“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
Category: Exhibition Reviews
The Earth is Flat Again / Ziemia znów jest płaska, Muzeum Sztuki, Łódź, September 24, 2021 – February 27, 2022
The impetus to rethink the role of the museum characterizes the overarching exhibition program of the Muzeum Sztuki in Łódź, Poland, which historically emerged in the 1920s from the international modern art collection of the Polish avant-garde “a.r.” group and its members, such as artists Władysław Strzemiński and Katarzyna Kobro. The ideas of the “a.r.” group as well as other radical proposals from the beginning of the 20th century to redefine the concept of the museum are currently … Read more
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
Albertinum, SKD, Dresden, October 10, 2020 – May 30, 2021
1 Million Roses for Angela Davis opened in early October 2020 at the Albertinum in Dresden, and unfortunately closed almost two weeks later because of the Covid-19 pandemic. In the entrance area the visitor finds a video of an interview with Davis (also printed in the catalog) where the activist-philosopher aptly describes the potential of art in the context of historical transformation, emphasizing its epistemological value: “Art can produce knowledge, knowledge of the sort that does not occur with a simple political speech. Art is at the forefront of social … Read more
“…of bread, wine, cars, security and peace,” Kunsthalle Wien Museumsquartier, Vienna, March 3– October 4, 2020
Exhibition titles often say a lot about an exhibition. Curators like to borrow a beguiling fragment of wording from an author or adopt a guiding idea that frames how we read the exhibition. Certainly the two texts that provided the theoretical backbone for the exhibition “…of bread, wine, cars, security and peace” recently on view at the Kunsthalle Wien Museumsquartier are telling. The first text is a book by Lebanese poet, essayist, journalist, and artist Bilal Khbeiz, Globalization and the Manufacture of Transient … Read more
Slow Life: Radical Practices of the Everyday / Lassú Élet: Radikális Hétköznapok, Ludwig Museum, Budapest, April 9 – August 23, 2020
In the late 1930s, over a period of six years, Marcel Duchamp created twenty slightly varying miniaturized and portable galleries of sixty-nine of his pre-1935 works, enclosed in a suitcase and arranged to stand up like the displays of a travelling salesman. His Boîte-en-valise (1935-41) evoked the preparation of a man ready to be on the move at short notice; it anticipated, figuratively, the artist’s flight from occupied France to New York in 1942. Confronting the current pandemic crisis, … Read more
24 Arguments: Early Encounters in Romanian Neo-Avant-Garde 1969–1971, The National Museum of Art of Romania, November 7, 2019–February 2, 2020
While writing this article on an exhibition tracing cross-cultural relations between Romania and the United Kingdom, free movement and transnational and translocal exchanges have become, during the current pandemic, luxuries of a past epoch. The exhibition under review, 24 Arguments: Early Encounters in Romanian Neo-Avant-Garde 1969–1971, recounts the cultural exchanges that took place during the three short years identified, which now loom in historical distance. In these far away times, just a few years after Ceaușescu came into … Read more
Daiga Grantina: What Eats Around Itself, The New Musuem, New York, 21 January 2020-17 May 2020.
