Eastern European hauntings
Based in Bucharest, The Future of launched in January this year as a magazine that uses philosophy to, “reclaim, reimagine, and remap the future of ideas that are shaping contemporary society.” That first issue unpacked The Future of Nostalgia, and in July we delivered their second issue to Stack subscribers, which switched to The Future of Ghosts, combining Jacques Derrida’s Spectres of Marx with work by other philosophers, writers and artists to create a unique understanding of ghostliness.
It’s published by the people behind Kajet Journal, a booklike magazine also based in Bucharest, which aims to provoke a fresh appreciation of Eastern Europe, and the projects are clearly related to one another. Because while The Future Of is interested in exploring ideas rather than encapsulating a region, its Eastern Europeanness is still an essential part of its identity: Almost all of its contributors come from Romania and Eastern Europe, and as I was reading I noticed that several of its ghost stories ring with echoes of the Soviet past.
In the photo essay Supermodern Ghosts and Architectural Fossils, for example, we’re told that the isolation in Horațiu Șovăială’s images should not be mistaken for emptiness: “These are not void territories, but urban ghosts in perpetual socio-cultural purgatory… spaces of the in-between, haunted and haunting alike.” There’s a sense of post-Soviet dislocation to the images, as though the landscapes were planned and built in a different time, and stand today as a reminder of that previous age.
Meanwhile, in Neither Dead Nor Alive, Mădălina Preda cites statistics showing nostalgia for Soviet times amongst the people living in Romania’s old mining communities. Tens of thousands of residents have left the once-prosperous coal mines of the Carpathian mountains, but her focus is not on the resulting ghost towns so much as the industrial infrastructure they leave behind, quietly leaking pollutants into their local environments while the world goes through its “exorcism” of fossil fuels.
With its playful and far-reaching philosophical perspective, The Future of Ghosts goes searching for spectres in stories about ecology, history, popular culture and more, using them to reflect on the way we live today. And they even play with creating and invoking their own ghosts: strange, blue abstract shapes are dotted throughout the magazine – there’s nothing to indicate what they are, but during our Stack Magazine Club conversation editors Petra and Laura revealed that the outlines were created from photographs they had considered for the magazine but not actually used.
I love that sort of fastidious attention to detail, and the unspoken, unfathomable meanings that it enables on the page. If you haven’t seen a copy of The Future of Ghosts yet you can buy one in our online shop while stocks last. And of course if you subscribe to Stack we’ll deliver something different to your door every month – you never know what will come next, but you do know it will be a print surprise from outside the mainstream.