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
Category: ARTMargins Online: Articles
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
Below–and in conjunction with Sasha Razor’s interview with Vladimir Paperny, which we publish concurrently–we present a translated excerpt from a recently published book Paperny co-authored with noted late Russian film historian Maya Turovskaya, Cinema, Culture, and the Spirit of the Times (NLO: Moscow, 2023). Turovskaya and Paperny began their comparative study of US and Soviet cinema with two comedies: the mildly anti-Soviet Ninotchka and the strongly pro-Soviet film Circus. Ninotchka (1939), directed by Ernst Lubitsch, is a romantic comedy about a stern Soviet envoy, Nina Ivanovna “Ninotchka” Yakushova, who falls in love with a charming Parisian, Count Leon … Read more
Review of the conference organized by the European Network for Avant-Garde and Modernism Studies (EAM) in Lisbon, September 1–3, 2022
Since 2008, the roving biennial conferences of the European Network for Avant-Garde and Modernism Studies (EAM) have promoted the study of the avant-garde and modernism in Europe in a wide temporal and disciplinary framework, setting leading themes such as “High and Low“ (2010 Poznań), “Utopia” (2014 Helsinki), or “CRiSiS” in 2020. The mission statement and communications of the Network have always stressed the transnational aspects of avant-garde practices and indicated that Europe is to be considered in a global setting. … Read more
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
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
“I don’t want art that points to a thing. I want art that is the thing.”
In 2018, Selma Selman, an artist of Romani origin who grew up in Bosnia and Herzegovina (henceforth referred to as Bosnia), set out to buy her freedom from her family. Recording her project on film, she negotiated a fair price to make up for the dowry her parents would forgo in not marrying her off. She proceeded to sell her hair, her clothes, and her artworks before officially making the exchange of $11,166 for her independence. Selman’s aim was, in … Read more
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
László Beke, the Hungarian curator and art historian who from the late 1960s became one of the key catalysts of art networks and cross-border collaborations within and beyond Eastern Europe‚ died on January 31 of this year. He published articles, compiled publications, lectured, curated projects and exhibitions on various aspects of progressive art, including Conceptualism, photography, semiotics, Fluxus, Dada, and the post-contemporary (referring to the situation after the era of contemporary art), and, most importantly, pursued his utopian commitment to East European art. Between 1969 and 1986 he was a research fellow at the Research Institute for Art History of … Read more
The AMO interactive Eastern European Art Periodicals Map (2022) is the result of four years of research by Camilla Salvaneschi (IUAV, Venice); Susan Snodgrass (AMO); and Sven Spieker (AMO), and it has benefited from the generous help of several others.(Ian Gabe Wilson, who conducted invaluable initial research, and Russell Coon (pielabmedia.com), who designed the map.) Its goal is to demonstrate intellectual affinities between currently active art-focused periodicals published in the region, revealing in the process the material conditions of art writing and art publishing in Eastern Europe today.
How can we, in the middle of a heated debate around public monuments as highly visible and dominant bearers of history around the world, perceive the more layered and subtle aspects of commemorative practice? Reflection on anti-, counter- and performative monuments has not abated, but been absorbed in the current worldwide struggle to remove, replace, and otherwise neutralize monuments spatializing unjust power. That is all to the good, as long as we don’t forget that monuments, and artists, can do things that bear witness against impossible odds—and without erecting anything permanent. In this essay I look at several iterations of … Read more
Ilija Šoškić, born in 1935 in present-day Kosovo (then part of Yugoslavia), and raised in present-day Montenegro, became the most known representative of the Montenegrin neo-avant-garde, although the artist would never call himself that. Rejecting any nationalist aspirations of the post-Yugoslav states, he sees himself instead as a nomad or a pilgrim(I refer to the title of Šoškić’s performance Pilgrimage (Hero’s Walk), from a 1975 performance realized at the Hohenzollern Castle, in Tubingen, Germany.)—somebody constantly on the road. Nevertheless, he has returned on several occasions to Montenegro and currently is based in neighboring Croatia.
