Category: Online Articles

Tanja Ostojić’s Aesthetics of Affect and PostIdentity (Series “New Critical Approaches”) (Article)

The following is the first in a series of essays that explore new critical approaches to art from East-Central Europe.

Tanja Ostoji? is a contemporary Serbian artist who is no stranger to problems of identity. In her work she questions and challenges power relations and their permutations within the realms of politics, culture, and art. Ostoji?’s work spans more than ten years and encompasses a variety of artistic engagements, from performance works in which she covered her naked body with marble dust and stood in the middle of an art gallery, to works such as I’ll Be Your Angel in … Read more

Krzysztof Wodiczko at the Polish Pavillion in Venice (Review Essay)

“At the sound of breaking glass, Madame Bovary turned her head and glimpsed outside, close to the panes, peasant faces gazing in.” (G. Flaubert, Madame Bovary)

Absorbed by the party at the Marquis d’Andervilliers’s, Emma Bovary views this invasion by a number of uninvited guests as a little more than a tactless intrusion. At some point in Krzysztof Wodiczko’s projection at this year’s Venice Biennale we have to deal with a similar disturbance of the narcissistic adventure of looking. This happens in a sequence of images depicting migrant workers who are washing windows, with one of them pressing his face … Read more

FEINKOST, Berlin (“Series Young Galleries in Eastern Europe”)

ARTMargins continues its series on young galleries in Central and Eastern Europe.

FEINKOST is located in a ‘50s-era glass pavilion on the former border between East and West Berlin. Built in the style of a poor-man’s Neue Nationalegalerie, the building was, until the early Noughties, a Feinkost, or “delicatessen.” In 2007 Mette Ravnkilde Nielsen and I started the gallery. Since that time its program has consisted of solo shows and group exhibitions that investigate the use-value of art in society and culture, taking into consideration the kind of lofty epistemological criteria that have ultimately been lost in the … Read more

A Short Guide to Contemporary Art in Ukraine (“Short Guide Series”)

ARTMargins begins a series of concise introductions to the developing art scenes of East-Central Europe.

Last May an exhibition titled Pohlyady (Views) that highlighted the confluence of art and politics was organized by HudRada (Arts Council) at the Center for Contemporary Art in Kyiv. HudRada is a group of Ukrainian artists, architects, translators and political activists; many members of the Ukrainian contemporary art community participate in its internet-based discourse. HudRada has wide-ranging aims, which include self-education through communication as well as creating exhibitions and other consciousness-raising events. Without the hierarchical management of a single curator, the members of HudRada collaborated … Read more

A Fascist in Our Midst: Alexey Belayev-Guintovt and the Kandinsky Prize Scandal

The few hundred practitioners and enthusiasts of Contemporary Russian art like to think of it as a collective activity. With talk of “our art, our artists, our pavilion in Venice,” the myopic and occasionally Lilliputian Moscow scene exhibits unusual solidarity when it comes to fighting for a place under the sun.  But last December, when amid cries of “Disgrace!” and accusations of fascism, ultranationalist painter Alexey Belyaev-Guintovt beat out Sots Art legend Boris Orlov and Marxist Dmitry Gutov to win the 2008 Kandinsky Prize, a deep, bitter division broke ranks from within, and the word “them” added itself to the … Read more

Warsaw’s Foksal Gallery 1966-72: Between PLACE and Archive

On January 21, 1967, Tadeusz Kantor(This text embraces fragments of my previously published essays: “Pulsating of the Space. Tadeusz Kantor and the economy of the Impossible,” in Jaros?aw Suchan, ed., Tadeusz Kantor. Impossible (Kraków: Bunkier Sztuki, 2000), 27-42; “Experiences of Discourse. Polish Conceptual Art from 1965-1975,” in Pawe? Polit, Piotr Wo?niakiewicz, eds., Conceptual Reflection in Polish Art. Experiences of Discourse 1965-1975, exh. cat. (Warszawa: Centre for Contemporary Art Ujazdowski Castle, 2000); “’Aneantisations’ and Matrices of Death. On Zero-Tendency in Tadeusz Kantor’s Art”, in Tadeusz Kantor. Interior of Imagination, exh. cat. (Warszawa: Zach?ta Gallery, 2005); Unbearable Porosity of Read more

Flexibility Makes Our Existence Possible: The Contextual Art of Jan Świdziński

“Contextual Art as a pure sign, cleansed of stereotypes; a sign which is filled by the present reality.