New York’s New Museum for Contemporary Art is hosting the first U.S. solo exhibition of the Latvian artist Daiga Grantina, with a single multi-piece sculptural installation entitled What Eats Around Itself. Grantina has exhibited internationally, especially in France, Germany, and Austria, and was recently the featured artist in the Latvian Pavilion of the 2019 Venice Biennale with her site-specific installation Saules Sun. Her New Museum installation, which includes both ground-based and suspended sculptural elements, occupies the gallery at the rear of … Read more
In 2018, on an October evening, the Hungarian National Gallery became the site of unusual activities: the artist Ágnes Eperjesi appeared in Cupola Hall of the building that was once the Royal Castle to ceremoniously cover the bronze cast of a naked girl. The life-sized sculpture, made of two unattached bronze shells by artist Gyula Pauer (1941–2012), represents seventeen-year-old Csilla Molnár (1969–1986) who won the country’s first postwar beauty pageant in 1985. One of the most publicized events of 1980s Hungary, attracting more than two thousand contestants, the pageant was broadcast on television for the viewing pleasure of millions and … Read more
Mattis Teutsch: Avant-Garde and Constructive Realism, Scena9, Bucharest, September 12, 2019 – October 25, 2019
János Mattis Teutsch, the Hungarian-German-Romanian painter from Brașov, was characterised in 1920 as “the first who has the audacity to present to the Romanian public works in an expressionist style.” (Sigmund Maur, Rampa newspaper, October 21, 1920.) Mattis Teutsch was associated with the likes of Kandinsky, Marc, and Klee both in actual exhibitions, and in discussions of his artistic and conceptual calibre. His legacy today, however, is something of a battlefield, and the explanation for this lies in the seemingly incongruent bodies of … Read more
Theater of Operations: The Gulf Wars 1991–2011, MoMA PS1, November 3, 2019–March 3, 2020
Coinciding with the turn of a new decade, the trove of artistic responses to the West’s lengthy military presence in Iraq currently amassed at PS1’s warehouse-sized venue focuses a new lens on recent history. Theater of Operations: The Gulf Wars 1991–2011 is overwhelming in scale yet rich in material, brimming with perspectives that peel back the layers of this protracted, two-part conflict from the not-so-distant past, which now threatens to resurface. Many of the voices represented in the exhibition hail from places other than Iraq: France, … Read more
Sammy Baloji: Extractive Landscapes, Stadtgalerie Museumspavillon, Salzburg, July 25 – August 17, 2019
A landscape that has been transformed by human intervention retells the story of the complex power play between different interests and concepts of reality. Such a landscape is never neutral, but rather constantly negotiated and explored, suggesting various interpretations and conclusions. Colonial expansion represented lands outside of the ‘civilized’ European framework as spaces in dire need of cultivation, civilization, and ultimately exploitation, their inhabitants included. Such attitudes continue to affect people in former colonies and beyond. Their material realities have permanently changed by the consequences of colonial … Read more
Steirischer Herbst 2019: The Grand Hotel Abyss, Graz, Austria, September 19 – October 13, 2019
This year’s iteration of Steirischer Herbst —the annual arts-and-theater festival held in Graz since 1968—took its title from György Lukács’s metaphor the “Grand Hotel Abyss.” Lukács, the Hungarian Marxist philosopher, aesthetician and literary critic, used the term pejoratively. The title in its original usage was aimed at the Frankfurt School’s inclination for theory over action during the interwar period. According to Lukács, the likes of Theodor Adorno, Herbert Marcuse, and Jürgen Habermas represented an intellectually decadent elite locked in a hotel only to be smashed … Read more
Parole, Parole (As a Counter-Hegemonic Gesture): Red Discussion No. 2 (Pavilion of the Republic of North Macedonia; Maja Ćirić)
Parole, parole(The reference is to the famous Italian duet performed in 1972 by Mina and Alberto Lupo about appealing yet hollow, empty words.) (As a Counter-hegemonic Gesture): Red Discussion No. 2, part of Subversion to Red by Nada Prlja for The Pavilion of The Republic of North Macedonia
The number of professionals in the fields of the arts and humanities who are capable of critically reflecting upon the planetary condition appears to be small. Fewer still are those who express any critical, communal, or selfless interest in connecting the legacy of the arts and humanities to the … Read more
From the Eastern Bloc to the Bronx: Early Acquisitions from the Art Collection, Derfner Judaica Museum and the Art Collection at the Hebrew Home, Riverdale, New York (May 5-August 25, 2019)
Writing in 2009, Polish scholar Piotr Piotrowski suggested that we recognize multiple, coexisting art historical canons. Focusing on the postwar period, Piotrowski sketched out a series of interweaving histories, at once looking at the broader picture while also considering the political heterogeneity of specific states within the Soviet-dominated region.(See Piotr Piotrowski, In the Shadow of Yalta: Art and Avant-Garde in Eastern Europe, 1945-1989 (London: Reaktion Books, 2009).… Read more
The Matter of Art Biennale Symposium Who are We Talking with? What Can Institutions (Un)learn from Artists?
Who are we talking with? What can institutions (un)learn from artists? Prague, 17-18 May 2019
In contemporary critical artistic and curatorial discourse, the word “organization” is often accompanied by the word “future”. Through the practice of self-questioning and self-positioning, the institution of the biennale recently also became a vehicle for critical investigations focused on envisioning the future beyond a global administered society. Several interesting biennales were initiated in Central and Eastern Europe where, according to Vít Havránek, for a long time “we had believed that democracy and capitalism were two separate processes and that aesthetic differentiation was a mirror image … Read more
After the End: Timing Socialism in Contemporary African Art, Wallach Art Gallery, Columbia University, New York City, June 15 – October 6, 2019
Philosopher and Columbia University faculty member Souleymane Bachir Diagne’s 2013 book The Ink of the Scholars: Reflections on Philosophy in Africa situates the afterlife of socialism in sub-Saharan Africa after the fall of the Soviet Union in 1989 in terms of “a search for itself.”(Souleymane Bachir Diagne, The Ink of the Scholars: Reflections on Philosophy in Africa. Dakar : CODESRIA, Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa, 2016.)
