ARTMargins Online

Nonaligned Modernism

BOJANA VIDEKANIĆ, NONALIGNED MODERNISM: SOCIALIST POSTCOLONIAL AESTHETICS IN YUGOSLAVIA 1945-1985 (TORONTO: MCGILL-QUEEN’S UNIVERSITY PRESS, 2020), 302 PP.

Bojana Videkanić’s book Nonaligned Modernism: Socialist Postcolonial Aesthetics in Yugoslavia, 1945-1985 represents an important contribution to understanding the entanglements of artistic, cultural, economic and political histories in Yugoslavia. It articulates a body of knowledge on nonaligned cultural politics in the idiosyncratic context of socialist Yugoslavia. Although the country started its post-WWII history as a member of the Soviet pact, it radically changed its political and cultural position when Josip Broz Tito uttered the well-known ‘no’ to Stalin in 1948, thus ending of close … Read more

Call for Papers: The Global GDR–A Trans-Cultural History of Art (1949-1990)

Time/Place of the Conference: February 24-26, 2022, Technical University, Dresden (TU Dresden). The international and interdisciplinary conference “The Global GDR – A Transcultural History of Art (1949-1990)” is dedicated to a chapter in the history of art in Eastern Europe that has received little attention up until now, the manifold connections, in the field of art, between the GDR and socialist countries outside of the Eastern Bloc, in Africa, Asia and Latin America. These relations manifested themselves in artists’ trips and in reciprocal study visits; in exhibitions of East German art abroad as well as of non-European art in the … Read more

a view of the gallery with plaster sculptures in the foreground and a gray wall behind with paintings

Open Archive: A Review

Open Archive (Arkivi i Hapur), National Gallery of Arts, Tirana, September 18, 2020 – Ongoing.

The advent of the coronavirus pandemic seems to have sparked a surge in archival-minded exhibitions in museums (and other kinds of art spaces) the world over, a trend that was especially noticeable in the aftermath of the first wave of the pandemic during the summer of 2020. Many of these shows have been permeated by a sense of “getting back to basics,” as it were. This is not surprising, given that the coronavirus pandemic has put into question the ability of museums to perform the … Read more

book cover with a b&w photo of a man taking a photo of a socialist housing block

The Socialist Life of Modern Architecture: Bucharest 1949-1964

Juliana Maxim, The Socialist Life of Modern Architecture: Bucharest 1949-1964 (NY: Routledge, 2019), 188 PP.

Socialist architecture has been the object of a growing subfield of architectural history for more than a decade. The subfield grew at the intersection of anthropology, sociology and political history delving into issues concerning spatiality and everyday life but also conceptions of design, construction and modernity. Socialist architecture’s bad reputation as being non-architectural, which can only be compared to that of Socialist Realist art, has long obstructed scholarly interest in many countries of the former Soviet Bloc. Juliana Maxim’s book is the first monograph in … Read more

Contesting Art: From Highbrow to Nobrow

Max Ryynänen, On the Philosophy of Central European Art: The History of an Institution and Its Global Competitors (Lanham, Maryland: Lexington Books, 2021), 137 PP.

For some readers, the title of Max Ryynänen’s book On the Philosophy of Central European Art: The History of an Institution and Its Global Competitors, which implies an historical exposition of aesthetic-theoretical ideas in circulation in Central Europe or perhaps conceptual reflections on art emanating from there, may be misleading—particularly for those, such as the readership of ARTMargins, whose specific aesthetic and scholarly interests lie in the region. Ryynänen’s designation “Central European,” for … Read more

One on One Series: Kristina Benjocki, Ground Bindings (Nada, Gizela, Tereza) (2019)

The One on One series presents timely encounters between ARTMargins Online editors and contemporary artists, focused on one work.

Sven Spieker: Ground Bindings – could you comment on how this project came about, and also about its title?

