ARTM Online Content

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

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.

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“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

Emergency Aesthetics: The Case of the Four Faces of Omarska

This article examines how contemporary artists from the Western Balkans have sought to engage with the legacy of ethnonationalist violence. While attempts to examine and openly discuss war crimes that occurred in this region during the 1990s have largely been undermined by populist politics in successor states, the domain of art has provided a critical platform for disrupting the official erasure of these atrocities. This investigation focuses on the Four Faces of Omarska art collective, whose members examine the war crimes that occurred following the break-up of socialist Yugoslavia by studying the transformation of the Omarska site in north-western Bosnia … Read more

Bags of Stories: Thinking with Household Casebearers in the Anthropocene

Household casebearers are a genus of moths primarily distinguished by the spindle-shaped cases they carry and live in throughout their larval life. The cases, woven from household dust, typically comprise an array of materials from textile fibers to dead insect parts. As they thrive in domestic spaces in tropical climates, they are commonly viewed as a domestic pest. Anthropocentrism as such has led to a fundamental imbalance of knowledge concerning these creatures: we are more knowledgeable in their capacity for damage than we are in understanding how they live, even as we cohabit with them very closely, at home. In … Read more

Complicating Narratives of Contemporary Chinese Art as Global Art through the Lens of Exhibition Histories

This essay reviews two publications on Chinese contemporary art and its relation to the global through the lens of exhibition histories. The monograph Die chinesische Avantgarde und das Dispositiv der Ausstellung. Konstruktionen chinesischer Gegenwartskunst im Spannungsfeld der Globalisierung (The ‘Chinese avant-garde’ and the exhibition as dispositive. Constructing contemporary Chinese art in the global context) authored by Franziska Koch (2016), and the edited volume Uncooperative Contemporaries: Art Exhibitions in Shanghai in 2000, (2020) published in the Exhibition Histories series by Afterall Books. The former seeks to re-write the history of contemporary Chinese art exhibitions from a transcultural perspective with … Read more

Introduction to “Revolutionary Painting and the Palestinian Revolution,” by Mohammed Chabâa, and “Palestinian Artists and the Biennial,” from Toni Maraini’s “Baghdad 1974: A Summary of the First Arab Biennial of Fine Arts” (Both 1974)

In 1974, Moroccan cultural journal Intégral published a special edition on the first Arab biennial of visual arts, which had just taken place in Baghdad. The two documents translated here come from this special edition, and both of them deal with the Palestinian presence at the landmark exhibition. Moroccan artist Mohamad Chebaa and Italian-Moroccan art historian Toni Maraini each consider Palestine an ideal arena for the development of decolonial “combat art,” but express disappointment with its pavilion’s emphasis on folk idioms over images of armed struggle. The introduction to these documents situates them in relation to Moroccan and Palestinian discourses … Read more

Revolutionary Painting and the Palestinian Revolution

In 1974, Moroccan cultural journal Intégral published a special edition on the first Arab biennial of visual arts, which had just taken place in Baghdad. The two documents translated here come from this special edition, and both of them deal with the Palestinian presence at the landmark exhibition. Moroccan artist Mohamad Chebaa and Italian-Moroccan art historian Toni Maraini each consider Palestine an ideal arena for the development of decolonial “combat art,” but express disappointment with its pavilion’s emphasis on folk idioms over images of armed struggle. The introduction to these documents situates them in relation to Moroccan and Palestinian discourses … Read more

Palestinian Artists and the Biennial, from “Baghdad 1974: A Summary of the First Arab Biennial of Fine Arts”

In 1974, Moroccan cultural journal Intégral published a special edition on the first Arab biennial of visual arts, which had just taken place in Baghdad. The two documents translated here come from this special edition, and both of them deal with the Palestinian presence at the landmark exhibition. Moroccan artist Mohamad Chebaa and Italian-Moroccan art historian Toni Maraini each consider Palestine an ideal arena for the development of decolonial “combat art,” but express disappointment with its pavilion’s emphasis on folk idioms over images of armed struggle. The introduction to these documents situates them in relation to Moroccan and Palestinian discourses … Read more

