During the establishment of the new socialist regime in Romania, “in order for visual artists to be it was felt necessary to create a new form of organization, a new organism that [would] become an active factor in the work of culturalization of the masses, and for the development of creation.”(“Introductory remarks for the future Country Conference of the Romanian Artists’ Union (UAP) of the Romanian Popular Republic (RPR),” File 1/1950, Fund UAP, The Central National Archives of Romania (ANIC), f. 1.) This article is an adaptation of part of a forthcoming book about the role of the … Read more
“Criticism Should Open Up Horizons for the Future”: The Albanian Union of Writers and Artists and the Status of Art Criticism in the People’s Republic of Albania
This article presents part of the history of the Union of Writers and Artists—the official organ devoted to literature and the fine arts in the People’s Socialist Republic of Albania—and examines (in an incomplete way, of course) the contours of art criticism produced in accordance with official doctrine in Albania, especially in the 1970s decade. Like much Socialist Realist criticism, the output of the Union of Writers and Artists was frequently formulaic, but it also offered a field for artists working beyond the visual (and the union’s critics were almost invariably also practicing artists) to navigate Albanian art’s place vis-à-vis … Read more
During the past decade, contemporary artists in Central and Eastern Europe have renewed their interest in Artists’ Unions, and have begun to self-organize.(This article is based on a study by Johana Lomová and Karel Šima, “Sjezd Svazu československých výtvarných umělců v roce 1964. Poznámky k úspěšnosti performance,” (The Conference of the SČSVU in 1964. Notes on the Success of One Performance) in Umění a revoluce (Art and Revolution), ed. Johana Lomová and Jindřich Vybíral (Praha: UMPRUM 2017), 512–545.) After years of what scholar Piotr Piotrowski termed “anti-communism,”(Piotr Piotrowski, Art and Democracy in Post-Communist Europe (London: … Read more
Money and Morals Then and Now
While at first glance the Artists’ Unions seem to be fossils of Eastern Europe’s state-socialist past, in fact they are still living with us, in several ways. First of all, they persist in the dream of a political utopia: after the short belle époque of welfare states, the current precarization of the cultural sector—especially affected by the COVID-19 crisis—provokes debates on the possibility of cultural workers’ unionization even in Eastern Europe. Secondly, while new institutions emerged after the political transition of 1989, the Artists’ Unions did not completely lose their importance as integrators of … Read more
This conversation is part of a series of interviews with artists from Eastern Europe who live and work in Berlin. The city has attracted artists from Eastern Europe for a long time: especially during the Cold War and into the 1990s, its peculiar geo-political situation provided Berlin with a unique flair that attracted artists from all over the world, but especially from the Central and Eastern parts of the continent. How do these artists experience the city today? How do they look back on the hopes and expectations with which they once arrived? Have they settled for good, or are … Read more
Kristin Romberg, Gan’s Constructivism: Aesthetic Theory for an Embedded Modernism (Oakland: University of California Press, 2018), x + 297 pp.
With Gan’s Constructivism, Kristin Romberg demonstrates how to write about a figure who is at once central and marginal, everywhere and nowhere. Aleksei Gan’s contradictions, the stark contrasts between his ambitions and his absences, are manifold. He co-founded the First Working Group of Constructivists in 1921 and published Constructivism, the movement’s first theoretical treatise, in 1922, yet remains unmentioned in most histories. He commissioned Aleksandr Rodchenko to design costumes for a play that he never wrote. He directed … Read more
The “One on One” series presents timely encounters between ARTMargins Online editors and contemporary artists, usually focused on one recent work. In this installment, Uroš Čvoro talks with interdisciplinary artist, filmmaker, and educator Stefanos Tsivopoulos and curator and cultural producer Chrisoula Lionis about Artists for Artists (AfA), an online pedagogical platform that connects leading artists with early career artists from around the world.
Uroš Čvoro: Artists for Artists (AfA) is based on three principles: artists for artists, peer-to-peer, and radical care. Can you provide a brief overview of the project, and how these ideas inform it?
Stefanos Tsivopoulos: … Read more
Nancy Perloff, Explodity: Sound, Image, and Word in Russian Futurist Book Art (Los Angeles, CA: Getty Publications, 2016), 208 pp.