Kristina Benjocki: Ground Bindings (Nada, Gizela, Tereza) is an installation with three handwoven textiles, 90×120 cm each, wallpaper, glass shelf and yarn labels. The work explores haptic memory and proposes understanding touch as an intimate way of bearing witness to personal and collective histories. The three textiles at the heart of the installation are handwoven, using the three basic binding … Read more

Mark Verlan (1963-2020): An Absolute Totality

Moldovan artist Mark Verlan passed away in Chişinău on the eve of this new year. Known by many names – Marioka Son of Rain (Marioca fiul ploii in Romanian and Marioca sin dozhdea in Russian), Marioca Son-and-Rain, or simply Mark, Marc, Maric, or Marik – he died at the age of 57 of a heart attack. Some names were given to him, others he chose (like his nom d’artiste “Son of Rain”), and the rest are the result of Moldova’s bilingualism, or the local preference for diminutives used to convey endearment or playful respect. His many names and spellings … Read more

Black and white cover of book with line drawing

Circulating Images, Diverted Images, and Bodily Images in Romanian art since 2010

Adrian Bojenoiu and Cristian Nae, eds., Romanian Contemporary Art 2010-2020: Rethinking the Image of the World: Projects and Sketches (Berlin: Hatje Cantz, 2020), 208 pp.

Defining the perpetually shifting trends of art in the present can often lead to contradictory arguments, and thus there are few bold and risky examples of efforts at historicizing artistic phenomena that are still in the course of development. At the same time, however, there seems to be an urgency to facilitating the entrance of very recent art from the countries of the former Eastern bloc into the global consciousness. This is happening not only … Read more

Artists from Eastern Europe in Berlin: Nika Radić

This conversation is part of a series of interviews with artists from Eastern Europe who live and work in Berlin. The city has attracted artists from the region for a long time: especially during the Cold War and into the 1990s, its peculiar geo-political situation provided Berlin with a unique flair that attracted artists from all over the world, but especially from the Central and Eastern parts of the continent. How do these artists experience the city today? How do they look back on the hopes and expectations with which they once arrived? Have they settled for good, or are Read more

a black book cover with white text

The Avant-Garde Museum

Agnieszka Pindera and Jarosław Suchan, Eds. The Avant-Garde Museum: Mузеи художественной культуры, Kabinett der Abstrakten, Société Anonyme, grupa a.r. (Łódź: Muzeum Sztuki, 2020), 624 pp.

In the context of the current worldwide pandemic crises that have accelerated the search for a new language and channels of communication with the new museum audience, the anthology The Avant-Garde Museum is a powerful reminder that the idea of a modern art museum—one that serves critical artistic, educational, and social purposes—has been shaped by avant-garde artists. Furthermore, the idea for such a museum was created in the shadow

Read more

“Ostkunst, a Different yet Similar Art”: Some Notes on the Complexity of Tomáš Štrauss’s Thought

Tomáš Štrauss: Beyond the Great Divide – Essays on European avant gardes from East to West, Daniel Grúň, Henry Meyric Hughes, Jean-Marc Poinsot (eds.), (Paris: AICA Press, 2020), 189 pp.

“As in the case of these mysterious correlations, the dividing line that separates various conceptions of art and culture not only runs straight through Europe and other continents but also straight through specific cities (…) At the same time, the radical redivision of Europe and the world in Yalta in 1945 did not necessarily have to have a direct impact on cultural history – the borders between art forms do … Read more

a photograph of a Black soldier in wartime Berlin

Building Up and Breaking Down Walls of Our Own: An Interview with Paul M. Farber

This interview unpacks the making of Paul M. Farber’s book A Wall of Our Own: An American History of the Berlin Wall (University of North Carolina Press, 2020). More than just a Cold War travelogue shadowing the times spent by legendary American cultural figures Leonard Freed, Angela Davis, Shinkichi Tajiri, and Audre Lorde in Berlin during the second half of the twentieth century, the book interweaves history with critical visual analyses to draw comparisons and contrasts across national borders. The Berlin Wall itself becomes a protagonist in the book, which is a thoughtful meditation on physical, often monumental, manifestations of … Read more

