Roman Stańczak’s installation Flight for the Polish Pavilion at the Venice Biennale at once invites and defies final interpretations. The massive sculpture occupying the entire pavilion was created by violently splitting in half a private aircraft, and then sewing it back together inside out. What at first glance could be regarded as a direct reference to the Smoleńsk airplane catastrophe in 2010–dramatically polarizing Polish society, and eventually leading to the victory of the nationalistic, right-wing party Law and Justice—proves to encompass more complex meanings and references. In fact, the work can be perhaps best described as an allegory in the … Read more
Category: Online Articles
There is nothing unusual about famous gallerists curating national pavilions at the Venice Biennale, but it is another thing to have Mikhail Piotrovsky (the director of the State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg) curate his country’s pavilion by inviting artists to engage with the history of the museum and its collection, thus turning the Biennale pavilion into a commentary on the Hermitage. Piotrovsky has orchestrated a complex metacommentary on the relation of the national pavilion to Russia’s “national treasure” that houses the works of many of the world’s Renaissance and Baroque masters—French, Italian, Spanish, Dutch, and Flemish.
The Russian Pavilion … Read more
Heart, Hands, and a Shovel: Danica Dakić’s Zenica Trilogy (Pavilion of Bosnia and Herzegovina; Uroš Čvoro)
Reflecting on the national pavilion of Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) in the context of a Venice Biennale titled “May You Live In Interesting Times”, it is impossible to not think of a BiH joke-curse from the 1990s: “May you see your house on CNN.” This joke captures the paradox of global visibility that accompanies regions that have been subject to conflict and crisis.On art that uses humour to respond to crisis, see Uroš Čvoro and Chrisoula Lionis, “When the Periphery Laughs: Humor and Locality in Contemporary Art from Greece and Bosnia and Herzegovina,” Cultural Politics15:2 (2019), 223-243. Seeing … Read more
Igor Grubić’s long-term photographic project Traces of Disappearing (In Three Acts) is a few steps down from the stately abode on the Canale Grande that is home to the Prada Foundation, where a sprawling show of the work of Jannis Kounellis is on view at the same time. The contrast between the two venues, and the works exhibited inside, could not be more striking: from the Venetian palazzo to the rough, workshop-like space with a low ceiling and painted walls that houses Grubić’s installation; from the commanding, self-sufficient installations of Kounellis to Grubić’s photographs of post-transition Croatia. Traces of … Read more
Decades of open-pit mining has left the landscape of the Konin region in western Poland deserted, with the soil dry and hostile to plants. The coal producers, who are legally obliged to recultivate the post-mine landscape face a difficult task, but fortunately for them there are few plants whose needs meet the harsh reality of this barren land. For the seaberry plant (Hippophae), this sandy post-coal environment is just fine to grow, and the plant develops abundantly over the transformed land that was once exploited by the mining corporations. This essay explores the Hippophae of Diana Lelonek’s artistic … Read more
Miao Ying’s LAN Love Poem and iPhone Garbage: Online supplement to Ros Holmes’ “Meanwhile in China… Miao Ying and the Rise of Chinternet Ugly” (ARTMargins Print 7.1, pp. 31-57)
Contextualizing the digital collages by Miao Ying ?? in relation to China’s online culture and media spheres, my ARTMargins Print article situates the contemporary art world’s engagement with Internet art in relation to anti-aesthetics and the rise of what has been termed “Internet ugly.” Demonstrating a distinctly self-conscious celebration of what has often disparagingly been labeled The Chinternet, my article argues that Miao Ying’s LAN Love Poem and iPhone Garbage can be seen to emerge out of the broader contradictions of Internet art practices that parody the relationships between the “Chinternet” and the World Wide Web; global capitalism and … Read more
The reenactment of artistic performances and actions has garnered much curatorial attention in recent years. Life, Once More: Forms of Reenactment in Contemporary Art, at Rotterdam’s Witte de With in 2005 was an exhibition that explored the reenactment of historical events, while Marina Abramović’s series of performances, Seven Easy Pieces, which took place that same year at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, involved Abramović reenacting artistic performances both by herself and other well-known and established performance artists, such as Joseph Beuys, VALIE EXPORT, Gina Pane, and Vito Acconci. Other, perhaps less well-known explorations of performance reenactment include: Czech … Read more
During the late 1980s and early 1990s everything changed in the Estonian art world, as it did in the art worlds of other Baltic states and the entire Soviet Union. Not only was art itself – its techniques, media, strategies, contents, and purposes – rethought and the functional and financial system of the art scene reorganized, but also the self-perception of artists, their understanding of their activities and their relation to world culture, both contemporary and historical.