In 1910, artists and writers in Russia gathered around the painter David Burliuk and the poets Velimir Khlebnikov and Vasily Kamensky to form the literary group Hylaea, one of the earliest iterations of Russian Futurism. Resistant to tradition and to ideological compromise, the Russian Futurists questioned the aesthetic focus on Western Europe and advocated a movement built on distinctly Russian sources. The group embraced chance, intuition, the irrational, and the unexpected, exploring an anarchic-revolutionary mode that celebrated art without rules. … Read more
Vladimir Kulić, ed., Second World Postmodernisms: Architecture and Society Under Late Socialism (London: Bloomsbury, 2019). 260 pp.
Scholarship on architectural postmodernism perennially grapples with definitions. Postmodernism itself implies a departure from the epoch-defining decades of modern architecture: a move away from technocentric, functionalist design freighted with the promise of utopia. Certainly the reemergence of ornament and historical references, coupled with a renewed interest in context and occasional attempts at irony, constitutes an architectural movement, one contemporaneous with the onset of neoliberalism and globalization. But beyond these sketchy attributes, historians and theorists have struggled to taxonomize postmodern architecture.
Both informed and … Read more
Siavash (Siah) Armajani (1939–2020), a conceptual artist best known for his civic-minded public sculptures commissioned for sites across Europe and the U.S., passed away on Thursday, August 27, 2020 from complications related to heart disease. Armajani was born to a wealthy merchant family in Tehran. He was active in political opposition circles throughout high school and college, and was forced to leave Iran in 1960 while still a student at the University of Tehran. He subsequently emigrated to the U.S. and enrolled at Macalester College in St. Paul where he continued his studies in Continental philosophy and American literature. In … Read more
Yulia Karpova, Comradely Objects: Design and Material Culture in Soviet Russia, 1960s-1980s (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2020), 248 PP.
Yulia Karpova’s Comradely Objects: Design and Material Culture in Soviet Russia, 1960s-1980s presents new research on the landmark institutions, projects, debates, and societal and political tensions that constituted Soviet decorative design during late socialism. With this book, Karpova, a design historian and archivist at Central European University (Budapest, Hungary), makes a substantive contribution to the history of Soviet visual culture. The strength of Karpova’s study is the diversity of materials analyzed: Soviet design institution histories, critical discourses in leading publications, state-sponsored … Read more
Ken Lum, Everything is Relevant: Writings on Art and Life 1991-2018 (Montreal: Concordia University Press, 2020), 320 pp.
Ken Lum’s collection of writings Everything is Relevant offers an insightful inquiry into the complexities of the contemporary art world from the perspective of an artist, curator, and educator who refuses to be confined by aesthetic, cultural, or professional categories. Primarily known as a conceptual artist, Lum creates works that interrogate how we assign meanings to images, texts, and objects based on cultural, racial, and social cues. Whether puzzling the beholder through incongruous visual signs or evoking overlooked historical narratives, his practice … 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
Globalizing East European Art Histories: Past and Present. Edited by Beáta Hock and Anu Allas (New York and London: Routledge, 2018), 220 pp.
It is an interesting time to be reviewing a book that calls for “globalizing” art history, when everywhere there are calls for art history to decolonize. Is there a thread between the desire to globalize the study of East European art and the demands for a broader decolonization of the discipline of art history and its institutions?(For a variety of approaches to decolonizing art history, see the questionnaire, edited by Catherine Grant and Dorothy Price, … Read more
We are very pleased to announce that AMO has a new editor-in-chief, Raino Isto. Raino is interim Arts-in-Education Director at Umpqua Valley Arts Association in Oregon. In the fall of 2020, they will be a postdoctoral researcher at the Institute for Cultural Anthropology and Art Studies (IAKSA) in Tirana. Raino received their PhD in 2019 from the University of Maryland, College Park, where their dissertation focused on the political valences of monumental sculpture in socialist and post socialist Southeastern Europe. Raino’s research has been published in Third Text, the Journal of Contemporary Chinese Art, Science Fiction Studies, and … Read more
The “One on One” series presents timely encounters between ARTMargins Online editors and contemporary artists, usually focused on one recent work. Recently, artist Pleurad Xhafa was among the protesters occupying the National Theater in Tirana in May of this year. Along with the other occupiers, Xhafa was arrested by police, and although he was subsequently released, he is currently facing charges including resisting arrest and illegal gathering.