“For the act of drinking a glass of water to become art, it has to be performed in the right place, at the right time, and in the right company.”
(Jan ?widzi?ski)

Jan ?widzi?ski – an artist initially associated with conceptualism – wrote down his theses about contextual art in 1974. At that time, Polish artists were increasingly visiting the West, participating in international exhibitions, projects, or symposiums. Some, like Roman Opa?ka, became spectacularly successful, firing up their compatriots’ imagination. Many renowned … Read more

How to Convert a Palace into a Museum of Contemporary Art

The first discussions about the museum began in 2002. I was confronted with a dilemma: either to conceive a regular exhibition space, or a national art museum. I wondered what kind of theoretical attitude one should take when approaching such a project. The Romanian Contemporary Art Museum would have included rooms for music, dance, and photography in a building that used to be the emblem of the period prior to the 90s, a symbol of the communist system.

I had to choose between either furnishing, renovating, and restoring the building S4, a part belonging to the Palace of Parliament; or … Read more

Bucharest’s National Museum of Contemporary Art in the Big House

The House of the Republic, now the Palace of Parliament, was built in the 1980s and remains a work in progress today. During the last years of the Communist regime, it was meant to host all the administrative apparatus in one enormous building, allegedly the second largest in the world, at least at the time, after the Pentagon. But the Ultimate Edifice of Romania was part of a much larger process of reshaping the capital city of Bucharest. Due to the enormous size of the building, the upper floors are still unfinished and will remain empty until the Ultimate Edifice … Read more

Balaklava Odyssey

 Balaklava is situated in the extreme south of the Crimean peninsula; its roots stretch to very ancient times. Only ten years ago this bay was closed for tourists and civilians, due to one of the most secret installations of the Soviet Union: a hangar for submarines and a storage space for nuclear armaments. Only due to the collapse of the Soviet Union and the liquidation of the Black Sea Fleet was Balaklava opened. Today it exists as a huge unexplored territory and historical lab.

During the siege of Sevastopol, the Black Sea Fleet team hid submarines in Balaklava. The city, … Read more

The Russian Internet: Between Kitchen-Table Talks and the Public Sphere

Internet metaphors are drawn from the pool of available cultural forms and, therefore, they reflect cross-cultural differences. Thus, the metaphor of “surfing the Internet,” which was widely used for some time (before search engines made this activity outdated), had distinctly American roots and referred to the widespread sport and entertainment activity virtually unknown to most Russians. In Russia, with its colder climate, different type of coastline, and different cultural habits, the closest analogy for surfing would be “sledging,”Eugene Gorny, “Amphiblestronic Fragments,”, (1999). but this metaphor has never been used. However, other metaphors which reflect the … Read more

The Applied Social Arts

Does contemporary art have any visible social impact? Can the effects of an artist’s work be seen and verified? Does art have any political significance – besides serving as a whipping boy for various populists? Is it possible to engage in a discussion with art – and is it worth doing so? Most of all, why are questions of this kind viewed as a blow against the very essence of art?

Art had long struggled to gain autonomy, to free itself from politics, religion, authority, and everything else that sought to use art for its own ends. Independence was to … Read more

The Public and the Private Body in Contemporary Romanian Art

Never has the obsession with the body been more alive than in the contemporary period, with its tendency to turn narcissistically inwards. In psychoanalysis, the term “narcissism” describes the behavior of people who treat their own bodies as a “sexual object.”Rosolato, G., “Recension du corps, in Pontalis ”, J.-B., “Lieux du corps”, Nouvelle revue de psychanalyse, no. 3 printemps 1971, Gallimard, Paris.   According to observations from the same field of research, “the narcissistic behavior of identification” acknowledges both “awareness of the body” and “awareness of the self” as distinct symbolic forms, which are nevertheless in permanent correlation.

Unfettered … Read more

The Sorokin Affair Five Years Later On Cultural Policy in Today’s Russia

Five years ago, a campaign and criminal case against the writer Vladimir Sorokin attracted considerable public and media attention in Russia. In this essay, we begin by reviewing the events of the Sorokin affair and then attempt to understand it in the context of the Putin regime’s discursive practices.

One day in mid-January 2002 a large group of clean-cut young people gathered in the center of Moscow. They came out to protest what they claimed to be the obscene and unwholesome character of certain recent works of Russian literature. At the rally, they announced the beginning of a massive campaign … Read more

Curatorship, Culture and the Public: Curatorial Practice in the Post-Soviet Age, Part II

In this second part of the discussion “Curatorial Practices, Culture and the Public,” the focus is on the funding and financial processes that form the basis for institutional survival and development, as well as how and where curatorial practices are formulated and implemented. The two areas are intrinsically related; sources of funding and monetary support maintain financial infrastructures, while curatorial (and exhibition) practices substantiate and define the conceptual and ideological foundations upon which the art museum exists.

