ARTM Online Content

Ricochets: Ukrainian Solidarity and Resilience at the 60th Biennale di Venezia

The war in Ukraine continues to loom large at this edition of the Venice Biennale, as it did at the last, though now the nightmare unfolds in parallel with the heavily mediatized Israel-Hamas war. The city’s walls are plastered with red fly posters advertising directions to the “Nearest Bomb Shelter’, which, as a map shows, is located not far from the Ukrainian pavilion. This information vies for pedestrians’ attention with the No Genocide Pavilion’s Palestinian solidarity posters. An exhibition has been mounted in the Israeli pavilion, but a sign informs visitors that this will remain closed pending the release of … Read more

“Being Together”: the Meeting of Mail-Artists at the F-Art Festival in Gdańsk, 1975

1975 marked the changing field of neo-avant-garde practice in Poland in which a popularization and consolidation of the mail art scene brought to the fore the significance of networked art, particularly in its capacity to foster international exchanges and meetings. In the first half of the decade contact became an important feature of conceptual art and neo-avant-garde art in the region, both as a subject of art and as a practice. The following analysis of artistic events and undertakings in 1975 proposes this year as a watershed moment in the development of networked art in the region and re-thinking how … Read more

ARTMargins Online Celebrates 25 Years!

ARTMargins Online (AMO) published its first article on January 15, 1999, and since then we’ve published nearly a thousand essays, reviews, interviews, podcasts, and critical texts exploring postwar and contemporary art from East Central Europe in a global context. 

Throughout this year, we’ll be reflecting on these 25 years by inviting our authors to delve into the AMO archive to explore perspectives that can illuminate our present, and by organizing conversations involving artists, critics, curators, and researchers from Eastern Europe and beyond to reflect on the situation of contemporary art and its institutional outlets in the region. We will also Read more

Shaping Revolutionary Memory: The Production of Monuments in Socialist Yugoslavia

Sanja Horvatinčić and Beti Žerovc, eds., Shaping Revolutionary Memory: The Production of Monuments in Socialist Yugoslavia (Berlin: Archive Books, 2023), 424 pp. 

Maybe they never really left the public consciousness, but monuments have been at the front of public discussions in the last decade. Despite major world events such as a pandemic and several wars erupting – or possibly precisely because of these major events – there has been significant attention paid to our relationship with public monuments. The so-called “statue wars” in the US and UK of recent years are one example.(Statue wars have been covered in AMO Read more

An installations with archival documents and images.

Some Notes on Transnational Art History in Practice: Revolutionary Romances? Global Art Histories in the GDR at the Albertinum

Revolutionary Romances? Global Art Histories in the GDR at Albertinum, Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden, November 4, 2023–June 2, 2024

A decolonial discourse that has materialized in exhibition practices in recent years has set us on a course of unlearning and exploring potentially lesser-known histories. The exhibition Revolutionary Romances? Global Art Histories in the GDR at the Albertinum in Dresden (November 4, 2023–June 2, 2024) shows that we still have much to learn about the histories and forgotten cultural heritage of the Cold War. With two hundred historical art objects, most of them from the Dresden State Art Collections (Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden, … Read more

Practicing Solidarity in Slovakia: The Story of Kunsthalle Bratislava

Since the beginning of its mandate, the newly elected (2023) Slovak government has been spreading discriminatory, homophobic, and xenophobic narratives, and proposing new policies, usually without any public debate or negotiations with the professional public. The new Minister of Culture is Martina Šimkovičová from the Slovak National Party (SNS), who formerly worked at the private television station Markíza (from which she was fired after her hateful comments against refugees on social media in 2015).(Tomáš Kyseľ, “Z Markízy ju vyhodili, Pellegrini s ňou mal problém a médiám sa už teraz vyhráža. Kto je Martina Šimkovičová,” Aktuality.sk, October 17, 2023, https://www.aktuality.sk/clanok/yc6re50/z-markizy-ju-vyhodili-pellegrini-s-nou-mal-problem-a-mediam-sa-uz-teraz-vyhraza-kto-je-martina-simkovicova/Read more

