Available in print or electronically, The Western Front has recently published Momentarily: Learning for Mega-Events. Taking the 2010 Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver as a point of departure, the publication is a survey of possible articulations in response to the “strategic, simplified, spotless, homogenizing representations” of cities that profitably circulate in contest to the gritty and complicated reality of what it means to be in any one place (9). A number of different strategies are employed throughout, including institutional and curatorial contextualizations, semi-fiction, interviews, reproduction of a manifesto and theoretical historical examinations.
Of particular interest is Rob Hornstra and Arnold van Bruggen’s “Skating Among Palm Trees,” which is a fascinating if horrifying account of what is happening in Sochi in advance of the 2014 Olympic Winter Games. Hornstra and van Bruggen, a photographer and filmmaker respectively, have come together to create The Sochi Project, a crowd-funded and long-term documentary endeavour whose aim is to give voice to the breadth of social, economic and political struggles rising up as a result of Sochi’s Olympic transformation.
Perhaps as a reflection of the form of The Sochi Project, Horstra and van Bruggen have authored a collective essay as their contribution to Momentarily. On her recent talk at Toronto’s Power Plant, Claire Bishop spoke of just such a tactic as a way to access productive (aesthetic or political) critiques of social art projects. Against the tyranny of the single-author essay, these types of collaborations rethink how scholarship is approached, both in terms of production and reception, making room for voices that speak by virtue of their plurality. Alissa Firth-Eagland, one of the publication’s editors, proposes that this insistence on the incorporation of multiple perspectives is one way to address the visibility and invisibility that particular images make possible, creating new contexts for linkages and ideas to form. In turn, Firth-Eagland asserts, these lead to new kinds of action. I am curious to watch the development of The Sochi Project, to map how the lessons of Vancouver are either taken up or discarded in Russia, and to follow the trajectory of learning from mega-events as it happens across the world.