Author: Raino Isto

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

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

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

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

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

Experimental Cinemas in State-Socialist Eastern Europe

Ksenya Gurshtein and Sonja Simonyi, eds., Experimental Cinemas in State-Socialist Eastern Europe (Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press B.V., 2022), 334 PP.

Experimental Cinemas in State-Socialist Eastern Europe contains thirteen essays that address film production between the 1950s and the late 1980s in the national contexts of state-socialist countries outside the former U.S.S.R.: Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, East Germany, Hungary, Poland, Romania, and Yugoslavia. The aim of the book is to fill the gap in English-language literature on postwar experimental filmmaking in Eastern Europe, which is still mostly constituted by studies focusing on experimental film culture in individual countries. The book’s transnational perspective gives

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An image of the book cover, which features a statue of Abraham Lincoln with a person in red curled up in the statue's lap asleep.

Monumental Cares: Sites of History and Contemporary Art

Mechtild Widrich, Monumental Cares: Sites of History and Contemporary Art (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2023), 256 pp.

The presence and absence of monuments, their authenticity and role in public discourse is the main topic of Mechtild Widrich’s new book, Monumental Cares. We live at a time when this issue has gained more than academic importance, as monuments are central to the politics of caring—caring for community, history, and justice. Being familiar with Widrich’s previous work, I have already utilized it in a critical situation.  About a year ago, I participated in a public debate at Vancouver’s Urbanarium,Read more

Recrafting Futures: Feminist Practices of Material Engagement

Arts, Crafts, Affects: Documenting HerStories and Worldbuilding, public seminar at Estonian Academy of Arts, Tallinn, November 25-26, 2022

There are many ways to present an artwork to the public and sometimes, as in the case of research-driven practices, an exhibition is a limited that can often present only the brief, final effect of the many processes and collaborations that go into creating the work. Art—however research-based, relational, dematerialized, participatory, or ephemeral it might be—usually functions within institutional frameworks that require it to be “shown” in order to be shared. In contrast, practices associated with craft relate to a different tradition … Read more

“Situated Solidarity”: A New Curatorial Model for the European Nomadic Biennial?

The fourteenth edition of the nomadic European biennial Manifesta took place in Prishtina, Kosovo, from July 22 to October 30, 2022. The biennial included 25 exhibition venues in an urban parcours throughout the city, ranging from (dilapidated) historic monuments and institutions to public squares, abandoned buildings, and unused or unexpected urban spaces. Four of these venues have been declared “major pillars,” namely the Grand Hotel Prishtina, The Center for Narrative Practices (a former library), an abandoned brick factory on the outskirts of the city, and the so-called Green Corridor, an unused train track that has been transformed into a walking … Read more

An artist is painting a black and white mural on the wall

Live Solidarity — Art Workers and Feminist Artistic Organizing in the Post-Yugoslav Region

Equating all types of work and workers in his writing, Edvard Kardelj, one of the main ideators of the Yugoslav workers’ self-management system, set the scene for the understanding of the role of artists in Yugoslav society.(Edvard Kardelj, Pravci razvoja političkog sistema socijalističkog samoupravljanja (Beograd: Komunist, 1978), p. 25.) The idea of class solidarity and the equal value of work—regardless of it being intellectual or physical—was embraced, and many initiatives followed this idea, such as the art program at the Ironworks complex in Sisak, in present-day Croatia, where workers assisted artists, and collaborated with them in the creation … Read more

Special Issue: Art and Solidarity

Introduction to the Special Issue 

The articles and interviews contained in this ARTMargins Online Special Issue address a wide range of approaches to artistic solidarity, some motivated explicitly by historical precedents and others by specific conditions of the present. They explore artistic projects, online platforms, curatorial approaches, and activist stances, presenting a diverse array of perspectives on what it can mean to stand with each other, even when we are apart—sharing common strategies and common visions, in search of a common future.

The special issue brings together voices from throughout the artworld to explore the ways artists, cultural workers, and Read more

Broken Narrative: The Politics of Contemporary Art in Albania

Armando Lulaj and Marco Mazzi, Broken Narrative: The Politics of Contemporary Art in Albania (Earth, Milky Way: Punctum Books, 2022), 364 pp. 