The Paintbrush Factory: A Changing Ecosystem of Labor, Fragility, and Community

As I write this piece, numerous narratives are being produced and reproduced in relation to the history of Fabrica de Pensule / The Paintbrush Factory, a collective space devoted to contemporary art and performing arts founded in 2009 in Cluj-Napoca, Romania. Known for being the most ambitious independent art space in Romania, the Paintbrush Factory functioned between 2009 and 2019 in a rented industrial building that inspired its name – a former paintbrush factory. In the autumn of 2019, the private owners of the space decided to raise the rent and search for business tenants, following the trends of gentrification … Read more

1 Million Roses for Angela Davis

Albertinum, SKD, Dresden, October 10, 2020 – May 30, 2021

1 Million Roses for Angela Davis opened in early October 2020 at the Albertinum in Dresden, and unfortunately closed almost two weeks later because of the Covid-19 pandemic. In the entrance area the visitor finds a video of an interview with Davis (also printed in the catalog) where the activist-philosopher aptly describes the potential of art in the context of historical transformation, emphasizing its epistemological value: “Art can produce knowledge, knowledge of the sort that does not occur with a simple political speech. Art is at the forefront of social … Read more

About Keys that Don’t Open the Doors, or How to Tell Histories of Soviet Women Artists? Interview with Andra Silapētere

The exhibition I Remember, Therefore I Am. Women Artists’ Archives rethinks marginalized practices realized within a dominantly masculine and heteronormative structures of the Soviet era. Showing at the Latvian National Museum of Art, it focuses on seven women artists whose work has been either nearly forgotten or marginalized: Rita Einberga (1921–1979), Laima Eglīte (1945), Maija Eliase (1924–1991), Mudīte Gaiševska (1935), Ruta Kreica (1946), Rasa Kalniņa-Grīnberga (1936) and Olga Neimane-Kateņeva (1908–2001). Based on archival research, it shows their rich heritage in different media displayed alongside contributions by contemporary artists Anni Puolakka, Marta Trektere, Liliana Piskorska, Evita Goze and Rasa Jansone. In … Read more

French Resistance or Russian Revolution? Disseminating Modernist Performance

Irena R. Makaryk, April in Paris: Theatricality, Modernism, and Politics at the 1925 Art Deco Expo (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2018), 298 PP.

Working at the intersection between design history, modernist studies, and performance studies is sometimes a lonely place, so I was glad to find out about Irena Makaryk’s new book, April in Paris: Theatricality, Modernism, and Politics at the 1925 Art Deco Expo, on theatricality at the Paris International Exposition of Modern Decorative and Industrial Arts. The exhibition, which took place in 1925, was an influential endeavor that gave rise to the term “art deco” and the … Read more

Party of the Dead: Necroaesthetics and Transformation of Political Performativity in Russia During the Pandemic

The Dead in the Dead City

On April 5, 2020, a few days after the regime of self-isolation had been implemented in Russia,(The mandatory quarantine dates vary by region. In St. Petersburg, a strict regime of self-isolation began on March 31, 2020.)the so-called deadmen — members of the St. Petersburg performance collective Party of the Dead (Kristina Bubentsova, Maria Vonogova, Maria Nelubova, Maxim Evstropov) — gathered in an apartment not far from the city center, where a corpse prop awaited them. The deadmen went out into the empty streets of the city, carrying the fake corpse (wrapped in … Read more

cover of exhibition catalogue

Beyond the 3 Ts: Promote, Tolerate, Ban – Art and Culture in Cold War Hungary

Cristina Cuevas-Wolf and Isotta Poggi, eds., Promote, Tolerate, Ban: Art and Culture in Cold War Hungary (Getty Publications, 2018), 160 PP. 

