East of Art: Transformations in Eastern Europe. Lectures.


Introductory remarks by Glenn Lowry, Director of the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA)

Laura Hoptman

Tomas Pospyszl

Roger L. Conover

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The recently published book, Primary Documents, A Sourcebook for Eastern and Central European Art Since the 1950s, took several years to complete. The original idea came from Laura Hoptman, at that time a curator at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

Primary Documents became the first title in a series of books prepared by MoMA´s International Program. The main intention of this and forthcoming anthologies is to provide English speaking audiences with translations of seminal texts coming from Eastern Europe and other regions not usually considered by mainstream Western art historical discourse.

In the beginning of our work we believed that these audiences were mostly readers from Western countries. But to our surprise a large part of these responses and reviews came from Eastern Europe itself.

Primary Documents was published in an era when global political, economic and cultural interest in Eastern Europe, triggered by the fall of Iron Curtain in 1989, came to a decline. Many Eastern European countries joined NATO and are about to become a part of EU.

The region is relatively stabile and safe, but it is far from being fully explored. The future of analysis of Eastern European art may be made not only by western institutions, as was often the truth in the 1990s, but also Eastern European structures themselves.

A roundtable discussion on Primary Documents entitled East of Art: Transformations in Eastern Europe took place on Tuesday, March 11, 2003, at MoMA Gramercy. The symposium explored the region’s historical, political, and artistic contexts.

There were a few general questions that attempted to frame the discussion: Is there a literary canon for contemporary visual discourse in Eastern Europe after the Second World War? If so, who wrote it? How are the counties of Eastern Europe reshaping their cultural identities in recent decades? How does this process find its reflection in contemporary art?

What are the differences in reception of contemporary art in different Eastern European countries? Is there a difference between the position of contemporary art in different Eastern European countries twelve years ago and now? How did conditions under which EE artists work change in recent years?

Did cultural contacts and communication between various Eastern European countries changed? To what extent is there a unified art historical discourse in Eastern Europe and within individual countries?

Moderated by Hoptman and Pospiszyl, the panel included key cultural historians and artists whose writings appear in the book, including Boris Groys, Bojana Pejic, Slavoj Žižek, and Katarzyna Kozyra. Respondent to the panel was MIT editor and writer Roger L. Conover.

March 23, 2003