The museum – in all its forms – is a place for the representation of a society’s cultural wealth. It is a form … Read more

Ukrainian Modernism: Identity, Nationhood, Then and Now

The following is a transcription of “Ukrainian Modernism: Identity, Nationhood, Then and Now,” a panel discussion organized by and held at the Chicago Cultural Center in conjunction with the exhibition Crossroads: Modernism in Ukraine, 1910-1930, on view at the Chicago Cultural Center, July 22-October 15, 2006, and The Ukrainian Museum, New York, November 5, 2006-April 29, 2007. The panel focused on the issues raised by the exhibition, as well as issues of concern to contemporary artists in Ukraine. Each panelist presented a brief statement about this topic, then the editor, Susan Snodgrass, presented the panel with a series of … Read more

Examining the Excavations of History: Veronika Darian on the Genesis of the “Mind the Map!” Project

“An act of impudence marks the beginning.”With reference to the publication accompanying the project and reviewed in the current issue of ARTMargins: “Mind the Map! – History Is Not Given. A Critical Anthology Based on the Symposium,” eds. Marina Gržinic, Günther Heeg, and Veronika Darian (Revolver, 2006). See especially one of the prefaces, from which this sentence is borrowed, l.c. p. 23. That’s how it started, some years ago in Ljubljana, Slovenia. In 2000 the Slovenian painters’ collective Irwin, ie, part of the artists’ collective NSK: Neue Slowenische Kunst (New Slovenian Art) since 1983, initiated a project that would … Read more

Christo in Bulgaria: the Act of Wrapping and the Communist Legacy (1935 – 1956)

Christo and Jeanne-Claude are probably the most elusive artistic couple in the contemporary art world. Their vast ephemeral projects across Europe and the US, each one existing for no more than several weeks and involving approximately ten years and hundreds of people to realize, claim to possess political and economical autonomy. In order to raise the millions of dollars required for a project to be completed, Christo produces a huge amount of preparatory drawings, collages, and maquettes, while Jeanne-Claude, who plays the role of a manager, PR, and an image maker of the artistic union, deals with them on the … Read more

Curatorship, Culture and the Public: Curatorial Practice in the Post-Soviet Age, Part I

As a result of my own personal experiences, as well as discussions with colleagues in Budapest, I became interested in the prevalent curatorial practices in the region. In this context, region is meant as those countries which were formerly part of the “socialist bloc,” as well as countries which were once part of Yugoslavia. Today, within this entire ‘post-socialist’ geography, there is scarcely an institution where there is a formal curriculum relating primarily to curatorial praxis or arts administration.It might safely be said that the administrative and artistic management of museums and other major cultural institutions was left to a … Read more

The History of Nothing: Contemporary Architecture and Public Space in Romania

Researching Communist architecture is a tricky endeavor in contemporary Romania, where some major actors of that era are still alive, some even still in charge, and are not exactly interested in opening up archives for investigation and interpretation.

This and many other reasons explain perhaps why there is almost no research in the history of the present or future state of the built public realm (spaces, edifices, monuments and memorials, collective dwelling). Taught in a post-Beaux Arts and then post-Bauhaus school of architecture, where information was scarce and delayed, where drawing skills were the exclusive requirement for admission, and architectural … Read more

The Lure of Fresh Air: Sustainability in Contemporary Croatian Art

In recent Croatian contemporary art, several art projects that deal with human interference in the natural environment require critical tools that go beyond pleasure-based aesthetics and exceed the prism of national identity and the drama of transition. The works discussed here are engaged with specific localities and global forces rather than the frame provided by the nation state. The intensive interest in the interconnectedness of the social and natural environment shown by Dalibor Martinis, Ivan Ladislav Galeta, and Antun Maracic is arguably linked to the deepening engagement of contemporary art with sustainability.

Sustainability, in its definition, contains the dilemma of … Read more

Between “Bad Things” and “Good Vibrations”: Leon Theremin and his T-Vox

During the glasnost period when many forgotten biographies were rediscovered and rewritten, one of the most bizarre finds was the Soviet-American inventor and pioneer of electr(on)ic music, Lev Sergeevich Termen (aka Léon Theremin, 1896-1993). Termen, “the secret link between sci-fi films, the Beach Boys, and Carnegie Hall,” whose “electronic musical instrument took the world by storm in the 1920s and ’30s”(Grand Performances. “Theremin: An Electronic Odyssey”., — several decades before the rise of electronic popular music — had been forgotten for 50 years in the East and West.