Taking Diagne’s framing … Read more
Revolt She Said: Decolonial and Feminist Perspectives on 1968, District Berlin and Alpha Nova & Galerie Futura, September 2018 – January 2019.
In European and especially German history, 1968 marks the beginning of far-reaching critical engagement on the part of students and established intellectuals with the rise and fall of fascism, and its continuities in postwar societies. The ensuing protests—carried out by students, sometimes in cooperation with trade unions, notably in France—aimed to shake up not only politics and state institutions, but also social mores and gender roles. On a global scale, 1968 stands for the … Read more
Karol Radziszewski: Queer Archives Institute, Schwules Museum, Berlin, June 20 – September 23, 2019
From June 20 to September 23, 2019, Berlin’s Schwules Museum [Gay Museum] hosted an exhibition of queer archives from Eastern Europe collected and presented by Karol Radziszewski, Polish artist, activist, and founder of the Queer Archives Institute (QAI). The QAI is among the most extensive and most visible of a number of queer archives recently founded in Poland and in other Central and East European countries, where celebrating and memorializing non-heteronormative lives and cultural production remains a novelty, perhaps even a rarity. Historically, these countries differed … Read more
Conscious Inability: The Archive of Gabriele Stötzer, Galerie für Zeitgenössische Kunst Leipzig (GfZK Leipzig), March 3, 2019 – March 2020.
Conscious Inability: The Gabriele Stötzer Archive at the Galerie für Zeitgenössische Kunst Leipzig (GfZK Leipzig) takes a long deserved in-depth look at the work of Gabriele Stötzer (also Gabriele Kachold, *1954), one of the central representatives of feminist art in the late GDR. Conscious Inability: The Gabriele Stötzer Archive is a long-term research and exhibition project: over the course of one year, from March 2019 to March 2020, three exhibitions will highlight different aspects of Stötzer’s artistic practice and political … Read more
ARTMargins Online asked writers and critics close to the journal to respond to several Eastern European national pavilions at this year’s Venice Biennale. Our interest was in parsing the way in which pavilion curators approached the problem of nationhood and representation in a region caught between the Socialist past and an uncertain present marked by nationalism and neo-liberal economic policies. This series of responses is supplemented by an interview with Berlin-based artist Maria Loboda.
Queer Abstraction, Des Moines Art Center, Des Moines, IA, June 1 – September 8, 2019.
Harmony Hammond has argued for the “transgressive potential of abstraction.”(Harmony Hammond, Lesbian Art in America (New York: Rizzoli, 2000), 89.) Hammond is included in the Queer Abstraction exhibitionat the Des Moines Art Center along with artists Math Bass, Mark Bradford, Elijah Burgher, Tom Burr, Mark Joshua Epstein, Edie Fake, Felix Gonzalez-Torres, Nicolas Hlobo, John Paul Morabito, Carrie Moyer, Sheila Pepe, Prem Sahib, Jonathan VanDyke, and Jade Yumang. The contemporary works in this exhibition demonstrate the “transgressive potential” of “queer abstraction”. Curating a show … Read more
Laura Aguilar: Show and Tell, National Museum of Mexican Art, Chicago, March 22 – August 18, 2019
Artist Laura Aguilar died of kidney failure in April 2018, shortly after her career retrospective, Show and Tell, closed at the Vincent Price Museum just outside Los Angeles. She was 59 years old. As writers and fellow artists mourned the loss, biographical references proliferated. Aguilar was obese, an auditory dyslexic, clinically depressed, Latina, mostly poor, the daughter of mixed Mexican-European-indigenous parents, a lesbian. With her photographic work, she was a champion for marginalized communities and bodies rendered invisible by mainstream art and visual … Read more
WILDES WIEDERHOLEN. MATERIAL VON UNTEN ARCHIVE OF GDR OPPOSITION, HAUS 22 STASIZENTRALE AND DISTRICT BERLIN, NOVEMBER 4 – DECEMBER 16, 2018.
