Category: Online Articles

Suspended Belief: On Art and Memory in Hungary

In 2007, at the Venice Biennial, Andreas Fogarasi’s Kultur und Freizeit (curated by Katalin Timár) received the Golden Lion award for the best national pavilion. The work dealt with the socialist cultural houses and remnants of socialism in a video installation. Fogarasi is Hungarian, based in Vienna and in his early thirties. According to a logic typical of secondary memory or “post-memory”, this young artist “remembered” something of which he had little or no first-hand experience, partly because of his age and partly because of his location, geographically close but mentally far from socialist Hungary.

According to Piotr Piotrowski , … Read more

Contemporary East European Art in the Era of Globalization: From Identity Politics to Cosmopolitan Solidarity (Articles)

With integration in the globalized art world, the ever-elusive notion of contemporary East European art is today becoming increasingly intangible and diverse. These changed circumstances are reflected in the East European art scene which now includes artists that are not necessarily based in their native countries, but may still work with the legacy of shared histories and experiences; artists living in the region but working internationally without the burden of their own socio-political past; as well as non-native artists who work either in collectives or individually and who have settled in the capitals of the former Eastern Bloc, or simply … Read more

Impressions from the 4th Bucharest Biennale (Article)

The Bucharest Biennale runs until July 25th at various venues in Bucharest, and with a series of parallel events in Stockholm (3 June to 24 September). For details go to

I arrived at Bucharest’s retro-communist, chaotic airport the day when there were large demonstrations in the streets of Romania’s capital. Most of the demonstrators were over 60, and they were protesting against the cuts of their state-pensions.  It is a mystery where the money sent to Romania by the IMF has gone.  It’s not a mystery, however, to the locals on the Crânga?i tram: “Este putrezire,” they shrug, … Read more

Flashmob – the Divide Between Art and Politics in Belarus (Long version/Articles)


This article represents a (drastically) revised version of a text(Альмира Усманова «Белорусский détournement, или искусство обходного маневра как политика» // Топос, # 13 (2/2006), сс.91 – 127.)* originally published in 2006 in a special volume of the academic journal of philosophy and cultural theory, Topos.(The journal was launched in 2000 and is published by European Humanities University in Vilnius. See the archive of the journal: The entire volume, entitled “Choice and Elections,” was dedicated to the phenomenon of political (non)participation in contemporary Belarus, or more precisely, to the paradox of the political … Read more

The Artist is Present: Marina Abramović at MoMA (Review Article)


If in the early stages of her career Marina Abramović’s work gained much of its magnetic allure from its spontaneity and ephemerality, in recent years the artist has shown a heightened interest in the problem of how performance art – whose essential medium is time – can be preserved. Recognizing the calamity, the artist recently established the Marina Abramović Institute for the Preservation of Performance Art in Hudson, N.Y., near where she has a home (the Institute is scheduled to open in 2012). The … Read more

Performatism in Contemporary Photography: Alina Kisina (Series “New Critical Approaches”) (Article)

Most people in the art world by now have some sort of intuitive understanding that postmodernism is being replaced by something new, but few have tried to define what that “newness” is in a binding way.  One of the few recent attempts of this kind was made by Nicolas Bourriaud while curating an exhibition called Altermodernism at the Tate Triennial in early 2009. Bourriaud suggests that the new post-postmodern art is the “positive experience of disorientation through an art-form exploring all dimensions of the present, tracing lines in all directions of time and space.” In his view, the artists involved … Read more

Dispatch from Sofia (Article)

With the gas light blinking empty the taxi headed towards Sofia. The driver offered me another cigarette after I had extinguished one to get in the cab. “Are you German?” “No American.” I replied. He wagged his finger smiling saying “Monica Lewinsky! Bill Clinton!” I laughed and thought about how wonderful it would be if cultural memory had no recollection of the Bush years. The Balkan mountain range that cradles Sofia loomed ahead.

“Everything is happening for the first time here. It’s the second time which is the challenge,” said the Russian-born Iara Boubnova, co-founder of the Institute of Contemporary … Read more

Flashmob – the Divide Between Art and Politics in Belarus (Articles)

These reflections were initially intended as a translation in short form of a text I published in 2006, in a special volume of the journal Topos.(The journal was launched in 2000 and is published by European Humanities University in Vilnius. See the archive of the journal: The entire volume, entitled Choice and Elections, was dedicated to the phenomenon of political (non)participation in contemporary Belarus; or, more precisely, to the paradox of the political indifference of Belarusian citizens in the course of the presidential elections of 2006.