Šoškić’s actions, installations, and … Read more
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
Introduction to the 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 … Read more
During the establishment of the new socialist regime in Romania, “in order for visual artists to be it was felt necessary to create a new form of organization, a new organism that [would] become an active factor in the work of culturalization of the masses, and for the development of creation.”(“Introductory remarks for the future Country Conference of the Romanian Artists’ Union (UAP) of the Romanian Popular Republic (RPR),” File 1/1950, Fund UAP, The Central National Archives of Romania (ANIC), f. 1.) This article is an adaptation of part of a forthcoming book about the role of the … Read more
“Criticism Should Open Up Horizons for the Future”: The Albanian Union of Writers and Artists and the Status of Art Criticism in the People’s Republic of Albania
This article presents part of the history of the Union of Writers and Artists—the official organ devoted to literature and the fine arts in the People’s Socialist Republic of Albania—and examines (in an incomplete way, of course) the contours of art criticism produced in accordance with official doctrine in Albania, especially in the 1970s decade. Like much Socialist Realist criticism, the output of the Union of Writers and Artists was frequently formulaic, but it also offered a field for artists working beyond the visual (and the union’s critics were almost invariably also practicing artists) to navigate Albanian art’s place vis-à-vis … Read more
During the past decade, contemporary artists in Central and Eastern Europe have renewed their interest in Artists’ Unions, and have begun to self-organize.(This article is based on a study by Johana Lomová and Karel Šima, “Sjezd Svazu československých výtvarných umělců v roce 1964. Poznámky k úspěšnosti performance,” (The Conference of the SČSVU in 1964. Notes on the Success of One Performance) in Umění a revoluce (Art and Revolution), ed. Johana Lomová and Jindřich Vybíral (Praha: UMPRUM 2017), 512–545.) After years of what scholar Piotr Piotrowski termed “anti-communism,”(Piotr Piotrowski, Art and Democracy in Post-Communist Europe (London: … Read more
Money and Morals Then and Now
While at first glance the Artists’ Unions seem to be fossils of Eastern Europe’s state-socialist past, in fact they are still living with us, in several ways. First of all, they persist in the dream of a political utopia: after the short belle époque of welfare states, the current precarization of the cultural sector—especially affected by the COVID-19 crisis—provokes debates on the possibility of cultural workers’ unionization even in Eastern Europe. Secondly, while new institutions emerged after the political transition of 1989, the Artists’ Unions did not completely lose their importance as integrators of … Read more
The “One on One” series presents timely encounters between ARTMargins Online editors and contemporary artists, usually focused on one recent work.
Sven Spieker: Your Didactic Wall (2019) focuses on the issue of migrants, refugees, and displaced persons. The location of the project in Bihać, Bosnia and Hercegovina, is crucial because Bihać is very close to Slovenia. When Croatia closed its borders, thousands of migrants who were hoping to reach Slovenia and, from there, Northern Europe, got stuck. Why did you decide to create an installation in the form of a stone wall?
Mladen Miljanović: There are two … Read more
“In View” is a new series of short essays focused on important artworks from the modern history of East-Central Europe that have been overlooked by prevailing art historical narratives. Each author in the series selects a single work that has been ignored in broader histories of global modernism or regional cultural histories, and offers a rich and close reading of that work, highlighting its nuance and import. Texts in the new series will vary widely in their geographic and chronological purview, but they all develop an argument for a specific work’s significance through a detailed examination of its genesis, context, … Read more
Artpool 40 – Active Archives and Art Networks, Conference at the Artpool Art Research Center, Central European Research Institute of Art History/Museum of Fine Arts, Budapest, February 20–21, 2020.
On February 20, 2020 (an elegant date), a community of artists, scholars, and art enthusiasts gathered at the Museum of Fine Arts in Budapest to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Artpool Art Research Center.(Éva Forgács, “György Galántai and Júlia Klaniczay, Eds., ‘Artpool: The Experimental Art Archive of East-Central Europe’ (Book Review),” ARTMargins, June 2, 2014, https://artmargins.com/gyorgy-galantai-julia-klaniczay-artpool/.) Artpool was established in 1979 by György Galántai and Júlia Klaniczay … Read more
The Takeover: Karol Sienkiewicz on Recent Changes at Warsaw’s Center for Contemporary Art, and Beyond
In Autumn of 2015, when the right wing Law and Justice party (Prawo i Sprawiedliwość, PiS) scored a landslide victory in parliamentary elections in Poland, the Polish artworld braced for the worst. Cultural producers expected that the “good chane”—as the PiS leaders advertised their plans—would quickly permeate all the cultural institutions and sweep most of the directors within weeks, or, in most optimistic scenario, months.
Fortunately this did not happen. Unlike public television, which soon became the tube of the governing party and where the pro-government propaganda overshadowed even communist-era TV and reached the level of absurdity and Internet memes, … Read more
Hungary Turns Its Back on Europe: Dismantling Culture, Education, Science and the Media in Hungary 2010-2019 is the result of voluntary work by more than 30 Hungarian intellectuals, academics, researchers, and journalists. The booklet, which we here make available to a larger audience, is the first comprehensive report on what has happened in Hungary since 2010, when Viktor Orbán and his Fidesz party won the elections (which they did again in 2014 and in 2018). The focus of the report is on the areas of culture, education, science, and the media. The project was coordinated by OHA (Network of Academics), … Read more