On being Stocked in the Out – a jumping of diagrams

Photo credits: Taietzel Ticalos
"The idea of shortages stands in sharp contrast with much of our lived experience amid the abundance of stuff we have created, among masses of cheap products that are offered to us on a daily basis. It seems we can purchase a limitless amount of gadgets and clothes, take unlimited air trips, and forever eat the last pieces of tuna."
– Marjanne van Helvert in The Responsible object.
A history of Design Ideology for the Future (2016)
It seems more suitable to talk about shortages as something firstly felt, which happens to people; mainly because we have trouble imagining 'a short of supply'¹ as a proper end, as an exhaustion of resources – at least not in our times of profound 'Stuff,' of endless consumables scattered everywhere and pilling up.

Upon a series of such personal encounters, a question over the shape of things-to-come had motivated what thinking with shortages could mean. An 'out of stock' is simultaneously a provisional state and an end of sorts. Though, in the larger scheme, who gets to stock-up, how shortages manifest, or how scarcity gets apprehended, are all culturally and geographically embedded. Fashion/dress and design make here for loose references. Points of departure for the 'elusive stuff' wrapping and brushing against bodies, they deal with the vast material of our everyday life, from images to materiality, to technologies, and habits. 'Manners of doing and shaping’ –  matters of tactility and communicating –, fashion and design are ambivalent surfaces, processes of imagining and a sort of 'rebellious agents.' What we wear is not only political and shapes our lives, but extends bodies (and objects) beyond the limits they've been confined to.

As one who has lived mostly from a suitcase, in a country that even if listed in the European Union fails the Schengen Area², I couldn't but wonder what certain sensibilities emerging from a (still) eastern-European realm could make of it. Thus, 'Out of Stock' became a speculative quest of reframing scarcity and shortages as notions that could address empowering imaginaries of future(s) and ways of living. How can speculations and the subtleties of everyday life meet? What kind of openings are already at hand, and what could be 'invented'? What kind of economies  – for dressing-up/ design/ fashion-up bodies  – would they outline and respond to? What will these found future(s) ‘wear’?

Meanwhile, the world has happened. And shortages as a felt phenomenon, both on material and societal level, made room once more for awareness over issues of inequality, those so closely manifested onto bodies – from the depth of our stomachs to the core of our identities.

Since, it was an ongoing-late-year, the kind that has decided to tumble around, creating blobs in our time-keeping measures. It was the year of a pandemic. A heavy fog made out of data machines and the spores intertwined, drifting, gave everybody intoxicating blurred visions. Possessed by a sort of bio-piracy. Despite the turmoil, the landfills growing, and the few terrae running free, the year was advertised to us as still liveable. Yet, for most, it felt as if we ran out of stock, and when the mending started, we did not know. 

What follows is a series of notations, something like a mood to further accommodate the mind-map of this particular 'stock' and its sending 'out,' where pastness/ presentness/ futurity intertwine.

the first notation

Theorist Judith Butler pointed out that "it seems that we survive precisely in order to live, and life, as much as it requires survival, must be more than survival in order to be liveable."³  So, what does exactly mean, to be 'liveable'?

In our world, always switched on, "all potential for production must be realized right away, the faster, the better." In such an embedded production, proliferating on data, technologies, energies, and resources, what is to come – the future – has become a sort of 'fata morgana.' As if not there at all or just an already predetermined reflection engulfed by neoliberal strategies and measured by risk analysis; as if you can't even smell it.
In the overwhelming chain of crises, from the economical to the looming environmental one, of news already obsolete, business as usual means being stuck in an indefinite present. Could scarcity make us hesitate, run out of this ennui shaped by a desire for accumulation? 

There's a distinction we first need to make, the one between scarcity and the more familiar term infusing the slang of political talk: austerity – as architect Jeremy Till has usefully signaled. The tag of last decades' measures (and times of crises), austerity is a fixed ideology that keeps the capitalist machine of production going, by just 'feeding' it with less. In it lies the promise that such a state of drastic endurance is only temporary. You only have to wait – a bit longer, and a bit longer, and a bit longer… until the economy gets in better shape. Scarcity, on the other hand, touches upon the inescapable condition of something being depleted; it makes us ask "what if, instead of adding, one redistributes what is there already?" Thus, it challenges the understanding of growth as continuous accumulation, as a matter of fact (material and easily measured) – and turns it into a matter of concern, namely the dynamics and ethics of a society.

