A guide to the New East

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Is Jamie XX's stunning new video a homage to eastern European bleakness?

Last week Jamie XX dropped the new video for his excellently crafted track Gosh, directed by Romain Gavras. The Greek-French director has previously worked with M.I.A, Kanye West and Jay Z and is well known for his surreal visions of youth tribes, gangs and dystopias in highly cinematic settings. Gosh is no exception: it takes the viewer to Tianducheng, a ghost town in the suburbs of Hangzhou, China, built in 2007 as an imitation of Paris. The local Eiffel Tower is now rusted and the city abandoned, with gardens overtaken by locals to grow vegetables. But Gosh is definitely not about China so much as a larger idea of the future shaped by the trajectory of current social dynamics. And, like any dystopia, it looks pretty eastern European: a few classic New East visual tropes can be easily spotted in Gavras’s creation. Here’s our breakdown of the influences.

 

1. Tower blocks

Nothing screams eastern Europe like a few rows of identical tower blocks.

The vast and overwhelming cityscape has become, in recent years, stereotypic symbol of the emerging youth culture of the New East. Contemporary Chinese housing projects have borrowed a lot from their Soviet predecessors which creates an uncannily similar atmosphere of failed utopia: the idea of efficient life turned into a ghost town.

 

2. Dystopian cityscape

Dystopian cities are a staple of post-Soviet ruin porn.

From disused military bases and abandoned industrial towns to locations of ecological disaster, dystopian urban environments are never far away in New East imagery. Ghost towns are not unique to eastern Europe but they are certainly a key part of the largely region-specific genre of ruin porn.

 

3. Sportswear

Tracksuits are big among eastern European lads and street gangs.

Although 2016 saw the rise of the tracksuit as one of the key fashion items on international catwalks, its working-class, thuggish connotations still remains. The tailored white tracksuits in Gosh are made by London-based brand Cottweiler, one of the main leaders in the reinvention of the garment.

 

4. Let's ride

Battered cars and broken roads are an unavoidable part of the eastern European driving experience.

In the second part of the video the white tracksuit-clad gang is taking a ride in a beaten-up blue car. They roll down a road bordered by weeds and fences and covered in cracks and potholes, and over a huge grey puddle — something of a daily reality in small town eastern Europe.

 

5. Bleak skies

Eastern European skies are always colourless and bleak.

The reality is somewhat different. It is, in fact possible to get bright blue skies and sunny days. But nothing says welcome to the New East quite like an overcast sky.

 

Watch the full video below.

 

Text: Anastasiia Fedorova

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