The curators of the Getty Research Institute and The Wende Museum of the Cold War undertook a difficult task with an exhibition in Los Angeles, entitled Promote, Tolerate, Ban – Art and Culture in Cold War Hungary,(Eastern European regimes operating before 1989 were not, in fact, communist states. In my view, even the ‘state socialist’ adjective is inappropriate for the Kádár regime, especially since the mid-1960s, but the now increasingly common term ‘state capitalism’ is not yet Read more

The film poster with the title in large letters at the top and a photograph of the filmmaker as a child at the center.

Becoming Black

Ines Johnson-Spain (dir.), Becoming Black (2019), Film.

Becoming Black(Becoming Black, by independent filmmaker Ines Johnson-Spain, is a Kobalt Documentary production that premiered in 2019 at the International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam. Since then, it has been screened at several international film festivals and received the 2020 Best Diaspora Documentary from the Africa Movie Academy.) opens with a picturesque view of waves crashing on the Togolese shore. Off-camera, the first-person narrator recalls being a ten-year-old girl in an East Berlin apartment with her mother, who recounts a story to her as if she is divulging a secret. It … Read more

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Color–blind and Color–coded Racism: Angela Davis, the New Left in Hungary, and “Acting Images”

Race is a social construct based on images of “otherness.” In Eastern Europe, where self–identification relies on “whiteness”(See also: “Historicizing ‘Whiteness’ in Eastern Europe and Russia,” Socialism Goes Global, last modified June 26, 2010, http://socialismgoesglobal.exeter.ac.uk/conferences/.) as a construct, systemic racism along color–codes has been, and still is, experienced as irrelevant, “far away,” and without any actual real impact on society.(Ian Lew, Nikolay Zakharov, “Race and Racism in Eastern Europe: Becoming White, Becoming Western,” in Relating Worlds of Racism. Dehumanisation, Belonging, and the Normativity of European Whiteness, eds. Philomena Essed, Karen Farquharson, Kathryn Pillay, Elisa Joy White, Read more

We Do Not Know Ourselves: How Global South Filmmakers Exposed Racism in Czechoslovakia

The documentary film Black and White (1968) begins with a scene in which a small child marvels at the skin color of an adult African. The child asks: “Are you really so dirty?”, and concludes with the words, “You’re black. What’s your name?” The little girl is curious and in her ignorance she symbolizes the protagonist of the film – Czechoslovak society confronted with the racialized other. The voiceover in the film speaks on behalf of Czechoslovak society. However, the creator of this documentary is not a Czechoslovak citizen, but Krishna Viswanath. Born in Calcutta, Viswanath studied at university in … Read more

painting

Five Contemporary Polish Artists Engaging with Race

This essay showcases the different strategies of representing race and ethnicity deployed by five Polish artists in relatively recent solo shows. The theme of race was central to some of the shows, while it appeared more marginal in others. Representing race turned out to be complicated by the viewing context, including the location and the medium in which the work was exhibited.

There are two major ways that ethnicity and race play a part in Polish history and in present-day Poland. One is the historically strong Jewish presence, which ended with the Shoah. Additionally, after the war ended, mass emigration … Read more

The Wayland Rudd Collection and the Network of Mutuality: An Interview with Yevgeniy Fiks

In this interview, artist Yevgeniy Fiks speaks with art historian and curator Ksenia Nouril about The Wayland Rudd Collection, the artist’s ongoing project that brings together a wide range of Soviet images depicting Africans and African Americans. Established as a collaborative project that incorporates contemporary interventions, the Rudd Collection nuances what is typically projected as a monolithic Soviet culture while also enhancing our understanding of race in and beyond contemporary Russian society.

Ksenia Nouril: What is The Wayland Rudd Collection?