Designer and theorist Marjanne van Helvert argues that scarcity itself is an ambiguous concept, no less run by market evaluations. Manipulatively inserted, it is meant to raise 'the attractiveness,' especially within consumer culture. Limited editions may go from luxurious goods to basic needs. At play in our contemporary world, this duality is something we should keep in the back of our mind: how shortages are implemented as strategies of desirability, efficiently 'designed' and past on, while keeping the wheels of consumption turning. Just as the ethics of a society can be sold on sustainable products where what is actually 'affordable' and how redistributions function, are always up for frictions.

lines of visibility, lines of enunciation

Scarcity, however, 'hits home' differently in Eastern-Europe. The area has been shaped in collective memory as 'the societies of shortages' and need, as if pleasure, desire, and style couldn't find a proper place here. The socialist/ communist pasts remain haunted by scarcities: with both everyday goods and freedoms ‘running out.’ The Great Transition, which all post-socialist countries experienced, might have raised hopes and bodies of freedom, only to crush them under capitalist markets' invasive rules. The corporate 'shock-therapy' urging everyone to abide by the liberal system, soon made space for the swamp of privatisation, credits, and loans. The promise of wellbeing fell short within economic drawbacks and poor life conditions.

Unable to fully grasp the 'wonders' of western dreams, we got trapped in the geographically elusive construct of the former East and a stereotype of (always) 'lacking' something.
Marjanne van Helvert notes that the system of overproduction does not allow us to properly recognize the highly needed ‘waste reduction’, or the spread of our own excess, where even areas lesser associated with abundance by western markets, like the sub-Saharan Africa, are now flooded with second hand leftovers. – “Good Design for Everyone. Scarcity, Equality, and Utility in the Second World War”, The Responsible object. A history of Design Ideology for the Future (2016), p. 91  back
Romania, together with Bulgaria, Croatia, and Cyprus are legally bound to eventually join the Schengen Area with more lax border control within the Union (especially for migrant working population), but until more recently they were lacking full Council consensus. Their current status still reads ‘as soon as possible’. back
Judith Butler, “Bodily Vulnerability, Coalitional Politics”, Notes Toward a Performative Theory of Assembly (2015) back
Jan Verwoert, “Exhaustion and Exuberance: Ways to Defy the Pressure to Perform”, What’s Love (or Care, Intimacy, Warmth, Affection) Got to Do with It?, Sternberg Press & e-flux journal (2017), p. 235 back
Jeremy Till, “Scarcity and Agency”, Journal of Architectural Education, 68:1, 2014, p.  9-11. back
Marjanne van Helvert, p. 86 back
David Crowly, Susan E. Reid, “Introduction: Pleasure in Socialism?”, Pleasure in Socialism. Leisure and Luxury in the Eastern Bloc (eds), (2010) pp. 9-11 back
Agata Pyzik, Poor but Sexy. Culture Clashes in Europe East and West, Zero Books, (2014) back
The issue of class-turism accompanies particularly the impact designers like Gosha Rubchinskiy and the collective Vetements had on creating visibility for the already-there fashion potential of Eastern-European countries. However, such visibility came with a price, namely the same tropes of the eastern bloc: Lenin’s busts, tower-bloc apartments, tracksuits, footbal-style t-shirts, bootlegs, and the tacky taste of the 90s culture clash between western clothing and the locally produced ones. The question is then how personal histories and local affairs can better be reflected without fetishising the past./ On these apparel strategies, Michelle Miller Fischer makes the point that like the tracksuits’ iconic status that has seen endless re-brands, the working-class taste and the postindustrial sites leaving their flavor on clothing styles are a way of “flirting with the aesthetics” without “experiencing the drawbacks of lifestyle.” - Michelle Miller Fisher: “Acting as If. On Trench Coats, Tracksuits and the Counterfeit Self.” in Vestoj, http://vestoj.com/acting-as-if/  back
To some, post-Soviet as an ideological trait might have been already obsolete by the 80s. And as such, in what concerns my generation, we have never been post-Soviet, rather, we have had to deal with its onliving spectre. In trying to shift the western-centric perspective, the region has been terminologically re-dressed as the former east, the former west, the new west, the new east(thetic). But as a personal note, regardless of new academic slang, the ‘east’ has never left the collective imaginary. https://www.opendemocracy.net/en/odr/welcome-to-post-post-soviet-era/
