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Window-Shopping Through the Iron Curtain

David Hlynsky


A surreal and magical window into a unique commercial aesthetic that flourished under the crumbling Communist regimes of 20th-century Europe

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Communist shop windows may long have passed from history into irony, but their distinctive style, handmade charm and implicit critique of modern commercial culture have won them a new generation of fans. This is a wonderfully deadpan celebration of a unique commercial aesthetic that flourished under the crumbling totalitarian Communist regimes of 20th-century Europe.

More than 170 images, mainly shop window displays, shot by artist David Hlynsky during the final years of the collapsing Soviet empire in Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Yugoslavia, Bulgaria, East Germany and Russia, using a Hasselblad camera to capture the slow, undramatic moments of daily life on the streets.

The photographs are accompanied by essays by art historian Martha Langford and cultural studies specialist Jody Berland, as well as Hlynsky’s own account of his time as a flâneur in the shopping plazas of the collapsing Soviet empire, ‘a vast ad-hoc museum of a failing utopia’ that in 1989 began to close for ever.

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'A fascinating view of an old era of consumerism that began to crumble with the Berlin Wall in 1989'

'The pictures reveal a world without enterprise ... almost 30 years ago'
Daily Mail

'In 170 photos, Hlynsky's book portrays a colourful and almost childlike world now absent'
GUP magazine

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Product Information

Book Details

Format: Hardback with tipped on colour plate to front board (without jacket)

Size: 24.0 x 16.5 cm

Extent: 208 pp

Illustrations: 176

Publication date: 23 February 2015

ISBN: 9780500252116

Contents List

Artist’s Statement (David Hlynsky) • Introduction: What Was it Like to Shop in these Streets? (David Hlynsky) • The Windows (photographs of c. 160 shop windows) • Stops Along the Way: David Hlynsky’s Communist (and Decommunizing) Shop Windows (essay by Martha Langford) • The Next Thing You Buy (essay by Jody Berland)

About the Author

David Hlynsky is Senior Lecturer in Arts, Culture and Media at the University of Toronto. He is founding editor of the alternative photography magazine Image Nation (1973–83), and the author of Baggage and Salvage.

List of Contributors

Martha Langford, Jody Berland