Nikolay Bakharev once photographed me and my adult daughter. We were part of a project initiated by a Moscow magazine. We were ready: we had gotten dressed up and we struck a pose, embracing against the white walls of my apartment. We hugged a bit more fervently than we would have for any other photographer: we knew that we were dealing with Bakharev.

Once the center of the Moscow circle of conceptualists, Ilya Kabakov has become one of the most highly visible artists working today. He was named by ArtNews as one of the “ten greatest living artists” in 2000. Throughout his forty-year plus career, Kabakov has produced a wide range of paintings, drawings, installations, and theoretical texts — not to mention extensive memoirs that track his life from his childhood to the early 1980s. In recent years, he has created installations that evoked the visual culture of the Soviet Union, though this theme has never been the exclusive focus of his work. Since 1989, all the artist’s work has been a collaboration with his wife Emilia Kabakov. See also the artist's website http://www.ilya-emilia-kabakov.com/.

Katarzyna Bojarska:Let us start with your project for the exhibition in Atlas Sztuki. The title of this installation sounds very serious - What We Shall See After Death. Where did the inspiration for such an eschatological perspective come from?

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On April 2, 2008, Artur Żmijewski took part in the My History of Art series of lectures at the Centre for Contemporary Art at Ujazdowski Castle in Warsaw. The lecture was followed by a conversation with Paweł Polit, Grezgorz Borkowski, Anna Łazar and Stach Szabłowski. Please see below for both parts of the event.

"I’d like to talk about my subjective history of art, mixing some autobiographical motifs - what I participated in, for instance, as a student of Grzegorz Kowalski’s - with what was going on in the social and political spheres in the 1980s and 1990s. A couple of years ago, Grzegorz Kowalski delivered a lecture as part of the My History of Art series, beginning with his childhood in the 1940s and 1950s and arriving at the 1980s. Because I’m part of the Kowalski Studio tradition, I’d like to pick up where he left off, that is, in the 1980s.

Tadeusz Kantor, 'Letter,' 1966, photo Zygmunt Targowski. Image courtesy of Foksal Gallery, Warsaw.On January 21, 1967, Tadeusz Kantor sent a special message to Foksal PSP Gallery in Warsaw. This message has not been entirely deciphered until now, but ever since it was delivered it has exerted its influence on the character of artistic experiments conducted at the gallery. The gigantic letter, which measured 2 x 14 meters, was carried by eight postal workers through the streets of Warsaw. Accompanied by photographers, they departed from the main post office and ended up in the narrow space of the gallery that was already crowded with people. Pre-recorded reports that described the letter’s progress were broadcast through loudspeakers during the event to fire up the audience. The “Man in the Black Jacket” – Tadeusz Kantor himself – orchestrated the different components of the happening, steering it cautiously towards its prescribed conclusion, the collective act of the letter’s destruction. 

A freshly made stencil pattern. Photo courtesy of János Sugár.

In the summer of 2008, János Sugár exhibited the sentence "Wash your dirty money with my art" at the Kunsthalle, Budapest, as part of an exhibition entitled What's up? Parallel with exhibiting the sentence in this safe context, he also displayed it on the pavement in front of and on the wall of two private art institutions in Budapest. Soon after this, one of these institutions sued him for damaging its property. After Sugár's exhibition at the Kunsthalle it was easy to identify him as the artist, and soon Sugár was summoned by the police and prosecuted. Sugár admitted that he had sprayed the sentences and added that he considered them a continuation of the art work he had earlier displayed at the Kunsthalle. However, Sugár's gesture was not deemed art by the authorities and was classified as vandalism. The damage was estimated at $7,500, a startling amount given the relatively small pavement area covered by the sprayed text (40x60 cm=1.3x1.9 ft). Sugár refused to pay such a high

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“Starting life as a tiny fish in the belly of a libidinous Russian woman, only to be released by the sperm of a drunken sailor, doesn’t sound like the beginning of a simple existence for anyone. So for the scrawny, awkwardly endearing Alisa […] it’s no great surprise to go unnoticed and unappreciated by those around her.”

Rusalka/Mermaid (2007), the second feature film by director Anna Melikyan, has been chosen as Russia’s entry for the Foreign Oscars in 2009. It has already received ample recognition at the Russian box office and has also won several awards in 2008, among them the World Cinema Directing Award at Sundance and the grand prize for the best film in the international competition in Sofia.