“Interview Anastasiia Fedorova, M.E.S.H, Metahaven” in Psyop: An Antology, (2019)and “Poor but Cool: how has the Cold War become a defining system for modern fashion?” (2015) http://www.calvertjournal.com/features/show/4134   See also “Post-Soviet fashion: identity, history and the trend that changed the industry” in: Calvert Journal, 2018. back
According to McKinsey analysis, Central and Eastern-Europe (what still dubbs as the former eastern bloc) hold the largest talent pool in the MINT sector (mathematics, computer science, natural sciences and technology) – as well as having leaders in the development of Artificial Intelligence. See “The Rise of Digital Challengers. How Digitization Can Become the Next Growth Engine for Central and Eastern Europe.” (2018)  back
Jan Boelen, “Design Became a Ghost in the Cloud” in Notes on Ghosts, Disputes and Killer Bodies, DAE #TVclerici, Design Academy Eindhoven, (2017), p. 10 back
Jan Boelen references Keller Easterling’s replacement of McLuhan’s dictum “The Medium is the Message” with “The Action is the Form” (Extrastate Craft: The Power of Infrastructure Space) over how our interactions function today. p. 9 back
Ilya Parkins builds on Karen Barad’s agential realism according through which ‘pheonomenon’ and objects exist only through intra-actions, at the confluence between the thing itself and the way we ‘research’ it or adresse it, but without a hierarchy of which is producing the knowledge. “Building a Feminist Theory of Fashion. Karen Barad’s Agential Realism” in Australian Feminist Studies, Vol. 23, No. 58, (2008) pp. 503; 505 / “Practices of knowing and being are not isolable; they are mutually implicated. We don't obtain knowledge by standing outside the world; we know because we are of the world. We are part of the world in its differential becoming.”  (Karen Barad, Agential Realism, 2007) back
Jan Verwoert, pp. 226-228/ See Hilary Lloyd’s Car Wash (2005) project, on body language and the performativity of pride.  back
Paraphrasing Jeremy Till, the original version tackles the role of architecture: “But when hypercapitalism hits the buffers, when the flow of commodities is staunched, buildings are subject to exactly the same measures as the other aspects of the economic world: reduction and control.” in “Scarcity and Agency”, p. 10 back
This essay and the unfolding project are in debt to Deborah Ligorio’s Survival Kits (Sternberg Press, 2013) which has proven an invaluable guide for tackling the contemporary feeling of crisis and the much needed excercises in imagination.  back
Avery F. Gordon, The Hawthorn Archive. Letters from the Utopian Margins, (2018) p. v back
Jeanne van Heeswijk, “Preparing for the Not-Yet”, Slow Reader. A Resource for Design Thinking and Practice, (eds) Ana Paula Pais & Carolyn F. Strauss, Valiz Amsterdam (2016)/ see as well Avery F. Gordon, The Hawthorn Archive, on the question of moving away from the future perfect no-place as utopias and idealization, and think as well with the in-the-here-and-now communities (Toni Cade Bambara).  back
Jeanne van Heeswijk references here the work of Spanish philosopher Marina Garcés on the ‘honesty with the real’ as to allow the dual conflicting nature of reality to become part of ourselves. It is a process of being ‘affective’, sensitive to the way another is, “which is not only a mental exercise and it doesn’t necessarily happen through words”. p. 44 back
Donna J. Haraway, Staying with the Trouble: Making Kin in the Chthulucene, (2016) back
In her overview of such 'shattered dreams,' Agata Pyzik suggested that some areas (like Poland or Russia) steadily became a mirage of 'poor but sexy,' fashioning themselves as to accommodate others' dreams. Just as post-Wall Berlin relied on mythmaking – advertising itself as cheap & attractive, but endowed with cultural and historical capital –, the strategy was to assure foreign investments. Not that it always worked out, but in a clap-back to that 'artistically sterile and dressed in grey drab' eastern-Europe, these areas compensated through creativity, (cultural) work mobility, and a certain feeling of authenticity. After the 2008s crash and its follow-up series of recession, which bowed societies to an ongoing set of austerity measures, the socialist past was dug up, revisited for alternative life models. Among them, 'values' of recycling, everyday creativity, and models of non-hierarchical distribution became the new chant embedded in discourses of 'what to do next.' That mending and making-do were both a survival kit, since material goods were scarce, but also a deconstruction process (that allowed for imagining and re-configurations of something else) – got now turned around as 'frugal innovations' paced by sustainable principles.