In and Out of the Box: Leaps in East/East Dialogues Through the Transnational Activities of Constantin Flondor

A short glance at the East/East dialogues within the timeline of Romanian art of the 1970s and 1980s allows us to identify existing (in)formal cross-border exchanges which foregrounded geopolitical alliances and sporadically connected Romanian artists with like-minded spirits. In the artistic context of the 1970s and 1980s, the state institutions were responsible for foreign cultural agreements and the organization of research trips and touring exhibitions, as well as establishing cultural cooperation with other socialist countries. The assumption that traveling within the Bloc was possible without much difficulty does not always hold true since opportunities were mostly accessible to artists and … Read more

Re/Opening the DAAD Archives

IF THE BERLIN WIND BLOWS MY FLAG: ART AND INTERNATIONALISM BEFORE THE FALL OF THE BERLIN WALL AT DAADGALERIE, N.B.K., AND GALERIE IM KÖRNERPARK, SEPTEMBER 9, 2023 – JANUARY 14, 2024   

The exact aim of the large-scale, three-site exhibition, When the Berlin Wind Blows My Flag: Art and Internationalism Before the Fall of the Berlin Wall, is difficult to define. The first sentence of the exhibition’s introductory text promised to offer insight “into the history of the DAAD Artists-in-Berlin Program (Berliner Künstlerprogramm—BKP)” and through that “the art scene in West Berlin before the Wall came down.” Based on this promise, … Read more

Photography: The Lingua Franca of Performance Art?

As Michelle Henning points out in her book Photography: The Unfettered Image (2018), “from its inception, photography was a means to set images free, to allow them to go traveling, to transfer, to be projected, translated, fragmented, reconstituted and reversed, to be reimagined and re-embodied.”(Michelle Henning, Photography: The Unfettered Image (New York: Routledge, 2018), p. xi.) How does this perspective contribute to understanding the medium beyond its treatment in art museums, which usually emphasize uniqueness and authorship? How does highlighting the concept of images as “migratory, journeying, wandering and vagabond”(Henning, p. 8.) alter our approach towards … Read more

Personal Witnesses

Illiberal Lives, at Ludwig Forum Aachen, April 22, 2023 – September 10, 2023

The group exhibition Illiberal Lives contributes to a rich and provocative debate on art both as a subject and object of liberal market logic. It is curated by Eva Birkenstock, Anselm Franke, Holger Otten and Kerstin Stakemeier, with works by Pauline Curnier Jardin, Johanna Hedva, Ho Rui An, Blaise Kirschner, Jota Mombaça, Henrike Naumann, Melika Ngombe Kolongo, Bassem Saad, Mikołaj Sobczak, and Jordan Strafer. A unique aspect of this exhibition is that the artists, alongside the curators, have worked with the permanent collection and selected works that … Read more

Regional Resonances: In Search of the Transnational in Central East European Art of the 1970s

East European art scenes have long invited mostly negative comparisons with their West European counterparts. During the Cold War era, external perceptions often blurred the many differences between state socialisms and their related cultural fields. For their part, local artists and art historians in the countries of Eastern Europe criticized such homogenizing accounts, pointing instead to the many, and wide-ranging, Western connections of individual artists or artist groups with the West, as well as their distance from so-called official art. Another question was also rarely asked: whether there was any dialogue between artists working in different state-socialist societies of Eastern … Read more

Dictionaries of Friendship: Transnational Artistic Dialogues in First Person Plural

In 1978, Nick Waterlow, the artistic director of the third Sydney Biennale, “European Dialogue,” visited Budapest and agreed with the Hungarian art historian, László Beke that he would put together an informative exhibition of documents and original works covering the activities of several Hungarian artists. Beke, who was by then an internationally renowned advocate of East European Conceptualisms accepted this task but avoided the burdensome role of a national consultant by involving artists not only from Hungary but also from four other socialist countries. As he stated in the catalogue, he did not attempt to make an objective representation of … Read more

