News, prologue

Natalija Paunić

(written in 2019, in the context of NEWS Issue 0 independent publication, with contributions by Barbara Kapusta, Julija Zaharijevic, Tamara Spalajkovic, Julius Pristauz. Supported and produced by Open Space, London)

*

I sat down to write a poem about an idea, but then a friend of mine, an artist, sent me something 

Philippe Parreno said: talking around things is much more interesting than talking about things. 

I thought about cigarettes. It’s an object with so much content, the cigarette: a perfectly ironic 

consumerist item that literally disappears into air. That thing you hold when you don’t know what 

to do with your hands has also been described as a slow, deadly weapon, yet as you stand 

outside and smoke, you somehow make new friends. It’s an interface, really, even if poisonous.

 

My friends often complain on Instagram, when the party they vote for loses the election, and this also, somehow, disappears into air, the other air, the Cloud. Meanwhile I watch The Crown and often quote Sister Alice on her deathbed: Who cares? Honestly. It’s as sentimental as it is funny, as the most relatable character in the show, funnily again, smokes 

one of her last cigarettes. 

 

If a cigarette can, really, communicate so much outside of itself, it is because we assume things, even more than we believe things, or believe in them. It’s a construct, of being cool, of being chic, like there is this hot and rich sadness inside you, but you also don’t care a lot about anything if you smoke, because you expose yourself to harm. 

 

Over one of my own cigarettes (and my mom doesn’t know this), I talked to a potential art collector from Estonia. She is a writer and her husband visits Belgrade occasionally, doing business. We talked about the Winter Olympics in Sochi, at which the stage technology malfunctioned during the inaugural ceremony, causing one of the five circles of the Olympics logo not to transform from a flower to a circle. “Who knows what happened to the guy who was in charge of that”. The guy, in the ever so communistically portrayed Russia, got fired, she said. The fifth circle didn’t care.

Was that some super force, the Zeitgeist, Cthulhu, the global body of the world, God, saying, something is wrong? Or was it just me.

 

I look at the choreography of my fingers as I type. There’s smoke behind the screen. I think about the things that we think about when we hear about incredible situations. Some things that I don’t even want to write about. Is it fiction, or is it journalism? I remember coming home after class and watching a giant ocean wave on TV. A video from some office in Fukushima shaking down the Capitalocene. I felt tears come down my cheek, at the same moment remembering a similar situation from 2001. I was coming home, still in elementary school, and my dad said that he wanted to come and pick me up, because of the horror that built up inside him (this was on 11th September). We saw many towers go up in flames after that.

 

I read about this in this great book called Fiction as method. I didn’t even know that until the 18th century, there was no such thing as fiction in written form - all they had were news (or newes, as they were called). 

 

I think I actually want to produce news, because fiction has been constructed and manufactured everywhere. New memories, to accompany my cigarettes if you will. I realized that I’ve got to keep myself busy, but I also realize that I hate art that explains things to you, saying: here, I want you to think about this piece of information, because this is about that.

 

So what follows is a collection of texts, interviews and images that are lyrical more than dialectic, and can be consumed, or disappear


Into air

 

 

 

Until then

 

With love and anxiety,


Natalija

*It is generally frowned upon in the EU. Smoking is political, it’s a display of your social status, of where you come from, potentially, and whether you want to make new friends or not. Sometimes it’s also about control and time, because cigarettes are said to make your life shorter.

Cigarette butts are toxic plastic pollution.

 

© Natalija Paunic 2021

All rights reserved.