This new interest in the area appears thus on the backdrop of a widening gap between the poor and the rich. So: "We're looking to those who grew up in the ruins of a collapsed system hoping to get some useful lessons for the future. We are all, to some extent, in the same position as kids by the Wall. We are poor. But cool." (Anastasiia Fedorova)

Fashion became a sort of catalyst for this 'redeemed creativity.' Yet, it revealed how easily what used to be frowned upon as kitsch, cheap, or misappropriated western styles ended up hyped by designers and a media capitalising on nostalgia and the exotic other. Mostly what, in recent years, went under the elusive term of ‘post-Soviet aesthetics,’ brushed the working-class attire and taste (particularly the ‘90s), and placed it against the heavy socialist concrete atmosphere. But it did so in a romanticised way as if to serve a real-real. If it seemed anti-fashion, it wasn’t devoid of a sort of class-tourism and another raid of the cultural periphery, confronting an audience with an aesthetic, and another with a not yet forgotten memory and a mirror to their own harsh everyday life. As fashion writer Anastasiia Fedorova pointed out,
this 'New East' ¹⁰ and its perpetuated aesthetics of rawness, unkept, or unprocessed past, don't talk about a place. Rather, it functions still as a repository of images and imaginaries, attractive particularly in its contrast to the west's sanitised wishful images. Its effect, however, is alienating, for patterns of looking tend to engulf even witnesses of the present and the geopolitical history of the everyday ¹¹. So how are we to bypass the stereotypes? And if the western lens keeps 'correcting the eye,' could we at least fragment it into a kaleidoscope?

The fascinating ‘ex-centric’ region of hands-on forms of togetherness, appears once more as if it grew by some alien force right in the back of Europe's garden: from its on-growing Silicon Valleys (of tech-developers and high-speed data travel)¹² to the boost of creative (and creating) communities, or addressing stereotyped images through irony. 'Which east?' then, from demystifying the bloc identity to addressing the present, remains a question as relevant as ever. Could lines of thoughts on present/ past/ future situations open up doors and spaces into our current realities? Could mending reflect in thinking processes? 

from pebbles to ripples
"Better than hold on to design entangled in a modern, material culture (the pebble), let's start to also imagine design as a practice that maps, intervenes and challenges existing processes and repurposes them towards (more exciting) ends (the ripples)." Then, it's about 'imagineering' of narratives and meanings, and linkages between different actors.¹³ 

We live within an ever-designed world of relations, where "our bodies also count as information" – as design curator Jan Boelen notes – generating economic value, much like everything else. What these relations create are certain 'dispositions' embedded in everyday objects and products, which affect us. As manifested more recently by the sea of algorithms that targets us daily, it looks like we are dancing in their binds. In these processes, we are 'constituents' rather than mere 'users,' active contributors to that which we interact with. Devices, for one, are meant to trigger reactions and react to us. It is precisely this double-action that leaves space for possibilities, for creative input and responsibility. The way we interact with what’s around us can make way for form/ats and form/ing as an active practice, attitudes that could give rise to other dispositions to help us navigate this netted world¹⁴. We all walk in fashion and design because we are fashioning and designing ourselves and the world surrounding us. Amidst the plethora of stuff that keeps piling up, we came to see fashion and design as mere commodities rather than creative processes and our own role as active makers.  

