After the fall from 19th century’s Mitelleuropa directly into Inferno, western Europeans covered themselves with a veil of delusion, which is now revealing to be only a drag, stretched enough just to cover the shame, and unable to protect them from a changing world. Convinced they found the way to prosperity and peace, inebriated by Bismarck’s legacy, and overlooking (sometimes even denying) the flames of Hell that were still burning on the other side of the Curtain, they believed in a new life after WWII, away from the dreadfulness witnessed by the world during the first half of the century. In a quasi-religious manner, Europeans still eager for Eden, an earthly reward for all that former suffering. However, history never ends, and those who ignore this evidence engage in an existence on the edge of oblivion.
Western civilization barely survived the widespread paranoia that almost destroyed it within a century. It’s not easy to deal with that. Wherever we look, there are signs to assure us that the scars are not forgotten neither healed. Those could be the perfect altars for the Memory, but the European man insists on living in the present. He has no past; he refuses to look over his shoulder, maybe fearing that at the same time he will be facing the future. And there is no comfort in the modern efforts of association, because it reminds us some (not so) ancient catastrophes sustained by bureaucracy and centralization.
What is causing Europe’s crisis, what is giving rise to this long romantic opera’s libretto (if not Romantism itself)? Is its past a burden too heavy to hold?, not only its dark history but also its glorious achievements? What is left for a culture that already nourished Mozart’s Jupiter, Beethoven’s Seventh and Wagner’s Ring? As Lou Reed puts it (with a pessimism and humility so rarely seen in the pop environment, with all its celebration of the lower culture and refusal of higher standards): you can’t be Shakespeare and you can’t be Joyce, so what is left instead? There’s not much left, indeed. To worsen the situation, Europe collapsed to hysteria and then fell on the last inner circle of Hell. And, once in Hell, there is no redemption. Quia in Inferno nulla est redemptio. That, above all, is Europe’s tragedy.
These images aim at portraying a distressed Europe, not figuratively but instead in an evocative way. In a time when color is recurrent in exposing the grief of modern middleclass or the monotony of the suburbs, only black-and-white can depict the tragedy of a fading Europe.
Carlos M. Fernandes