Iosif Kiràly. Iosif Kiràly is one of Romania’s most prominent contemporary artists. He teaches at the National University of Arts in Bucharest, where he is also the co-founder of the Department of Photography and Time-Based Media Arts. Kiràly lives and works in Bucharest.

Ileana Pintilie: You are at present one of the best-known Romanian artists active on the international art scene. Please talk about your formation as an artist, about the artistic elements that influenced your development.

Iosif Kiràly: My background is a hybrid one. In the 1970s, I attended a Bauhaus-like art school in Timişoara (the only one existing at that time in Romania). That institution was a “pedagogical experiment / firing range” for the so-called Sigma group. It promoted the merger of art and new technologies, along with a type of neo-constructivist aesthetics. I graduated from the Institute of Architecture in Bucharest. However I chose to return to contemporary art with a focus on installations, performance and

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Journal No. 1 - An Artist's Impression. Directed by Hito Steyerl.  2007. Video: 21 min.

“Once upon a time there was a country…”  This sentence, borrowed from Dušan Kovačević’s novel of the same title and later adopted into Emir Kusturica’s film Underground, evokes a temporality that is tied to origins and to the kind of arkhè Jacques Derrida challenged as part of his undoing of the metaphysical relationship between being and its history in Western culture and thought. Steyerl’s short documentary questions the fairy tale perspective on Yugoslavia’s mythical origins and its relationship with time.

Barbora Klímová lives and works in Brno Czech Republic. She has exhibited in numerous solo and group exhibitions. Klímová is also a holder of the Tranzit Award (2007), as well as the prestigious Jindrich Chalupecky Price awarded annually to Czech contemporary artists. For her Replaced-Brno-2006 project at the 2009 Manifesta, Klímová chose five performances by five artists that took place in Czechoslovakia in the 1970s and ‘80s. The main selection prerequisite was that the performances were conducted (or could have been conducted) in a public space.

The Bug Trainer (Vabzdžių dresuotojas), directed by Donatas Ulvydas, Linas Augutis, Marek Skrobecki, and Rasa Miskinyte. (Lithuania-Poland-Japan-The Netherlands - Finland, 2008).

The Bug Trainer is a biopic which tells the story of the legendary Polish-Lithuanian animation artist Ladislas Starevich (aka. Władysław Starewicz, 1882-1965). Today Starevich is known only to film historians, but in the first decades of the twentieth century, his pioneering work in stop-motion animation enjoyed a wide international success. “How does he manage to couch beetles?” exclaimed the enraptured spectators of his early shows, unable to believe that the insect stars they saw on screen were puppets.

DOX exterior, seen from Poupětová Street. Image courtesy of DOX.Jaroslav Anděl has produced numerous exhibitions and publications on modern and contemporary art both in the Czech Republic and abroad. He is the co-author of  Czech Modernism 1900-1945 (Museum of Fine Arts Houston, Houston, Texas, U.S.A. 1990) and co-editor of Cinema All the Time: An Anthology of Czech Film Theory and Criticism, 1908-1939 (Czech National Film Archive: 2008). He was recently appointed artistic director of the newly opened DOX Center for Contemporary Art in Prague.

Polish New Wave, Kinoteka Film Festival 2009, Tate Modern, London, 3-5 April, 2009

As the title of this event implies, the Polish New Wave is by no means a straightforward pre-existing historical movement that can be precisely dated. In contrast to the French New Wave and the closer example - both geographically and politically - of the Czech New Wave, the Polish New Wave was never able to have a continuous, stable development but was rather evident in a number of individual cinematic projects occurring over an extended period of time, the contours, definition and limits of which are still subject to debate.

IREN STEHLI, BRIGITTE WEISS GALERIE, ZURICH. JANUARY 16, 2009 – MARCH 7, 2009

Iren Stehli, a Swiss native who was drawn to Prague by her interest in her mother’s heritage, first arrived there in 1974. At that time the city was in the midst of a difficult political period, the “normalization,” i.e., the return to the status before the Prague Spring. In Prague Stehli first studied Czech and decided to stay and study photography.  Once enrolled in the Academy of Film, Photography, and Television (FAMU), still a bastion of some freedom of creative - if not political - expression, Stehli’s interests took a more concrete shape.