Tackling the immaterial and invisible processes that make the infrastructure of our living worlds need not do away with the ‘matter’ of design. Indeed, these 'wrappings of the body,' in their materiality, let the bodies flow between the abstract and the material, between disciplining the body and its unruly magic sensibility. Fashion theorist Ilya Parkins underlines that in their intimate, warm contact with human bodies', the 'wrappings' (especially clothing) are challenging more overtly the duality subject-object, signalling the sensual and the spaces of participation and agency from the objects themselves¹⁵. This contact posits a question of ‘relationship.’ Not only we are constituted by, as much as we constitute what we are wearing - as we mediate our identity and activate garments; but what we wear, our objects, have a history and a life that exceeds our own knowledge. Think only of second-hand or handed-down clothing, for instance.
In a sense, overlapping technological advancement and everyday life can set as well ways to 'invent' and enable forms of experiencing and 'hacking' habit/ation, to shape baffling sensorial and identitary imagining. They can be traced across the surfaces of garments, through the realisation and sensuality of new silhouettes (human and non-human), in the remixing of imaginaries, onto the sounds dressing our personal space, or the many nuances of identity projected into social and political spaces. 

What falls together in such an exchange is not only the idea of facing 'scarcity,' that goes from redistributing materials, objects and redressing habits towards expressing identities (human and non-human), but also its counterpart: exuberance, mingled with it. Exuberance, beyond the alleged 'solipsism' or spiled-over glamour, can appear as a refusal to being reduced to a sole stance. It presents itself as a way of stepping out, transgressing predefined assumptions, and creating another narrative. Writer and critic Jan Verwoert unfolded the subtleties of exuberance as being equally (bodily) gestures. Such gestures refuse the assigned ‘proper place,’ much like the adornments showing out from the uniform of ordinary workers going about their day, interrupting thus the labour regime through an 'untradeable' (not up for buy) surplus.
Exuberance, then, is not a reverie, but an act/ing of different instances, "where the possibility of one doesn't hinder the existence of others."¹⁶ Entangled with scarcity, it can elaborate ways for moving out of the low-paid /migrant /unkept realm, not by denying it, but by using multiple fictions to re-frame it.
TechnoVision Deck reimagines tarot’s iconography of the 22 Major Arcana cards as a disturbing allegory of our global network society. Following the Marseille deck as a model, the 3D scenes created for the trumps replace the mystic symbolism with objects that point to our technocultural times. Under the premise that to clearly see a thing is a form of power, each TechnoVision tries to capture a negative essence of the technoscape and compel the querent to meditate upon it. As the tarot, the TechnoVision Deck is not an inherently kind tool. The stingy text that comes along has a faux divinatory shell, being used mostly as reinforcing the visual and making the obvious more obvious.
Taietzel Ticalos (b. 1986) is a visual artist based in Bucharest. Her artistic practice investigates the transmutation of reality into the virtual space and contemplates the development of digital narrations. She focuses on sexual objectification, social media as consumer media, digital performance and digital reenactment. Between 2014-2016 she coordinated with Gabriela Mateescu the mobile group Nucleu 0000, a flexible collective of young Romanian artists.
Fashion and design, seen as discursive machinery and encounter with 'stuff' having a life of its own, can always become something else, a soft growth of textures, a weaving of politics and new visions, inserting complaints and demands that exceed our own interests. 

for where we meet we make emergent 

When hypercapitalism hits the buffers once more, when the flow of commodities has been staunched, we encounter the same measures: reduction and control to be smeared on life itself ¹⁷. In the wake of an ongoing pandemic, older issues are re-surfacing. The struggle for communities, the Balkan boiling blood, the Online Empire of Everything, the multiple levels of confinement and the intricacies of domestic life, the thorny issue of motherhood, one's identity (the topography of sex/gender/race), working conditions, waste and the mismanaged distribution of necessary materials – they call once again into question what exactly 'liveable' is. So how do we make way and notice the subtle insertions tackling future(s) already here? Can these possible living-kits¹⁸ respond through nuances to the culturally diverse area of the European ‘east’? And who gets to design them? Out of Stock glides through these issues relying on innuendos as to leaves spaces for other insertions and understandings. 