Many artists, critics, and art historians have described the situation during this period as a time of total confusion. Much of what they … Read more
In his 1995 text Archive Fever: A Freudian Impression, Jacques Derrida notes that “[e]ffective democratization can always be measured by this essential criterion: the participation in and access to the archive, its constitution, and its interpretation.”(Jacques Derrida, Archive Fever: A Freudian Impression, translated by Eric Prenowitz (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1998), p. 11.) The narratives of a communist country inevitably challenge this statement since its archive, whether understood literally or in a figurative sense as the Foucauldian “system of discursivity,” is heavily censored and inaccessible to most. In the context of now-democratic Poland, how … Read more
In 1978 the Romanian artist Ion Grigorescu shot an 8mm film of a performance entitled Dialogue with Ceausescu, which he conducted alone in the privacy of his studio. The period following Nicolae Ceausescu’s accession to power after he succeeded Gheorghe Gheorghiu-Dej in 1965 seemed to correspond with a softening of the communist regime. Censorship of the arts abated somewhat, with exposure to the art of Western Europe and the United States authorized, in particular by means of exhibitions.(See Magda Carneci, Art et pouvoir en Roumanie 1945-1989 (Paris: L’Harmattan, 2007) pp. 121, 129, and 133.) However it wasn’t … Read more
Was Australian art ever provincial? A RESPONSE TO TERRY SMITH’S “THE PROVINCIALISM PROBLEM: THEN AND NOW” (ARTmargins 6, no. 1, February 2017, pp. 6-32)
The historical discourse is never ‘born’. It keeps starting anew. And art history also keeps starting anew. This always seems to happen when its purpose is deemed dead–while experiencing a rebirth at the same time.
–Georges Didi-Huberman(Georges Didi-Huberman, L’image survivante: Histoire de l’artet temps des fantômes selon Aby Warburg, originally published in French in 2002. It was translated into English in 2016 as The Surviving Image; Phantoms of Time and Time of Phantoms: Aby Warburg’s History of Art. Our quote is from the German Das Nachleben der Bilder: Kunstgeschicte und Phantomzeit nach Aby Warburg (Berlin: Suhrkamp, 2010), … Read more
The global museum has been debated over a decade within the framework of critical museology and in the context of contemporary global art. The recent conference The Idea of the Global Museum (December 2-3, 2016), organized by the Hamburger Bahnhof Museum of Modern Art in Berlin as a part of its project Global Resonances and coordinated by the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, offered a retrospective look at a variety of museum practices that critically embrace the notion of the global.
The discourse on the global museum has been part of a broader postcolonial investigation into the possibility of a global … Read more
Editors note: The following essay by Gwen Allen is Part 2 of a two-part essay devoted to critical art periodicals past and present. Part 1 appears in ARTMargins Print (#5.3, 2016), our Special Issue Art Periodicals Today, Historically Considered that extends across both ARTMargins platforms. Future articles will unfold in the coming weeks and include: “Have a Look: A Short History of Art Periodicals in Yugoslavia” by Darko Šimi?i? and “Art Periodicals in Eastern Europe: A Critical Survey.”
In “Art Periodicals and Contemporary Art Worlds, Part 1: An Historical Exploration” (published issue #5.3, 2016 of ARTMargins Print), I examine … Read more
We no longer think of archives as destinations for practices, or as media to be parsed and separated; we think of them as practice itself. Studying (in) the archive today no longer means the uncovering of the various archaeological layers that invisibly define the present, dividing it from itself. And in contemporary art, too, the archive does not equal knowledge understood as a destination. Rather, it is the name we give to a practice that takes as its departure point the combination, concatenation, reformatting, or rescaling of information that is archival to the extent that everything is.