Alisa. Still from the film.Mermaid (Rusalka). Directed by Anna Melikyan. Central Partnership, 2007. 115 min/100 min (theatrical version in Russia), 35 MM.

As a result of a workshop held in Berlin in November 2008 we invited five critics and scholars to discuss Anna Melikyan’s film The Mermaid (Rusalka, 2007).

In “Wolf as Grandmother,” one of his reflections in Minima Moralia (1951), Theodor W. Adorno once disputed the claims of those who defend film as a “popular art” (Volkskunst) against the standards of autonomous works of art. According to Adorno, these critics erred in comparing film, its stereotypical character and its schematic distinction of good and evil, to the workings of the fairy-tale. 

“I can make dreams come true,” says Alisa and by doing so makes one of the many claims in this movie which are supposed to make us believe that Anna Melikyan’s Mermaid is a modern fairy tale. The way in which the film is put together: the camera work, the editing and Alisa‘s retrospective voice-over  evoke a fairy-tale-like world in which Alisa’s character is able to interfere. Or so it seems. In this film the forces of nature align to grant wishes, magic love shows instant effects, and the future can be changed for the better at the last minute thanks to prophetic dreams. But serendipity comes at a price, a cost to be borne by someone else.

Anna Melikjan’s Mermaid (Rusalka, 2007) is one of several recent Russian films dealing with the Cinderella story in the context of contemporary Russia. In Rusalka as well as in Pops (Popsa, directed by Elena Nikolaeva, 2005) or Gloss (Glianets, directed by Andrei Konchalovskii, 2007), the female protagonist comes to Moscow from the provinces in the hopes of changing her life for the better. In Rusalka, Melikyan puts together elements from various narrative models of female life-stories – the biography, the melodrama and the fairy tale.

The “little mermaid,” the naïve heroine of Anna Melikyan’s The Mermaid, dies minutes before the film ends. She is struck by a car in Moscow, the brutal Russian capital that is so indifferent to the fate of its inhabitants. This sudden, hyper-realistic and, cynically natural death is even more tragic as the mermaid, Alisa, is just about to realize her dream of winning the love of her prince (Aleksandr/Sasha). At least for a moment, Alisa and the audience are both led to believe in the possibility of such a fairy tale ending.

Edi Hila, 'Chien en jardin' (Dog in the Garden'), 2008, 118 X 147 cm, oil on canvas. Image courtesy of Edi Hila.Edi Hila: Paysages Transitionnels, Galerie JGM, Paris. January 15, 2009 - February 15, 2009

Ever since the fall of the Berlin Wall, Edi Hila has been known in the international art community as one of the most remarkable artists of his generation. Hila is known as a professor to numerous generations of young students at Tirana’s Academy of Fine Arts (among whom Anri Sala, Adrian Paci and Tirana’s infamous mayor-painter Edi Rama). He is admired for his gentle character and precise knowledge by those privileged enough to have known him personally or to have worked with him. And he is appreciated by everyone for his subtle and detailed gestures, as well as for his painting whose scope reaches from visionary and dark to documentary.

Dusan Záhoranský, 'Goool!', installation, 2008. Image courtesy of the author.Without Borders, Austrian Cultural Forum, Bratislava, Slovakia. March 5, 2009 - April 24, 2009

In 1989 the Iron Curtain fell. That same year, the organization "Kultur Kontakt Austria" was founded. In that period of drastic social and political changes when new democracies were formed in Europe, Kultur Kontakt Austria figured as a coordination hub that supported artists and cultural institutions from former Eastern and South-Eastern Europe (Slovakia, Czech Republic, Serbia, Romania, Poland, Croatia), creating a platform for cultural exchange. Even after twenty years, KKA is still true to its mission and systematically supports the arts in these countries.

Olek Kulik, Boris Orlov and Alexey Belayev-Guintovt at the awards cerimony. Image available at http://www.kandinsky-prize.ru/fotogalereya/ceremoniya-nagrajdeniya-2008-goda.The few hundred practitioners and enthusiasts of Contemporary Russian art like to think of it as a collective activity. With talk of “our art, our artists, our pavilion in Venice,” the myopic and occasionally Lilliputian Moscow scene exhibits unusual solidarity when it comes to fighting for a place under the sun.  But last December, when amid cries of “Disgrace!” and accusations of fascism, ultranationalist painter Alexey Belyaev-Guintovt beat out Sots Art legend Boris Orlov and Marxist Dmitry Gutov to win the 2008 Kandinsky Prize, a deep, bitter division broke ranks from within, and the word “them” added itself to the equation.

