Julie Rafalski

Past Worlds

The atmosphere of a time cannot be recreated. The facts of a written account can be read and photographs and film footage of that time can be looked at but the collective mood of a time period cannot be made again.

Even in attempting to describe a collective mood, I will have failed. Even in attempting to describe a time period in Poland in the late 80s, I cannot describe precisely the light brown leather bus seats before the Christmas holidays during which no decorations were visible, the yellow and blue commuter trains with contoured uncomfortable bright red plastic seating on grey days at 5am, and the smell of petrol inside cars whose thin doors showed the car's outside paint colour. All these details, which I cannot recreate, contributed, or in my mind are now mixed up with a mood of melancholy, absurdism, and a sometimes deceptive outer simplicity.

All these details will never come together in the same configuration again. It was a song played only once. All these things make up a world now inaccessible, floating away, like in Magritte's Le Voyager.

Even in attempting to describe them here, I am already changing them, tampering with them, deforming what I speak of. Whole endless expanses of remembered plastic seats, wooden bus stop poles, faded train station paint, rusty windows, trains, buses, and cars being changed because I am thinking of them. They are masking their true identities and disappearing before my very eyes (or mind's eyes I should say). And I am the one helping them escape, change shape into something else, depart on their long journey of disappearance.