How Do Bodies Resist? Image and Self at Museum Ludwig

Image/ Counterimage at Museum Ludwig Cologne, April 22 – August 27, 2023

Drawing on their excellent photographic collection, Cologne’s Museum Ludwig has dedicated an exhibition to the photographic self-portrait. The show, titled Image/ Counterimage, brings together several key works by the artists Carrie Mae Weems, VALIE EXPORT, Ana Mendieta, Sanja Iveković, and Tarrah Krajnak. Spanning three rooms, it offers an engaging tour of different artistic strategies of staging the female body as a site of resistance. While the former four artists represent established positions regarding photography in the feminist context since the 1970s, the latter introduces a more recent inquisition … Read more

Ilya Kabakov (1933-2023)

One of the most noted 20th-century artists born in the USSR, Ilya Kabakov, died on May 27, 2023. It is no easy task to pay short tribute to a man of his ingenuity, diligence, discipline, and influence. Rather than publishing a standard obituary, ARTMargins Online editors asked some of the artist’s friends and collaborators, as well as critics and curators, to reflect, below, on his life and work from a personal perspective. The resulting collage of responses formally functions not unlike Kabakov’s own Answers of an Experimental Group (1971). This work compelled Boris Groys, one of Kabakov’s earliest commentators, to … Read more

Ilya Kabakov: The Soviet Toilet and the Palace of Utopias

This text was first published on the ARTMargins Online website on December 31, 1999. It is being republished in honor of its author Svetlana Boym (1959–2015), and Ilya Kabakov (1933–2023).

At the end of the millennium, it has become fashionable to speak about the “end of history” and the “end of art,” to say nothing about the end of the world. Boris Groys has commented that Soviet civilization was the first modern civilization whose death we have witnessed, and there are more to come.(Boris Groys, “Un homme qui veut duper le temps” in Installations 1983-1995 (Paris: Centre Georges Pompidou, Read more

Exotic Cosmopolitanism: Magdalena Abakanowicz at Tate Modern

Magdalena Abakanowicz: Every Tangle Of Thread And Rope, Tate Modern, November 17, 2022—May 21, 2023

Between autumn 2022 and spring 2023, the Blavatnik Building at Tate Modern hosted Every Tangle of Thread and Rope, a solo exhibition of textile works by Polish sculptor Magdalena Abakanowicz. Polish critic Piotr Sarzynski called the exhibition “a celebration of Polish art”—and rightfully so, as Tate’s presentation is one of the most prominent exhibitions of Abakanowicz’s work ever curated—and a unique chance for the international audience to become familiar with the sculptor and the narratives surrounding her work.(Piotr Sarzynski, “Las abakanów w Read more

Room within the Henryk Stażewski exhibition displaying works of sculpture and graphic design.

New approaches to art and life in the Polish People’s Republic: Henryk Stażewski at Muzeum Sztuki

Henryk Stażewski (1894-1988) had a long artistic run in two different versions of his home country: first as a pioneer of the avant-garde in the Polish Republic between 1918 and 1939 and then his later, but no less experimental career in the communist Polish People’s Republic founded in the post-war world order after 1945. It is the latter that is the subject of the exhibition Henryk Stażewski: Late Style at the Muzeum Sztuki Lodz – to many known as a legendary institution with a pedigree as an avant-garde museum (including the colorful interior of the Neo-Plastic Room for abstract art) … Read more

A model of a wooden labyrinth, in a darkened room, with just the labyrinth light brightly. The wood used to create the labyrinth has been darkened by burning.

Unbuild Together: The Uzbekistan Pavilion at the 2023 Venice Architecture Biennale

Curated by Lesley Lokko, the 18th edition of the Venice Architecture Biennial is titled The Laboratory of the Future, and this concept serves as the underlying theme for the central exhibitions in the Giardini and Arsenale, as well as the national pavilions scattered through Venice’s six sestieri. Where the biennale at large provided a spotlight on Africa and the African Diaspora, each of the national pavilions individually returned to the language of “the experiment” to consider possible futures. Often contrasting past and present, as in the case of the Uzbekistan pavilion, this language of experimentation and possibility similarly appeared … Read more

Moving Images on the Margins: Experimental Film in Late Socialist East Germany

Seth Howes, Moving Images on the Margins: Experimental Film in Late Socialist East Germany (London: Camden House, 2019), 280 pp.