Some remembered this name, though–among them were Robert … Read more

Can Art Be Political? Regarding the Controversy Surrounding Manifesta 6

Can art be political? Judging by the problems that Manifesta 6, the European Biennial of Contemporary Arts, has encountered with its next venue, the answer is yes! Moreover, this plain affirmation looks like an understatement in a context where politicians like to affirm their separation from culture but where they still have the power to censor a cultural project. The next Manifesta, an exhibition founded and aimed towards a larger Europe that already took place in Rotterdam, Luxembourg, Ljubljana, Frankfurt, and Donostia-San Sebastian, was supposed to happen between September 17 and December 23, 2006, in Nicosia (Cyprus), a culturally … Read more

Moscow Diary

In 2003, Vladimir Paperny was asked by the popular Moscow magazine “Afisha” (Billboard) to review contemporary architecture of Moscow. ARTMargins publishes Paperny’s conversations and street impressions.

March 26, 6:30 PM, “Afisha” Magazine

– Can you please write about the new architecture of Moscow, – asked the chief editor.


– I don’t know anything about it, you should ask Grigorii Revzin.

– He’s a professional, and we need a side perspective.

– A freewheeling essay?

– No, no, no—essays! We need the meat.

– Where am I going to get your meat? If only Revzin would agree to guide me Read more

Paintings From a ‘Suitcase’ Themes of the Transient State in Recent Paintings by Andrei Roiter

Paintings of the Russian-born artist, Andrei Roiter, who presently divides his time living in Amsterdam and New York, illustrate his transient experience influenced by the prism of his ever shifting artistic identity. Roiter depicts the dilapidation and provisional structures of shacks, barns, and barracks from his past during Socialist Russia and enriches this imagery with motifs of his nomadic life-style. He skillfully interweaves romantic transient experience while paying homage to aesthetics of decay by picturing common architecture from the city fringes. Moreover, he utilizes found objects and building materials such as wood, masonite, cardboard, and fabric. His economy of means … Read more

Modernism and Destruction in Architecture

My point of departure is three pairs of photographs. The first pair juxtaposes the unfinished frame of Frank Gehry’s Disney Hall in Los Angeles (photo 1) and the destroyed carcass of Minoru Yamasaki’s Twin Towers in New York (photo 2). We are conditioned to expect a building frame to consist of (or at least contain some) rectangular elements. Gehry’s frame has none. We might see it as a “normal” rectangular frame twisted and distorted by the creative will of a modernist. The modernist vocabulary, as Anthony Vidler observed, has always included “displacement and fracture, torquing and twisting, pressure and release.”(… Read more

Memoirs of a Video Activist

I left Bucharest when I was 9. My parents were political refugees. They spoke out against the Ceausescu regime on Radio Free Europe, and three years later, after many protests and hunger strikes, they were permitted to leave Romania. We received political asylum in Austria and later moved to New York. We were stateless for 6 years before becoming US citizens. I grew up poor but privileged, in the sense that I had an education at some of the best schools in America, social factories for the production of Marxist intellectuals. And then I dropped out of my PhD, left … Read more

Olga Chernysheva and the Politics of the Panorama

Olga Chernysheva often says that she is interested in the motif of the “round” and the “spherical,” but she also talks about her interest in the “shapeless.” How can one reconcile these two? Isn’t the sphere the most perfect and self-contained of forms? In fact, this is exactly how one wants to describe the huge, planet-like cookies on one of her early paintings, or the self-sufficient spheres of anonymous knit hats on her later photographs. But no. In fact, the sphere is formless. Or, to be more precise, it is beyond the problematic of form if one looks at it … Read more

Spirituality Is Embarrassing: On Zbigniew Libera

Zbigniew Libera belongs to Poland’s so-called lost generation of the 1980’s, to that generation whose most creative years fell with the barren and depressing time of Polish martial law. Added to the difficult socio-economic conditions were the philosophical and artistic crises brought about by the dominance of post-modernism with its confirmation of fragmentariness — a modern world no longer organized by any meta-narratives. This situation increased anxiety and fueled attempts at both the self-creation that would offer control of one’s own identity and the creation of private utopias. Within this fragmented world, it became necessary to ask the most primal … Read more