Socialism in Contemporary African Art: Butchering the End of Time

This introductory essay and accompanying special issue of ARTMargins explore the role of African socialisms in contemporary art. Artists looking at Africa’s radical history face the challenge of responding to a generalized amnesia about the continent’s protagonism on intellectual and political radicalism after 1945. Working with under-researched themes, scarce historical records, and apprehensive oral sources, these artists are often tasked to amplify forgotten pasts while simultaneously critiquing the political contingency of historical investigation in global contemporary art. Global contemporary art—largely shaped by the neoliberal transition that followed the very histories explored by these artists—is often shown in its limitation to … Read more

“We Need a Lighthouse Philosopher”: Filipa César and Louis Henderson’s Sunstone (2018) and the Portuguese Genealogy of Lens-Based Media

This article discusses Filipa César’s and Louis Henderson’s digital film Sunstone (2018), situating it within a history of lenses and lighthouses in Portuguese conquest. It argues that Portugal has been overlooked as playing a key role in shaping the use and conceptual function of lenses in maritime conquest. In particular, the beaming of light from lenses has been overshadowed by the function of light collection in histories written about lens-based media.

ARTMargins, Volume 13, Issue 1, pp. 18-39.

doi:10.1162/artm_a_00371

https://direct.mit.edu/artm/article/13/1/18/120554/We-Need-a-Lighthouse-Philosopher-Filipa-Cesar-and

Make Me a Picture of the Future: Massinissa Selmani’s 1000 Socialist Villages (2015)

Contemporary artist Massinissa Selmani’s installation 1000 Socialist Villages (2015) explores how a rural land distribution and urban planning initiative in Algeria known as “1000 Socialist Villages” dissipated into rumor. The analysis relies on Djaffar Lesbet’s first-hand accounts of and extensive research on the 1000 Socialist Villages, as his archives and his testimony were crucial to Selmani’s artistic research process. Through close reading of Selmani’s aesthetic references to the classic school notebook used during the socialist period in Algeria (1965–1979) and by drawing on Karima Lazali and Daho Djerbal’s work on literature and history Algeria, the paper argues that Selmani’s installation
Read more

The Mythography of Socialism in Contemporary Angolan Art

The period of political socialism (1975–1991) in Angola was relatively short but has left remnants – both as physical and ideological manifestations. These have been also increasingly addressed by artists who revisit and reinvent this political and aesthetic period. This paper looks at contemporary Angolan art’s engagement with the ideological power represented by socialism and at the same time analyzes the mystification and “iconization” of its political leaders. Working with the analytical concept of “mythography” introduced by Boris Groys and based on a number of artworks as examples it argues that artists can be considered as mythographers of socialist history … Read more

The Politics and Aesthetics of Liberation: Revolution and Its Aftermath in Contemporary Artistic Practice from and about Lusophone Africa 1

This essay explores the ways in which artistic practices have revisited histories and memories of anti-colonial struggle, socialist revolution, and decolonization in Mozambique, Angola, Guinea-Bissau, and Portugal, while also addressing apartheid South Africa and the global Cold War. The cartography drawn here follows the histories and geographies of anti-colonial and anti-apartheid friendship without losing sight of several forms of imperialism, old and new. This essay examines the archival and historiographical potential of contemporary art in remembering histories of revolution and decolonization, notably those pertaining to cultural production and especially film, in the globalized, neoliberal present. My case studies are distinct … Read more

Abstract States: Modernism in Lebanon, Syria, and Turkey

A decade after modernist art history’s tentative embrace of postcolonial modernisms, a new crop of books are leveraging this disciplinary acceptance to examine hitherto shrouded aspects of the field. Anneka Lenssen’s, Beautiful Agitation: Modern Painting and Politics in Syria (2020), Zeina Maasri’s, Cosmopolitan Radicalism: The Visual Politics of Beirut’s Global Sixties (2020) and Sarah-Neel Smith’s, Metrics of Modernity: Art and Development in Postwar Turkey, (2022) offer candid appraisals of postcolonial modernism’s exposure to colonial and nationalist institutions, Cold War cultural networks, and the hierarchical effects of canonical modernism. Reviewed together in this article, these books reveal the distinctive orientations … Read more