Petrukhina's flight. Still from Shepitko's 'Wings'. Image courtesy of the author.

WINGS. DIRECTED BY LARISA SHEPITKO, 1966. RELEASED ON DVD BY THE CRITERION COLLECTION, 2008. 85 MIN, 1:33:1 ASPECT RATIO.

THE ASCENT. DIRECTED BY LARISA SHEPITKO, 1977. RELEASED ON DVD BY THE CRITERION COLLECTION, 2008. 109 MIN, 1:33:1 ASPECT RATIO.

The 1965 end of year issue of Sovetskiy Ekran, the leading Soviet film magazine, came with a mail-in questionnaire.  Alongside garden-variety marketing research questions about film attendance and favorite films for that year, there were more curious and probing questions such as “in I am Twenty, were you interested in the characters’ meditations about the meaning of life?” 

Igor Grubić, 366 Liberation Rituals, Galerija Miroslav Kraljević, Zagreb. March 20, 2009 – April 21, 2009

In 2008 the Croatian artist Igor Grubić began a series of performances dedicated to the revolutionary movements of 1968 that ranged from personal dedications to provocative, site-specific interventions in public spaces. The meticulous exhibition of Grubić’s work at Galerija Miroslav Kraljević in Zagreb functioned as an introduction to the artist book that is to be published by the same gallery in June of this year. The show itself presented photo-documents and artist's statements with respect to twenty five of Grubić’s actions and performances, organically arranged along a red-painted strip of wall encircling the gallery space, together with short videos of several public actions.

In January 1996, Austrian playwright Peter Handke published his diaries from a recent visit to Serbia, an event that opened him to the widespread excoriating criticism that became known as the “Handke Affair.” As Serbia advanced on Kosovo and NATO made sorties of its own into Belgrade in 1999, the state became increasingly isolated, Slobodan Milošević’s rhetoric increasingly inflammatory and nationalistic. Milošević’s incarceration and trial at the International Court of Justice at the Hague, the prosecutions of perpetrators of the massacre of Bosniak civilians in Srebrenica and Serbia’s continued objection to Kosovo’s independence in 2008 served only to vindicate Handke’s critics and keep the affair alive. It continues, unabated.

IVAN MOUDOV, TRICK OR TREAT, KUNSTVEREIN BRAUNSCHWEIG, BRAUNSCHWEIG. DECEMBER 6, 2008 – FEBRUARY 12, 2009

In the work of Bulgarian artist Ivan Moudov there is a conscious desire to dismantle the social role and structure of the artwork and the art world. Piece by piece, art is taken apart, and in the process of deconstruction we end up with many more pieces than we initially counted. Still the artist is not content with sabotaging the way things are.

Vladimir Havlík and Barbora Klímová, Yesterday, Parallel Gallery, Prague. June 4, 2009 - June 28, 2009

Gallery view, 'Yesterday'. Image courtesy of the artist. The show at Prague’s Parallel gallery entitled “Yesterday” can be linked to a series of recent investigations by younger artists from countries of the former Eastern Bloc who take on the Communist past by way of its often decayed or discarded visual records, from photographs to videos and short films.

Edith Jeřábková. Image courtesy of Edith Jeřábková.The Prague Biennale 4 is about to end. ARTMargins discusses the event with Edith Jeřábková, the co-curator of the Biennale’s Czech section. Jeřábková is a curator at the Klatovy/Klenová Museum in Plzeň.  

ARTMargins: What was your involvement in the Prague Biennale?

ARTMargins begins a series of concise introductions to the developing art scenes of East-Central Europe.

'Pohlyady (Views)'. Image courtesy of the author.Last May an exhibition titled Pohlyady (Views) that highlighted the confluence of art and politics was organized by HudRada (Arts Council) at the Center for Contemporary Art in Kyiv. HudRada is a group of Ukrainian artists, architects, translators and political activists; many members of the Ukrainian contemporary art community participate in its internet-based discourse.