What I call … Read more
It was with great shock and sadness that we learned of the passing of our dear friend, colleague, and collaborator Piotr Piotrowski. His groundbreaking contributions to the study of art from Eastern Europe, boundless energy, willingness to challenge entrenched views, desire to provoke discussion (no matter how uncomfortable), and his commitment to democracy and social justice distinguished him among his peers within the region and beyond. Piotr belonged to a post-war generation of Eastern European intellectuals who experienced life under communism first-hand and who later observed and participated in the often painful and unsteady transition to capitalism and democracy. His … Read more
Art and the Environment in East-Central Europe is an editorial project born from interviews and other forms of interaction with artists and cultural producers concerned, in one way or another, with the idea and the material reality of what goes by the name of the “natural environment.” In the different pieces collected within this project, the term “environment” unfolds into a broad variety of concepts and artistic practices that do not, and should not, become homogenized. A survey rather than a deep investigation, Art and the Environment in East-Central Europe covers a wide range of art and ideas connected to … Read more
The Silesian Beskids Landscape Park lies in the Beskids Mountains, a part of the Outer Western Carpathians in Southern Silesia. The park, together with adjoining lands, has been incorporated into the Eastern Carpathians International Biosphere Reserve, which overlaps the convergent borders of Poland, Slovakia, and the Czech Republic. The area’s biodiversity includes meadows with a number of rare Eastern Carpathian plants, bear, wolf, red deer, lynx and over 150 species of birds. The native beech trees were logged in the nineteenth century, followed by the logging of spruce, which grew much faster and, thus, became preferred by the lumber industry. … Read more
An important figure in contemporary Czech and Slovak Art, Jana Želibská has been creating art since the mid-1960s. Working in printmaking, drawing, painting, assembelage, installation, video and performance, Želibská is a significant representative of action art in Central Europe. Her primary themes are the exploration of female identity, the connection of feminity to nature, and humanity’s relationship to earth, including references to ecology. In 2012, a major retrospective of Želibská’s work was held at the Slovak National Gallery, Bratislava.
While many female Central European artists working in the latter half of the twentieth century were creating self-reflective or autobiographical work, … Read more
In 2004, Barbara Benish founded the NGO Art Dialogue, which, among other things, supports programs and a farm at ArtMill, a renovated flourmill and granary from the 17th century located in the forested countryside bordering Šumava National Park (one of the largest remaining greenbelts in Europe). Positioned on a lake, ArtMill has become an international destination for artists, scientists, environmentalists, writers and students of all ages to study, collaborate and create. The rural property consists of living quarters, renovated studio structures, barns, outdoor workspaces and organic gardens. This text is adapted from conversations between Benish and Janeil Engelstad between 2012 … Read more
Budapest Farmer’s Hack is a project developed in 2013 by Attila Nemes and Péter Eszes for OS Kantine, a media lab that focuses on open systems, open knowledge and the effort to build sustainable, community based models, while supporting other groups engaged in the same work. The trial project included the reclaiming of unused community gardens where plant needs, water, light, and nutrients were monitored by sensors that fed information into a digital network, which made the labor spent on taking care of the garden more productive. The text below is adapted from a conversation with Attila Nemes.
Through Budapest … Read more
If I Had a River is an exploration of what it means to live a sustainable life; in this case, on a boat that Slovak artist Oto Hudec constructed with all of the necessary provisions and a functioning garden for living independently at sea.
My thinking about this project started roughly four years ago with a simple drawing of a boat hosting a garden of edible plants. The drawing felt like the best illustration of my dream of a utopian model for living. A boat is a closed space with very defined borders. As my idea was to make life … Read more
Since 2006, Matej Vakula has researched and documented the increased surveillance and politicization of public space throughout the globe, from Slovakia, Poland, and the Czech Republic to Boston and New York City. Observing how public space serves the interests of the public less and less, and how spaces that were once public are now claimed and held by private and government factions, Vakula was inspired to create Manuals for Public Space (MfPS). Rooted in open-source philosophy, MfPS is a participatory multi-platform project (based in Brooklyn and Slovakia) that includes interventions, an interactive blog and website, and printed manuals that outline … Read more
At the 2007 Venice Biennale, and for the first time in the history of the event, art works produced by Romani artists were displayed in the Roma Pavilion. The exhibition for the first Roma Pavilion, entitled Paradise Lost, was curated by cultural activist and art historian Timea Junghaus. Contemporary artists of Roma descent had the chance to engage artistically and politically with their own identity concerns. Junghaus clearly states in the exhibition catalogue: “a new generation of Roma intellectuals and artists is emerging; along with a new Roma consciousness…The Roma Pavilion at the Venice Biennale will be the first, internationally … Read more
Open Letter from the Art Workers’ Self-Defense Initiative to the Ukrainian and International Art Community
Open Letter from the Art Workers’ Self-Defense Initiative to the Ukrainian and International Art Community(The Art Workers’ Self-Defense Initiative was established in Kyiv in 2012 to monitor and influence common practices in Ukraine’s cultural sphere, especially regarding the transparency and legality of institution–artist relations and the fair compensation of artistic labor.)