As the Nile Flows or the Camel Walks

Between 1884–1885, Britain requested a contingent of boatmen – “voyageurs” – from Canada to assist transport troops and supplies through the Nile’s system of cataracts (rapids). The expedition’s cross section of participants included Egyptians, Sudanese, roughly one hundred indigenous subjects from Canada and subjects from across Britain’s empire. Primary sources authored by four participants are central to understanding how the role of travelogues and their accompanying illustrations and photographs combine with discourses of imperialism to establish a foundational framework for the discursive practice of colonialism. Two authors – Louis Jackson’s Our Gaughnawagas in Egypt (1885) and James D. Deer’s The Read more

Introduction to “Cultural Offensive of the Working Classes”

In April 1977, after almost two years in power, the Front for the Liberation of Mozambique (Frelimo) announced their plans for the culture of the new nation. Pitched in military terms, and announced in the document translated for the first time here, the “Cultural Offensive of the Working Classes” drew on Marxist theory to define a revolutionary new culture, and to deploy this culture as a weapon in the ongoing struggle to build a postcolonial, postcapitalist society.

ARTMargins, Volume 13, Issue 1, pp. 139-142.

doi:10.1162/artm_a_00377

https://direct.mit.edu/artm/article/13/1/139/120553/Introduction-to-Cultural-Offensive-of-the-Working

Cultural Offensive of the Working Classes

In April 1977, after almost two years in power, the Front for the Liberation of Mozambique (Frelimo) announced their plans for the culture of the new nation. Pitched in military terms, and announced in the document translated for the first time here, the “Cultural Offensive of the Working Classes” drew on Marxist theory to define a revolutionary new culture, and to deploy this culture as a weapon in the ongoing struggle to build a postcolonial, postcapitalist society.

ARTMargins, Volume 13, Issue 1, pp. 143-148.

doi:10.1162/artm_a_00378

https://direct.mit.edu/artm/article/13/1/143/120551/Cultural-Offensive-of-the-Working-Classes

Constantin Flondor. When Eye Touches Cloud

Alina Șerban, ed., Constantin Flondor. Când ochiul atinge norul/When Eye Touches Cloud (Bucharest: P+4 Publications, 2021), 505 pp.

In comparison with other Eastern European countries such as Poland, the Czech Republic, or Hungary, the Romanian neo-avant-garde received international attention relatively late. Nevertheless, for the past ten years, art historical research in Romania has steadily addressed the work of several noteworthy Romanian artists who were engaged in artistic experiments in socialist Romania. Edited volumes covering the activity of artists including Ion Grigorescu, Geta Brătescu, Andrei Cădere, Decebal Scriba and, most recently, Paul Neagu, have been published by international publishers including … Read more

The Law of the Underground: The Critique of Gender, Performance Art, and the Second Public Sphere in the Late GDR

Angelika Richter, Das Gesetz der Szene. Genderkritik, Performance Art und zweite Öffentlichkeit in der späten DDR [The Law of the Underground: The Critique of Gender, Performance Art, and the Second Public Sphere in the Late GDR] (Bielefeld: Transcript-Verlag, 2019), 408 pp.

In 2019, German art historian and curator Angelika Richter published her doctoral thesis The Law of the Underground: The Critique of Gender, Performance Art, and the Second Public Sphere in the Late GDR, in the German language. This book is worth reviewing even three years after its initial publication due to its meticulous research and … Read more

History of Albanian Photography (1865–2000)

Ermir Hoxha, History of Albanian Photography (1865–2000) [Historia e Fotografisë Shqiptare (1865–2000)] (Tirana: Albdesign, 2022), 245 pp.