D’EST SCREENING, CHAPTER 6: RETOPIA, HAUS 22 STASIZENTRALE, BERLIN , DECEMBER 15, 2018
Attempts to establish contemporary archives must always contend with dominant history and ideology. Wild Recuperations. Material from Below, a six-week-long exhibition that took place at District Berlin and the Archive of the German Democratic Republic’s (GDR) Opposition in late 2018 and continues today as an ongoing artistic research project, positions itself firmly against the ossification of objectified knowledge by introducing an artistic and affective approach to … Read more
Poetry & Performance: The Eastern European Perspective, Shedhalle, Zurich, August 16–October 28, 2018
The center of the spacious exhibition hall of Zurich’s Shedhalle was empty. Tomáš Glanc and Sabine Hänsgen, curators of the exhibition Poetry & Performance: The Eastern European Perspective,(Curated by Tomáš Glanc and Sabine Hänsgen, in corporation with Dubravka Djurić, Emese Kürti, Claus Löser, Pavel Novotný, Branka Stipančić, Darko Šimičić, Mara Traumane) purposefully arranged the exhibition’s artworks in a circular progression enclosing this empty center, and with the following sections: Writing-Reading-Performance; Audio Gestures; Interventions in Public Space; Body Poetry; Cinematographic Poetry; and Language Games. The device … Read more
Years of Disarray 1908-1928. Avant-gardes in Central Europe, Olomouc Museum of Art, Olomouc (CZ), September 21, 2018–January 27, 2019
Among the proliferation of First World War related exhibitions of recent years, several have been devoted to the historical avant-garde, a label attached to numerous artistic movements that formed before and during the war. (This review was written as a part of the research project of the Petőfi Literary Museum–Kassák Museum under a grant from the National Office of Research, Development and Innovation, Project-No. NKFIH, K-120779, “The Avant-Garde Periodicals of Lajos Kassák from an Interdisciplinary Perspective (1915–1928).”) The travelling … Read more
Edi Hila: Painter of Transformation, Museum of Modern Art, Warsaw, March 2-May 6, 2018
Since its foundation in 2005, the Museum of Modern Art in Warsaw has been engaged in an intellectually challenging attempt to reevaluate the artistic practice of several artists from post-war Eastern Europe whose works have so far mostly escaped under the radar of major Western art institutions. Shows by such artists as Andrzej Wróblewski, Ion Grigorescu, Alina Szapocznikow, Július Koller, Mária Bartuszová, among others, strived to move beyond the usual Cold War-era binaries of East and West, communism and capitalism, in order to show a more … Read more
A silent video of Vladimir Lenin speaking enthusiastically to Russian crowds greets the visitors of the Jewish Museum’s second floor. We hear no words, but Lenin appears victorious; the footage, we assume, must have been filmed after April 1917, when the exiled leader had just been clandestinely brought back from Switzerland onboard a German train. In the following months, Lenin would successfully lead a revolution that overthrew the tsarist regime and ventured to turn Russia into a communist state. And while it only took a few years for this sense of communist idealism to be swiftly replaced by an authoritarian … Read more
Larisa Crunțeanu, Aria Mineralia Zachęta Project Room, Warsaw, October 20 – December 2, 2018.
For her exhibition Aria Mineralia at Zachęta Project Room, Larisa Crunțeanu, a Romanian-born, Warsaw-based artist and curator, has created a sound-based installation along with accompanying ceramics, neon, costumes, and video works that all address notions of camouflaging as an activity of playful subversion.(Aria Mineralia at Zachęta Project Room, Warsaw, is part of the cultural project F vs F, produced by Copia Originala Association and co-funded by the National Cultural Administration Fund, Romania. Partner of the exhibition: Anca Poterasu Gallery.) The title Aria Mineralia refers … Read more
Toward a Concrete Utopia: Architecture in Yugoslavia, 1948-1980, Museum of Modern Art, New York, July 15, 2018 –January, 13 2019
New York’s Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) recently provided a stage for a vital – and very much on-trend – examination of the brutalist, socialist architecture of the former Yugoslavia, exhibited under the title Toward a Concrete Utopia: Architecture in Yugoslavia, 1948-1980. Structured around a set of thematic and biographical sequences, this momentous survey of socialist architecture brought together more than 400 drawings, models, photographs and video installations from a wide range of private and institutional archives across the former … Read more