Broken Narrative is a book from the margins peddling central, bringing recent Albanian history into conversation with central ideological currents of our times. This symbolic exchange between local and global stories unfolds through a dialogue between Italian-educated Albanian artist Armando Lulaj and Italian photographer and multi-media artist Marco Mazzi, presenting a microcosm of a long overdue Albanian-Italian conversation. Encapsulating some of Albania’s most persistent dreams and nightmares, Italy emerges as a simulacrum of sorts, an actual and imaginary … Read more

In an all-white room, a diagonal bench has four white drawings on top of it. Beneath the bench is a video monitor with a video showing a person in white falling upwards into a ceiling of sand.

Dream Compass: “There You Are,” or the Bulgarian Pavilion in the Context of the 59th Venice Biennial

“Images are (…) a silent language. They are a station on the way from silence to language. They stand on the frontier where silence and language face each other closer than anywhere else, but the tension between them is resolved by beauty. Images and pictures remind man of life before the coming of language. They move him with a yearning for that life (…) It is the soul that preserves the silent images of things”.(Max Picard, Images and Silence, in The World of Silence (Minnesota: Harvill, 1948), p. 80.)

The Bulgarian Pavilion at the 59th edition … Read more

In the foreground, a palm tree made of roughly cut wood lies on snowy ground while n the background there are large text and photo panels installed on old buildings. One group of three panels shows a woman with a toy, with a caption in three languages

Entangled Roots in the Mutating Nature of the New East: Kristaps Ancāns in Conversation with Corina Apostol and Jasmina Tumbas

Romanian-American-Baltic curator Corina L. Apostol and Latvian-British artist Kristaps Ancāns have recently begun a series of collaborations that focus on expanding discourses in contemporary art to include transnational perspectives centered on the New East. In December 2021, Apostol served as the curator for Ancāns’s large-scale site-specific installation what can’t we just create (2021-2022) at the Mark Rothko Art Centre in Daugavpils, Latvia. Prompted by the current invasion of Ukraine, Apostol and Ancāns revisit this installation in conversation with art historian Jasmina Tumbas, to discuss how they—as cultural workers from the region—negotiate the reconfiguration of questions of identity, nationalism, and sexuality … Read more

A cover image of the book, featuring the title and a decorative bakground

A Multi-faceted and Global Perspective on Periodicals—in Every Sense

Meghan Forbes, ed., International Perspectives on Publishing Platforms: Image, Object, Text. New York and Oxford: Routledge, 2019, 268 pp.

Periodicals have traditionally been a favorite format of artists when it comes to experimenting on the blank page. There are several reasons for this, one of them being that magazines create communities even if their members are almost invisible to one another, dispersed as they may be over regional, national, and even continental geographies. Moreover, because of their time-limited nature, which is—a priori—ephemeral or, at least, specific to a certain time span, magazines tend to offer greater freedom for … Read more

The Grave is Better Than Not Knowing

The Grave is Better Than Not Knowing, Humanitarian Law Center Kosovo, Prishtina, November 18, 2021 – January 31, 2022

“The grave is better than not knowing”: this is how Kumrije Jahmurataj expressed her sorrow while anxiously awaiting news of her missing husband, Smajli, who to this day remains unaccounted for after the 1998-99 Kosovo War. Jahmurataj was interviewed as part of research conducted by The Humanitarian Law Center Kosovo (HLC Kosovo), a non-profit organization that was first established during the social upheaval of 1997, before the war began. In the post-war context, HLC Kosovo has played a key role in

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The artist, a black woman with very short hair, sitting at a table against a dark background. She has a box open in front of her and appears to be reading something inside the box.

“To Me, Everything is a Space for Encounter”: Michael Laundry in Conversation with Belinda Kazeem-Kamiński

Belinda Kazeem-Kamiński is an interdisciplinary artist mainly using archival and museal material for artistic research in photography and video. Late last year, Kazeem-Kamiński received the Camera Austria Award for Contemporary Photography by the City of Graz. A solo show of her work was also recently on view at Kunsthalle Wien. While in Vienna, Michael Laundry spoke with Kazeem-Kamiński about how her work creates space to think about Black feminism, representation, and post-colonial theory. In this interview, Laundry and Kazeem-Kamiński discuss the her use of slide shows, artist books, photography, and video in the dissection of the white gaze on Black … Read more

A black and white photo showing the curators and artist of the Ukrainian Pavilion at the 59th Venice Biennial