Seth Howes opens his study with a quote from East Berlin filmmaker Cornelia Klauß. Klauß argues that due to their avant-garde-inspired aesthetics the smaller, primarily experimental films in the GDR were a nuisance to the industrialized film production of DEFA (Deutsche Film AG), the GDR’s state-run film and television company. Although these experimental films met with great resistance from the official side and were either banned or denied financial support, Howes describes them as a product of one … Read more

Art History, Postcolonialism, and the Global Turn

When taken as a conglomerate, the postcolonial, the global, and the decolonial might signal a coordinated “decolonizing” action—one of breaking with the Eurocentric, patriarchal, and nationalist foundations of art history. Yet from a disaggregating perspective, these three terms and their respective domains cannot be seen as synonymous or entirely harmonious. What particularly demands scrutiny is the tendency to dismiss the postcolonial, or announce its demise, by claiming it has been superseded by other paradigms, namely the global and the decolonial. This introductory essay, and its accompanying special issue of ARTMargins, seeks to trace the postcolonial, global, and decolonial as … Read more

Color Charts

In the days before the arrival of the internet, Western art history education in Pakistan was mostly disseminated through black and white photocopies of original publications. The glossy pages of art books were transformed into rough copies in varying shades of gray. Rather than understanding this as a disadvantage, I propose, conversely, that this practice constituted a form of radical piracy—the blurred, partial and often completely indecipherable nature of this material proved to be, in fact, a kind of liberation.

ARTMargins Online, Volume 12, Issue 2, pp. 95-105.

doi:10.1162/artm_a_00353

https://direct.mit.edu/artm/article/12/2/95/116483/Color-Charts

Counting Quality, Seeing Patterns

What does it mean to see Third World “development” as a problem of untapped creativity? This paper argues that quick celebrations of ingenuity across the world has been part of a new mode securing expertise and legitimizing intervention that emerges after the Second World War. Propelled by architects and planners, this mode bypasses the quantitative and historical questions of colonial drain and global financial regimes to project qualitative “patterns” across the Third World as a source of immanent and self-generative change.

ARTMargins Online, Volume 12, Issue 2, pp. 43-57.

doi:10.1162/artm_a_00351

https://direct.mit.edu/artm/article/12/2/43/116482/Counting-Quality-Seeing-Patterns

This Past Must Address Its Future: Uses of African Noncontemporaneity in Contemporary Art from the French Borderscape

In the last two decades, key sites in the European borderscape—the “jungle” of Calais, the dense patchwork of settlements around Melilla and Ceuta, myriad migrant or refugee camps along Europe’s Mediterranean coastline and in the major train stations of its capital cities—have become art factories. In these spaces, artists from a range of backgrounds are making new work, much of which seeks to challenge the exoticist and primitivizing tropes that, in Europe, have characterized the representation of im/migrant presences at least since the official colonial period. Among the most conspicuous and intractable of these tropes have been those connected with … Read more

What Does Art History Have to Say About a Lebanese Sasquatch? The Body of Decolonial Struggle in Amanda Boulos’s Art

This paper focuses on several works by the Palestinian-Canadian painter Amanda Boulos that communicate the shared desire of both Palestinians in the diaspora and Indigenous peoples of Canada to move beyond the normative identities of settler colonialism. Through co-ordinated social historical, formalist and iconographical readings of Boulos’s work, I propose a shift in the discourse on global contemporary art, from postcolonial figures of the oriental, the subaltern and the hybrid to strategies of representation such as transformation, ambiguity and queering – a shift intended to foster alliances amongst members of BIPOC communities, against the divisive politics of settler … Read more

Southern Lights: Octavio Paz’s “Glimpses of India” and the Art of Relation

This article analyzes the articulation of south-south relation in Octavio Paz’s In Light of India (1995) and A Tale of Two Gardens: Poems from India, 1952-1995 (1997), works of prose and poetry that traverse the antipodes of Mexico and India. These works emphasize partial viewing, repeated comparison, and cultivated sense-perception. They model a poetics of the glimpse, an effect of the play of light and shadow and a privileged mode of seeing for Paz. To glimpse is to see without clarity, control, or complete knowledge. It is to find oneself in the other. Paz’s writing anticipates twenty-first-century projects that relate … Read more