"Fact, fiction, theory, and images and imaginaries speak to each other in an undisciplined manner" – as sociologist Avery F. Gordon reminds us. They ultimately offer glimpses into the ways through which people deal (and have dealt) with various systems of domination, "which, despite their overwhelming power, never quite overtake or become us" because – as the author follows – they are only one condition of our being. It's a 'living' that touches upon zones of exclusion, blind spots, fugitive moments of comprehension yielding real and imaginary strivings for that 'liveable,' transnational and local at the same time. We might only brush against them, but they are what makes our being in-difference, as a "political consciousness and a sensual knowledge."¹⁹

Setting up ripples, thinking fashion and design with the 'improbable' rather than the outcome or predefined understandings, might help us touch particularly on that pool of possibilities which can account for different yet co-habiting worlds.
To allow growth, from all the differences that are there, together, can only imply a plunge into 'unknown,' especially when territories are as fractured and frictioned as they are. It is an attitude – a 'disposition' if you will – that doesn't focus on a foreseeable 'success'²⁰ or prescriptive positions, but on the workings and re-workings of how connections can be met and traced, in all their complications and conflicting realities. It’s a ‘practice of the not-yet,’ as a way of listening, of “becoming sensitive to how someone else is” which we learn by “sharing notions of how we see ourselves where we are” so as to code ourselves with new alliances²¹. A 'we’ that is ever a frail thing.
Perhaps, in this line, an eastern-europeanness could be lay-out as a 'relatable' connectedness beyond its borders and limitations, beyond stereotyped images, beyond the label itself, of 'eastern-europe.' As if through a kaleidoscope then, we can look at the future not as a shape, but rather an abstraction for a not-yet communality, one which is equally made and unmade while one and others walk through a constellation of ideas, artifacts, and affects. These might as well be gestures of exuberance, reactionary reminders of agency, shaping themselves 'out of spite' and out of stock, out in the out - on futuring. There's as much joy, pleasure, and desire embedded in them, as it's the sorrow of ongoing struggles for survival. 

Donna Haraway beautifully stated that:
"it matters what stories make worlds, what worlds make stories." ²² So, it matters still what dreams dream the dream of future, for our relational and political times to come are entangled in them.

The Pervasive Sense of Passage by Taietzel Ticalos

*I would like to thank all the amazing contributors of this first and only issue, fantastic Ana Labudović, and my curatorial collective Aici Acolo. Their exchange of ideas, support, and comments have helped me tackle the sensible spots in my own perception and shuffle around the idea of what an 'eastern-europeanness' could be in a netted world like ours. I'm here because you are.
A special shout out goes to the HEKLER collective for reminding me once more that bonding knows no borders.
Edith Lázár (n.1988) is an art writer and (unprofessional) fashion theorist based in Cluj-Napoca, Romania. She has a background in art history and is a dropout academic in the field of philosophy. Her research and wanderings focus on fictions, aesthetic politics, speculative design and the socio-political threads of fashion. She has been an associate editor for the contemporary art platform anti-utopias – in charge of The Fashion Series –, and since 2015 she has been involved in various art projects. She holds dearly her collaboration with SPRLQDT Art Space for digital art exhibitions; and she is the co-founder and part of the curatorial collective Aici Acolo - an 'on-the-move' project that reactivates unused or abandoned urban spaces in Cluj by showcasing young artists. During 2019, she was a fellow of Akademie Schloss Solitude, Stuttgart (Design/ Fashion Theory), where she explored ways of writing that merge theory, literature, and journalism. Her soft spots are science fiction, second-hand clothes and mango. Currently, she is in working (attempts) of a non-linear sci-fi novel using storytelling as an artistic medium and creating settings for listening.