The guiding idea behind that issue of ToposRead more

Peter McCarthy (Sydney)

The Wall at once became the leitmotif of a marginalist disposition in Western Europe and a breath of life into the progressive de-Stalinization of cultural production in Eastern Europe. Culture was being produced—conveniently on both political sides—at the margin evinced now by each side, as the symptom of a confounding contradiction between an existential homeland and the margins of that very homeland. The post-Stalinist era in Eastern Europe was already bringing a degree of artistic freedom as new—if largely formalist—developments in creative media were expanding the Weltanshauung of the Eastern Bloc and certain cultural quarters of the West were looking … Read more

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

I was invited to write an essay that would shed some light on the conditions of art production in Slovenia. Despite the “objective” logic that such a request implies, to somehow synthesize the views on the state and process of art production in a country, I cannot avoidapproaching the topic from a very personal point of view, as I am myself involved in many of the issues and stakes that comprise the contemporary art scene of Slovenia.

I am the editor-in-chief of Maska, a performing arts journal published by a private organization that is struggling to survive in the … Read more

Andrey Kuzkin, Conceptualist Son (Series “New Critical Approaches”) (Article)

It does not take more than a fleeting glance at much of contemporary art practice to realize that Conceptual art is still with us. The similarities go beyond stylistic continuity. Conceptual art’s concern with fundamental questions of artistic meaning and interpretation has endowed art with an awareness of its own conditions and its relationship with a wide range of social life. Indeed, most art today is indebted to the efforts of Conceptual artists in the 1960s for breaking the spell of Greenbergian modernism and opening up a wider range of issues than had previously been accepted.

Russia experienced its own … Read more

Bogoslav Kalaš: the Ghost in the (Painting-) Machine (Article)

My reaction to the work of Bogoslav Kalaš when I first encountered it in the summer of 2009 at Ljubljana’s Galerija Gregor Podnar was mixed and unusual; I wanted to dislike it, but could not. The show focused on Kalaš’s nudes, dating from 1971 to the present, and, being a skeptic, I had to wonder whether the world really needed–then or now–more paintings of naked women draped over furniture. Yet the sheer strangeness of the artist’s practice was too strong a draw. The orchestrated dissonance of the images, which are as layered conceptually as they are physically, was a treat … Read more

The Reopened National Gallery of Art in Vilnius (Article)

My studies of the history of 20th century Lithuanian art were based on reproductions. The rest of my generation and some of the preceding ones had no choice in the matter either; for almost 20 years, the closure of the permanent exposition of 20th century works in Vilnius’ Town Hall made it impossible for younger generations to get acquainted with the country’s art classics directly. It was only on June 20, 2009 that the National Gallery of Art (NGA) reopened, in the building of the former Museum of Revolution in Vilnius, finally providing an opportunity to see the works that … Read more

Contemporary Histories: The 2009 International Competition for Curatorship in Ukraine (Article)

What is the creative potential of a situation where old conservative institutional practice meets new energy and ideas? Can we begin to value the living qualities of art stored in traditional museums by animating it with new points of view?

2009 saw the realization of eight curatorial projects that position contemporary art in the context of traditional Ukrainian museums. These projects were among the finalists selected by international jury in the competition “Art a priori: Contemporary Histories” sponsored by the EIDOS Arts Development Foundation. The competition was initiated in response to a visible need for Ukrainian contemporary art to address … Read more

Moscow Diary: What to Make of this Year’s Biennale (Article)

Three things are clear from the 3rd Moscow Biennale. Firstly, different countries have different standards. The international art community, on the one hand, content with the sense that Martin has little left to add to his place in the history books – and, indeed, that the biennial format per se may already have exhausted itself – met it with almost complete indifference.

Foreign guests were in the low dozens. Coming straight after the Istanbul and Lyon biennials, Moscow passed through the press almost without mention. But in Russia, Jean-Hubert Martin’s “Against Exclusion” met with almost universal rapture. Never before had … Read more

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