Ermir Hoxha’s ambitious History of Albanian Photography surveys almost a century and a half of photographic practice in Albania, tracing the ways that foreign photographers pictured subjects in the present-day Albanian territories of Southeastern Europe (beginning in the 19th century) and the development of photographic studios in the Albanian nation-state in the early 20th century. It also chronicles the transformations in photographic paradigms that occurred under state socialism in the country (between 1945 and 1991) and the ways that both documentary … Read more

Collaborating with Wind, Water, and Time – Saodat Ismailova

The year 2023 saw two retrospective exhibitions of the work of Saodat Ismailova: Double Horizon at Le Fresnoy-Studio National (February 10 – April 30, 2023), which was the culmination of the artist’s two-year residency at the School of Contemporary Art in Tourcoing, and 18,000 Worlds at Eye Filmmuseum in Amsterdam (January 21 – June 4, 2023), which accompanied the Eye Art & Film Prize the artist received for her work interweaving contemporary art and cinema. A year earlier, the artist left her mark both at the 59th edition of the Venice Biennale, and at the documenta fifteen exhibition in … Read more

Interior of a tram with black moths placed on the seats, windows and the roof.

European City in a Cultural Upswing: The Art Encounters Biennial in Timișoara

The fifth edition of the Art Encounters Biennial in Timișoara, Romania, took place this year from May 19 to July 16, 2023. Entitled My Rhino is Not a Myth, about forty per cent of the exhibited works were from the region (with more than half of these from Romania) and the remainder from other regions including Africa, Latin America and Southeast Asia. The exhibition was staged in historic and contemporary buildings in two urban areas – the city center and the new residential and business district ISHO in north-eastern Timișoara – with eleven venues in total, if one … Read more

Interview with Monika Fabijanska on Women at War

Women at War gathers the works of twelve Ukrainian artists who employ a variety of media to address the Russian war against Ukraine, from its beginning in 2014 to the full-scale invasion in February 2022, through the lens of gendered experience. The exhibition explores the struggle for Ukrainian independence and women’s equality against the backdrop of the war and its impact on both the national and individual psyche while giving voice to women as narrators of history and agents of change. Curated by Monika Fabijanska, Women at War premiered at Fridman Gallery, New York, in the summer of 2022, and … Read more

ARTMargins Print 12:3 Editorial Statement

The writings in this issue all share a preoccupation with the silences, disappearances, and contradictions within historical archives. Across national, regional, and diasporic spaces, they attend to the deliberate acts of remembering and forgetting that accompanied the political, economic, and technological shifts of the postwar era. Often violent, sometimes incomplete, these shifts required and begat different roles for artistic practice. The turbulence and legacies of 1968, the collective traumas of ethno-nationalist wars, or the ongoing struggles of liberation and neocolonialism have led artists in Mexico, Britain, the Balkans, and Palestine to revalue materials, approaches, and commitments to community.

ARTMargins, … Read more

“To Make Books Is to Multiply”: Artists’ Books and Feminist Expression in Mexico

In the late 1970s and early 80s, artist’s books exploded in Mexico City. The impetus for this explosion has often been located in the artistic practice of the experimental artist Felipe Ehrenberg and the bookmaking workshops he offered beginning in 1976. While Ehrenberg was undoubtedly influential, this essay reexamines the history of this period—a so-called Golden Epoch of independent publishing in Mexico––in order to recuperate the significant role that feminist-aligned artists played in advancing the medium of the artist’s book. In particular, I examine early editions produced by the artists Magali Lara and Yani Pecanins. Both prolific producers and staunch … Read more

Revisiting Rasheed Araeen’s Structures: 8bS at Manufactured Art, 1970

In May 1970, Rasheed Araeen’s work “8bS” appeared in Manufactured Art, a group exhibition dedicated to artistic engagements with industrial processes and advanced technology. Araeen’s contribution, like many of his 1960–70s works, comprised lattice-like structures that engaged forms and techniques common to his professional training as a civil engineer. Like the Minimalist object, “8bS” deployed the grammar of productive techniques to structure artistic form, breaking with the compositional principles of formalist modernism and moving towards art beyond objecthood. Yet Araeen’s contribution to Manufactured Art suggests that Araeen’s structures also avoided the limitations of the Minimalist object’s negative mimesis of technological … Read more