Woman carrying a portrait of Stalin at a 2005 Victory Day parade in Ekaterinburg, Russia. Image courtesy of Associated Press.Vladimir Putin’s election to the Russian presidency in 2000 effectively marked an end to the limited political license that Boris Yeltsin had granted television following the collapse of communism in 1991. Putin rapidly fell out with Yeltsin’s close ally, the oligarch, Boris Berezovskii, who along with other such oligarchs, and in a symbiotic relationship with the Russian state, had effectively owned and controlled national television in the 1990s.

Inge Syltenova. Image courtesy of the author. Elisabeth Weber: Forgotten Transports to Estonia is one of four feature length documentary films about the fate of fewer than three hundred Czech Jews who survived their deportation to virtually unknown concentration camps and ghettos in four Eastern European countries.

Tens of thousands of Czech Jews were deported by the Nazis.

Gallery view. Photo by Martin Polák. Image courtesy of the author.Monument to Transformation, City Gallery Prague, Municipal Library, Prague. May 28 - August 30, 2009

The dictionary defines transformation as a “marked change for the better.” Yet the formerly Communist countries of Eastern and Central Europe – including the Czech Republic - still wonder if the transformations that changed the lives of their citizens so fundamentally over the last two decades – walls were torn down, borders opened – really marked a change for the better.

Alban Muja, 'Tourist city' - art action in public space 2007. Novi Sad, Serbia. Courtesy of FEINKOST, Berlin.FEINKOST is located in a ‘50s-era glass pavilion on the former border between East and West Berlin. Built in the style of a poor-man’s Neue Nationalegalerie, the building was, until the early Noughties, a Feinkost, or “delicatessen.” In 2007 Mette Ravnkilde Nielsen and I started the gallery.

Vuk Ćosić, Out Of Character, 2009, Installation view, Threshold artspace, Perth. Horsecross, Perth. Image courtesy the artist and Horsecross.Vuk Ćosić: Out Of Character, Threshold artspace, Perth, Scotland. August 1 - November 1, 2009

Perth is a word derived from Old Norse, and is one of the ancient rune symbols, denoting mystery, games of chance, and gambling. 

Artur Barrio, ‘A constelação da tartaruga (The constellation of the turtel’), 1981/82 Series of sixteen photographs, bw. Image courtesy of the author.Subversive Practices: Art under Conditions of Political Repression. 60s - 80s / South America / Europe, Württembergischer Kunstverein Stuttgart. May 30 - August 2, 2009

This summer, the exhibition Subversive Practices: Art under Conditions of Political Repression 60s–80s / South America / Europe was presented at the Kunstverein in Stuttgart.

'Structure Behind Czech'. Image courtesy of the author.Jan Švankmajer: The Complete Short Films 1964-1992, Released on DVD by the BFI DVD Publishing, 2007. 313 min, 1.33:1 Aspect Ratio.

At 74, Jan Švankmajer continues to stun and startle. Recently, he has been awarded the Crystal Globe at the 44th International Film Festival in Karlovy Vary for Outstanding Artistic Contribution to World Cinema.

I SERVED THE KING OF ENGLAND, DIRECTED BY JILI MENZEL, 2006. 120 MIN., 1.85 : 1 ASPECT RATIO.

This past February marked the U.S release of Czech director Jiri Menzel’s latest film, I Served the King of England. Although released in the Czech Republic two years ago, 2009 is the perfect year for an American release, as it marks both the anniversary of the Czech liberation from communist rule and the 70th anniversary of the Nazi occupation.

Until recently, the history of Czech film theory and criticism has been a subject limited to specialists.  Original theoretical texts dealing with Czech cinema are not easily available and for the most part have gone untranslated. It is therefore not surprising that, until now, the historical importance and cultural value of Czech film theory and criticism was to a great extent unknown in an international context. The anthology Cinema All The Time, edited and annotated by Jaroslav Andel and Petr Szczepanik, has the potential to put an end to this poverty of international inquiry, presenting a selection of important and unjustifiably forgotten texts from the first half of 20th century.

This article represents a (drastically) revised version of a text originally published in 2006 in a special volume of the academic journal of philosophy and cultural theory, Topos. The entire volume, entitled “Choice and Elections,” was dedicated to the phenomenon of political (non)participation in contemporary Belarus, or more precisely, to the paradox of the political indifference of Belarusian citizens during the presidential elections of 2006. 

Matei Bejenaru is an artist, a professor of photography and video, and the founder of both the Periferic Biennial and the Vector Association in Iasi.