Yevgeniy Fiks: The Wayland Rudd Collection is a participatory, conceptual art project at the center of which is … Read more

painting

Special Issue: Art and Race in Contemporary Central and Eastern Europe

Introduction to the Special Issue

This special issue gathers scholars, artists, and critics who examine the relationship between art and race in a region not commonly associated with that issue – Central and Eastern Europe. Most of the investigations presented here are recovery projects, efforts to pay close attention to artistic narratives and works that received little attention in their own time or have been forgotten with the passage of time. These authors ask how contemporary artists have understood racial categories, and how race makes itself visible in artworks and films. The impetus of our special issue was provided by, … Read more

“…of bread, wine, cars, security and peace”

“…of bread, wine, cars, security and peace,” Kunsthalle Wien Museumsquartier, Vienna, March 3– October 4, 2020

Exhibition titles often say a lot about an exhibition. Curators like to borrow a beguiling fragment of wording from an author or adopt a guiding idea that frames how we read the exhibition. Certainly the two texts that provided the theoretical backbone for the exhibition “…of bread, wine, cars, security and peacerecently on view at the Kunsthalle Wien Museumsquartier are telling. The first text is a book by Lebanese poet, essayist, journalist, and artist Bilal Khbeiz, Globalization and the Manufacture of Transient Read more

Central and Eastern European Art since 1950

Maja and Reuben Fowkes, Central and Eastern European Art since 1950 (London: Thames and Hudson, 2020), 232 pp.

When Piotr Piotrowski published his now-famous art historical surveys In the Shadow of Yalta. Art and the Avant-Garde in Eastern Europe 1945-1989 and Art and Democracy in Post-Communist Europe, the art of the region was only superficially known to broader audiences. It was mostly presented in group or solo exhibitions, and via several monographic studies, and it never acquired the kind of celebrity that ”non-conformist” art from the former Soviet Union enjoyed.  In line with other theorists focused on post-colonial … Read more

7th International Forum for Doctoral Candidates in East European Art History, May 6-7, 2021

The Institut für Kunst- und Bildgeschichte at Humboldt University  will host the 7th International Forum for Doctoral Candidates in East European Art History on May 6 and 7, 2021. The forum serves as a platform for exchange amongst junior researchers who focus on Eastern European art.

The yearly meetings offer a space for exchange regarding methodological and practical problems surrounding various dissertation projects, as well as an opportunity to network with one’s peer group.

The 2021 Forum will focus on the close interconnection between the Eastern European cultural sphere and the rest of the world, as well as its … Read more

Architecture in Global Socialism: Eastern Europe, West Africa, and the Middle East in the Cold War

Łukasz Stanek, Architecture in Global Socialism: Eastern Europe, West Africa, and the Middle East in the Cold War (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2020), 358 pp.

An unassuming isometric drawing in the final chapter of Łukasz Stanek’s Architecture in Global Socialism: Eastern Europe, West Africa, and the Middle East in the Cold War diagrams a villa planned for the Emirati city of Al Ain. An assemblage of brick and glass, the villa is distinctly postmodern in character: a pergola, tall radius window, skylights, and multiple deck spaces combine to form a structure which both references and eschews historical precedents. Anca Oţoiu, … Read more

book image

Central and Eastern European Art: 30 Years After the Fall

Ana Janevski and Roxana Marcoci with Ksenia Nouril (eds.), Art and Theory of Post-1989 Central and Eastern Europe: A Critical Anthology (New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 2018), 408 pp.

“To give a definition of Eastern Europe is a difficult or almost impossible task” (p. 279). This observation, offered by artist Sanja Iveković in an interview featured within Art and Theory of Post-1989 Central and Eastern Europe, neatly captures the challenge that the volume sets for itself. Elsewhere within this new addition to the Museum of Modern Art’s series of critical anthologies, curator Raluca Voinea evokes the difficulties … Read more

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Special Issue: Creating for the State: The Role of Artists’ Unions in Central and Eastern Europe

Introduction to Special Issue

In recent decades, the history and criticism of Western contemporary art has turned its attention to art institutions and their curatorial and administrative practices. This attention derives, in part, from the rise of institutional critique as an almost ubiquitous artistic strategy, and from the corollary realization that institutions—including museums, galleries, heritage associations, membership organizations, nomadic biennials, funding entities, arts and culture nonprofits—play a key role in establishing the social spheres in which diverse audiences encounter contemporary art. If we consider Eastern Europe during the Cold War era, there is one type of institution that played a … Read more