, as I should after any thought-provoking piece of theatre, I felt for my family and I thought of my own jungle and the pack I care for and protect. Drawing parallels from the book into my own life, I cavorted with the idea that we have all, at least once, been Mowgli, lived in his shoes, within his awareness of abandonment and separation and then further his accomplished feeling of inner strength in finding a solid and considerate group of friends who ultimately become the family that can understand, sympathise and help us accept who we really are. We have all crossed paths with sneaky snakes such as Kaa or clutched a drought in our individuality likening us to a herd of elephants and fought back against greed, distrust and manipulation from antagonists such as Shere Kahn. Like Mowgli’s story we can draw strength and acceptance from all indifferences through empathy and valuing that we are all products of our own experiences and that to respect similarities and opposition in others allows us to open doors and create unusual opportunities, work prospects and growth within our own spirituality and ingeniously enhances how we value the world. We need to evaluate how we treat unfamiliar animals within our jungle and learn to tolerate and obtain a variation of opinions and create a distinct code of compromise and mindfulness, otherwise described as The Law of the Jungle, The Law of our Concrete Jungle.

 

 

“And he grew and grew strong as a boy must grow who does not know that he is learning any lessons, and who has nothing in the world to think of except things to eat.” – The Jungle Book, Rudyard Kipling.

 

 

Long live the VEF and accepting each others worth is key Queen

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The Jungle Book 23rd April 2016 Photo Credit: Richard Davenport. richard@rwdavenport.co.uk. 07545642134

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All photography by metatheatre.com

 

 

As One Door Closes Another Door Opens…

 

 I’ve never been great as a regular nine to fiver, the confinements and control of another mortal dictating where I must be and when has never sat neatly with me. The confinements of being stuck in one iterate position generates me to convulse, tremble and shudder to the core. This may be mistaken as an unwillingness to work or observe as a limited pull of my weight but these ideas lack substance, whereas the dated structure that some employers remain to work fall culpable.

I read and hear stories of flexible hours and government initiatives which allow employers and employees to contribute adequate time of employment to suit both, therefore maximising profitable possibilities and allowing full potential from each party. Laws are in place as to not exceed too much stress on individuals or create risk on health, therefore, breaks in the working day to refuel physical and mental energy go without saying, right? The legislation of The Working Time Regulations 1998 certainly says so.

As 2016 gallops around us and envelops us in the gust of its momentum, I observe ideas of balanced living and zen lifestyles, where you can commit to your busy work schedule and still enjoy family life, social activities plus mental and physical wellbeing. I’m stationary in understanding and trying to gain insight as to why some business owners are continually stumbling to put procedures in place or to build on these new outlooks and nurture the individuals that work so industriously for them. Instead creating a totalitarian like regime where it’s difficult to find the time or ask permission to take advantage of a human right (freedom of fluid) to use the toilet.

The wonderfully inspiring world of hairdressing grabbed my attention seven years ago, when I plunged head first into an artistic genre I knew very little about, I allowed myself to be swallowed up by a creative fuzz which wrapped itself around every inch of my being and coated me with knowledge and understanding of the expressive and technical form, I have continually pushed, pulled, gripped and pinned my way into making a success in the abundant industry. It’s an easy career to fall in love with, I can change a sullen mood with the flick of a brush or the curl of a tong, spark a contrasting mindset or a fresh outlook with the snip of my scissors or the grade of my clippers. I can change the shape of a woman’s face, knock ten years of a man’s age or make a bride feel like a princess. I gain trust like no other and build relationships that span decades, I can set trends and move fashion, I am involved in celebrations, milestone birthdays, marriages, holidays and births. I can give endless opportunities, an unmeasurable confidence and bring new beginnings.

The influence of fashion and the desire to look younger, coupled with economic growth and the associated increase in real disposable income, as the cost of many basic items now takes a smaller proportion of consumers’ budgets, there is increased scope for discretionary spending on services, therefore creating lucrative opportunities for willing cosmetologists. The growth of the health/beauty industry and the increase of ageing population in the UK will multiply the need to cater for a wider age range of clients, opening up growth in an industry already worth over 6 Billion Pounds. Unfortunately the murky world of status and greed can creep into and cloud the vibrancy of the trade. Client care and customer focused service can often be forgotten as quantity overpowers quality. Viewing your craft with tunnel vision, immovable strategies and unworkable relationships can hinder progression and if money is your sole ambition, then no guarantee of happiness and/or continual success can be put in place.

Realisation is the vital key in growth and development and I feel fortunate to unlock the corporate and competitive ball and chain of a large salon group and take the plunge into self employment, opening up endless possibilities as I continue to work alongside established creatives within Scotland, London and Paris. I look forward to welcoming clients, old and new on the start of my new journey, based at Blu Hair and Beauty where I will build my own business. Blu, is situated on South Tay Street in Dundee’s Cultural Quarter, the established salon has held a loyal following for many years and share my relaxed, client focused ethos. I love my job and I genuinely care.

Please contact the salon directly or drop me a message on Gigi Bobs Your Hair’s business page for any enquiries or appointments.

May The Bridges I Burn Light The Way…

Long Live The Vef and All Hail Gigi, The Coiffure Queen.