James Lang

James Lang has been making art since the early 80’s. His main interest is in sculpture and he specialised in bronze and ceramics early on. (He did an MFA art program at Pratt University under Licio Isolani.) Lang has combined his studies in literature with his art and enjoys writing witty vignettes about the sculpture that he personifies.

Vacuum Cleaning Ukraine

The year was after 2022, I can’t like many, remember exactly when, but I was vacuuming with my 1983 National MC-301F Footstool Cylinder Vacuum Cleaner, a handy Polish machine that, despite a small container, was effective on rubble. 

I took a break under the hot summer sun and used an 18th century Japanese fan that I took from the nearby museum to cool myself down. there were fancy inscriptions and a drawing of a dragon in the water, maybe it was made for a fierce emperor, and that’s how I was feeling, after months of cleaning up the town of Husarivka, in Eastern Ukraine: I just wanted to clean more!

As the sweat dripped from my chin, I could hear, to my surprise, what appeared to be 2 Russian vacuum cleaners, a Raketa T-45 1960 and a Vichir EP-2 1963-R model, shaped like a space age Soyuz.

The Raketa was a workhorse, much like a Kalashnikov, but it had been years since I had heard a Vichir EP-2 (The EP-1 was discontinued shortly after production because a design flaw caused it to overheat and catch on fire.)

I walked over with my 1983 National MC-301F, straining my ears a little  to the high pitch of the two machines and together they sounded like an ordinary 1955 Hoover model 64 with a headlamp that lets you see them dustballs under hard to reach areas.

I met Boyka  and Oxana, two charming Ukranian women, both teachers who had made it over from the occupied zone. Refusing to teach the Russian curriculum, they came over to “Zlamannyy Oukraina” (Broken Ukraine), and brought with them Russian vacuum cleaners. 

Of course they wanted to hear what my Polish vacuum cleaner sounded like and I agreed on the condition that we would do a trio concert all together.

It started off awkwardly, my National MC-301F was rumbling a bit because the dust bag was almost full, but we carried on, up the stairs of a building with a vast hole in it, and we improvised Brahms’ Tragic Overture – without horns or violins. It may have been a rough symphony, especially because at one moment Oxana’s hose got caught under a railing, and she almost lost her balance and fell, but there was delight, light and lightfullness in the dusty air. 

Then, to my surprise, Boyka and Oxana started singing a Ukranian rap song by Yuri Bardash, Gruzovik,  over Brahms, and here it is, I have translated it as best as I could: 

I'm a truck
Designed to
Collect all the stones
Throw me too
The body is broken, bleeding
Strangely enough, I'm moving forward
This is my plan, on

Load of dimensional rhythms, bits
I took it out, I take it out, I'm always ready
Brave bracelet for the festival
The ball is made by industrial, the hall is crowded
Yes, this is the beginning of the road
You're inside, you were allowed to enter
Well, everything, like, then I myself, sorry
Truck at speed    

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