Accepted Paper:

Curated detachment: how to translate aesthetic experiences of 'ugly socialism' into 'beautiful modernism'  


Anastasiya Halauniova (University of Amsterdam)

Paper short abstract:

.The paper explores analytic possibilities of the concept 'detachment'. By building on interviews with architects, activists, and city officials of the city of Wroclaw, Poland, the paper traces the ways in which estrangement can be, literally, 'curated' in the urban politics.

Paper long abstract:

While recent scholarship on 'taste' has been preoccupied with the attachment (Hennion, 2017; Blok, 2015), its analytical opposite - detachment - received little to no attention. Conceptualised as a form of alienation (Negus and Velazquez, 2002), or resulting from a change in the economic value of 'goods' (Graham, 2016), detachment seems to have no analytic utility of its own. This paper seeks to extend the understanding of 'detachment' in social studies, by building on the case of Wroclaw, Poland. This city was annexed from Germany after the WWII and partially rebuilt in the socialist modernist style afterwards, that has experienced a re-evaluation since the 1990s. This process brought to a sharp relief the politics of valuation and taste.

This paper focuses on how aesthetic detachment from socialist architecture in the city is being 'curated', and what practices aim at translating the 'ugly socialist' architecture into the 'beautiful modernist' one. Contrary to Latour's understanding of detachment as 'poor attachment' to a good (1999), it shows that detachment requires an enormous amount of work. By asking the question of how the shift in taste happens and how the skill of seeing 'beauty' in something that is commonly evaluated as 'ugly' is crafted and learned, I problematise the role of aesthetic detachment and attachment as the 'politics by other means'(Mukerji, 2012). In that sense, aesthetic detachment and attachment are being enacted in production of particular historical narratives about the city and its political imaginary as modern, international and experiencing no rupture (or disruption).

Panel B05
Crafting attachments, making worlds