We are calling for a boycott of Mystetskyi Arsenal and all of its affiliate organizations in response to the situation surrounding the exhibition Great and Grand, which became part of the celebration of the 1025th anniversary of the baptism of Kyivan Rus (July 26-28, 2013).(Mystetskyi … Read more
SubREAL During the 1990s: Ironic Monuments, Tainted Blood, and Vampiric Realism in a Time of Transition
During the 1990s the subREAL group(subREAL was founded in April 1990 by Calin Dan and Dan Mih?l?ianu. Iosif Király joined the group in February 1991. In August 1993 Dan Mih?l?ianu left subREAL, which operates since as an artist-duo.) – the first of its kind from Romania to operate in an international context after 1989 – investigated the culture of late-communist Romania and the subsequent period of (post-1989) transition, with its turn to a more or less unbridled form of liberal capitalism and the establishment of democratic institutions that continued to be dominated by the old elites. In their … Read more
Jan Tichy (Czech, b. 1974) is a Chicago-based artist who works at the intersection of multiple media. Central to his practice is the use of video projection as a time-based source of light as well as modernist photographic histories that serve as both formal inspiration and conceptual lens for exploring contemporary sites. His recent project 1979:1-2012:21: Jan Tichy Works with the MoCP Collection was on view at the Museum of Contemporary Photography, Chicago, October 12- December 23, 2012 (http://www.mocp.org/exhibitions).
At the core of Jan Tichy’s multimedia practice is an investigation of the protean and plastic properties of light, an exploration … Read more
Landscape photography plays a crucial role in portraying the social and political order. As early as 1936, Walter Benjamin saw a critical potential of this genre. He compares photographs by Eugene Atget to pictures taken at crimes scenes: “A crime scene, too, is deserted; it is photographed for the purpose of establishing evidence. With Atget, photographic records begin to be evidence in the historical trial [Prozess]. This constitutes their hidden political significance.”Walter Benjamin, “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction.” Second Version , in Walter Benjamin, Selected Writings, vol. 3, 1935-1938 (Harvard University Press, 2002), … Read more
TACTICS FOR THE HERE AND NOW: THE 5TH INTERNATIONAL BUCHAREST BIENNIAL FOR CONTEMPORARY ART, VARIOUS LOCATIONS, MAY 25 – JULY 22, 2012
How can an art biennale take a renewed critical stance towards its own immersion in the production of cognition, and in the effects of accelerated semiocapitalism, or the capitalization of linguistic labor (to which the critical discourse of contemporary art certainly belongs)?Franco Berardi Bifo, Precarious Rhapsody. Semiocapitalism and the Pathologies of the Post-Alpha Generation (Minor Compositions, London), 2009, pp. 44-49. Tackling the broad topic of the precariousness of contemporary living – or radical instability, loosely defined in … Read more
OSTALGIA, THE NEW MUSEUM, NEW YORK, JULY 6 – OCTOBER 2, 2011
Slavenka Drakuli?, How We Survived Communism and Even Laughed
When choosing a radically new project or goal, people can modify their past, making it interesting and enjoyable.(Artis Svece, “Augu seka un pag?tnes estetiz?šana = Crop Rotation and the Aestheticization of … Read more
“Even the automobiles have an air of antiquity here”. — Guillaume Apollinaire
“Only here”, Chirico once said, “is it possible to paint. The streets have such gradation of gray.” — Walter Benjamin
Skopje, the capital of the Republic of Macedonia at the moment undergoes one of Europe’s biggest urban and art upheavals – the project is dubbed Skopje 2014. Labeled as a “building bonanza”,(Smith, Helena. “Macedonian statue: Alexander the Great or a Warrior on a Horse?”, Guardian, 14 August 2011, http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/aug/14/alexander-great-macedonia-warrior-horse) by the British Guardian, Skopje 2014 project was planned by the Government for several … Read more