The Story of the Ukrainian Pavilion in Venice and Exhibition-Making as a Matter of Cultural Survival: An Interview with Maria Lanko

With the upcoming 59th International Art Exhibition in Venice on April 23, Maria Lanko, Lizaveta German, and Borys Filonenko—the curators of artist Pavlo Makov’s project Fountain of Exhaustion. Acqua Alta for the Ukrainian Pavilion—have found themselves in a difficult situation that has made it impossible for them to continue working on the exhibition. On March 8, 2022, the organizers of the pavilion announced that “despite the ongoing war, the team managed to evacuate the fragments of [Makov’s] artwork from Kyiv” and will be able to present it at the upcoming Venice Biennale.(“Ukrainian pavilion will make it to La Biennale Read more

Flag of Ukraine

Resources for Artists and Scholars Forced to Flee Ukraine

In support of artists, scholars, and all people forced to flee Ukraine because of the Russian invasion of the country, the editorial collective of ARTMargins Online is compiling a growing list of resources (primarily art- and research-related), including residencies, fellowships,  internships, and emergency funds. We will continue to update this list as we become aware of new opportunities and resources. Please let us know of additional resources by contacting us through this online form.

For Scholars

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Dark blue book cover with a black and white photograph of artist duo KwieKulik, a standing woman holding papers over the head of a seated man

Monitored Activities: Eastern European Performance Art through the Prisms of Photography, Film, and Politics

Corinna Kühn, Medialisierte Körper: Performances und Aktionen der Neoavantgarden Ostmitteleuropas in den 1970er Jahren (Vienna: Böhlau, 2020), 324 pp.

Corinna Kühn’s Medialisierte Körper: Performances und Aktionen der Neoavantgarden Ostmitteleuropas in den 1970er Jahren deals with selected performances and actions from Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Romania, and Poland during the 1970s. Her focus lies on the dimension of documentation through photography and video. She is interested in how artists communicated with imaginary or future spectators through the deliberate use of images or even the manipulation of techniques of filming or photographing. The book approaches the topic through detailed analyses of works by Endre

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A view of a Lenin monument against a bleak field with bare trees to either side. The statue shows Lenin walking forward, his coat blown open by the wind.

Invocation Trilogy – A Conversation on Monumentality, Language, and the Past with Miška Mandić and Kuba Dorabialski

Kuba Dorabialski’s film series Invocation Trilogy stitches together an unlikely constellation of encounters and mythologies centered around the Eastern European Socialist project. Narrated in a fictional Slavic language invented by Dorabialski, the trilogy plays with truth, fabrication, and legibility as it unpacks histories and memories of Eastern Europe from the insider/outsider migrant perspective. In this interview, artist and filmmaker Miška Mandić speaks with Dorabialski about this work and his practice.

Miška Mandić: The Invocation Trilogy is a series of three video works made between 2017 and 2021, each with a bigger scope than the last. Rather than a sense … Read more

Otranto – A Time-Based Monument to Albania’s 1997 Migration: A Conversation with Latent Community

This interview focuses on the film Otranto (2019–2020), created by the artist collective Latent Community (Ionian Bisai and Sotiris Tsiganos). Otranto explores a relatively unknown tragedy: the story of the refugee ship Katër i Radës. The ship departed from the Albanian port city of Vlora, carrying 120 people fleeing the violence that had engulfed the country following the massive collapse of pyramid schemes in 1997. On March 28, 1997, the Italian navy warship Sibilla—acting in accordance with an Italian blockade of Albania to prevent refugees from entering the country—intercepted, rammed, and sunk the Katër i Radës in the strait of … Read more

a drawing showing a pyramidal arrangement of funnels, each draining out of two spouts into progressively wider rows of funnels below

On the Concept of the Museum of Contemporary Art in Ukraine: Svitlana Biedarieva in Conversation with Olya Balashova and Yuliia Hnat

For many years, Ukraine has experienced a growing need for a Museum of Contemporary Art that would function as the first state-run collection focused on acquiring and exhibiting the work of contemporary Ukrainian artists. The attempts to create such an institution began in the early 2000s, but thus far have been unsuccessful due to political and sociocultural factors. In 2020, a nonprofit association was created to work in an applied way on the development of theconcept of the museum, with the involvement of key experts in contemporary art and culture. In this interview, art historian and artist Svitlana Biedarieva speaks … 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

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

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

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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

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