INTRO FOR JAREK'S PHOTO GALLERIES
It's not clear that human civilisation will still exist in fifty years time in anything like the contemporary sense. That is, it's not remotely obvious that there will be human institutions, containing things like “archives” to record our collective memories. But if there are, Jarek Gasiorek's documentary photography will undoubtedly comprise an essential part, telling the story of what took place — in Sydney at least — during a period that will by then have surely been recognised, classified and filed under “turbulent”.
A period existed between the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, marking the end of the Soviet Union and the great Cold War, and the onset of what Australians call “the Global Financial Crisis” — “the Great Recession”, to the rest of the world. As this period after the Berlin Wall proceeded, it was quickly interpreted as “The End of History”, as though all modes of political economy had been tested and all but one had failed; some kind of optimal, stable point called “neoliberalism” had been reached in the history of political economy, it was believed. Similarly, shortly before onset of the GFC, this period was dubbed “The Great Moderation”. These kinds of assessments would later prove to have been nothing more than the first half of hubris: the pride before the fall.
These assessments, it would become clear, weren't disinterested, but rather wishful thinking on the part of certain ideologues. Ironically, it was these people who driving the “Great Moderation” towards a very immoderate consumption of itself.
At that archive in the future, doubtless the Abbott & Hockey federal budget of 2014 will be recorded as one of the most dramatic in Australia's history — a kind of fork in the road. Six years in to the post-GFC period, as if repeating a past hubristic conceit, this next epoch was declared by Australia's intelligentsia to be nothing less than “The Australian Moment”. It's as though so many Australians refused to look deeper in to the social, political, and economic causes of the GFC, nor indeed to even examine the world around them.
Despite this broad blindness, in that post-GFC period there nevertheless existed a small number who could foresee turbulence in the distance. A major part of the looming crisis was, per se, the fact that we Australians had lost the ability to discuss — indeed, to even conceive of — the turbulence that was about to bear down upon us.
Jarek was one of those with foresight. As such, he is almost unique in cataloguing, first the threat, then the landfall of the turbulence in its entirety. I first encountered Jarek at Occupy Sydney in October 2011, and he's been buzzing around that movement ever since, camera dutifully in hand. Moreover, where ever there's a protest in Sydney, where ever the consent of the governed has been so taken for granted that some group or other's involvement in the social contract is at risk of revocation, there is Jarek: observing, documenting, reflecting us back to ourselves.
And of course, given his own extraordinary personal history, one that lead to his becoming a refugee from a Poland under martial law, Jarek has a visceral understanding of a vigorous, informed, involved populace. We are better civic participants for Jarek's involvement. He has contributed to the reinvigoration of social movements with something that Australians had once lost, but are now rediscovering: vigorous debate.
Speaking post-2014-budget, ironically it is only at this this juncture, wherein the modal Australian opinion has suddenly shifted to incorporate the possibility that, within our lifetimes, our political economy may become so dysfunctional as to preclude the existence of “civilised” institutions such as archives, that archives and their archivists become all the more precious. I heartily encourage everyone to support Jarek Gasiorek and to participate in and discuss his work.