Raino Isto: 200 Million Euro was originally installed on the stage of the National Theater of Tirana earlier this year, but it was destroyed—physically—together with that building in the early hours of … Read more
Vasela Nozharova, Introduction to Bulgarian Contemporary Art (1982– 2015) (Plovdiv: Janet 45 Publishing and the Open Arts Foundation, 2018), 301 pp.
Introduction to Bulgarian Contemporary Art (1982–2015), written by the Bulgarian curator and art critic Vesela Nozharova, is a monograph that is likely to become the first comprehensive history of Bulgarian art of the last decades. The book offers an interpretation of the artistic processes, social actors, and institutions in the visual arts, and examines their historical developments and contributions to the Bulgarian contemporary art scene. This pioneering endeavor presents definitions and hierarchies of what constitutes contemporary Bulgarian art … Read more
Kata Krasznahorkai and Sylvia Sasse (eds.), Artists & Agents. Performance Art and the Secret Services (Leipzig: Spector Books, 2019), 686 pp.
What do performance artists and secret agents have in common? The editors of Artists and Agents. Performance Art and Secret Services, Kata Krasznahorkai and Sylvia Sasse, investigate the question what happens when both sides meet, taking a closer look at different aspects of the collisions that can occur during this encounter. The volume, which can be used for browsing or as a reference work, offers 600 pages worth of different perspectives on the issue, including the workings of … Read more
The “One on One” series presents timely encounters between ARTMargins Online editors and contemporary artists, usually focused on one recent work.
Sven Spieker: Your Didactic Wall (2019) focuses on the issue of migrants, refugees, and displaced persons. The location of the project in Bihać, Bosnia and Hercegovina, is crucial because Bihać is very close to Slovenia. When Croatia closed its borders, thousands of migrants who were hoping to reach Slovenia and, from there, Northern Europe, got stuck. Why did you decide to create an installation in the form of a stone wall?
Mladen Miljanović: There are two … 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
“In View” is a new series of short essays focused on important artworks from the modern history of East-Central Europe that have been overlooked by prevailing art historical narratives. Each author in the series selects a single work that has been ignored in broader histories of global modernism or regional cultural histories, and offers a rich and close reading of that work, highlighting its nuance and import. Texts in the new series will vary widely in their geographic and chronological purview, but they all develop an argument for a specific work’s significance through a detailed examination of its genesis, context, … Read more
Caterina Preda, Art and Politics under Modern Dictatorships: A Comparison of Chile and Romania (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2017), 323 pp.
Caterina Preda’s Art and Politics Under Modern Dictatorships: A Comparison of Chile and Romania proposes an in-depth study the author has been pursuing for many years, guided by an interpretive model that situates art as a reflection of political ideology. While acknowledging the methodological risks, Preda is determined to “untangle the relationship that develops between political power and artistic expression in dictatorial settings and which cuts across the left / right and the authoritarian / totalitarian categories,” (p. … Read more
Our new “One on One” series presents timely encounters between ARTMargins Online editors and contemporary artists, focused on one specific recent work. In this (first) installment, Raino Isto talks with sculptor and installation artist Sera Boeno about her work Open Call for the Units of a Dispersed Monument in the Future (2020). The work is currently part of the online exhibition not (yet) futura free, organized by STABLE Arts in Washington, DC, curated by Nathalie von Veh.
Raino Isto: How did monuments become such a principal aspect of your practice?
Sera Boeno: I was born and raised in Istanbul, an … Read more
Art in Action: Lajos Kassák’s Avant-Garde Journals from A Tett to Dokumentum (1915-1927). Edited by Eszter Balázs, Edit Sasvári and Merse Pál Szeredi (Budapest: Petőfi Literary Museum-Kassák Museum Kassák Foundation, 2017)
A series of photographs that appear halfway through Art in Action: Lajos Kassák’s Avant-Garde Journals from A Tett to Dokumentum (1915-1927) show the artist, poet, and editor Lajos Kassák — a central figure of the early twentieth century Hungarian avant-garde — and his partner and collaborator Jolán Simon in their small flat in Vienna in the 1920s. Forced to flee Budapest in 1919 with the fall of a short-lived … Read more
Andrzej Szczerski, Transformation: Art in East-Central Europe since 1989. Translated by Sabina Potaczek-Jasionowicz (Kraków: Jagiellonian University Press, 2018).
The title of one of the chapters of Andrzej Szczerski’s Transformation: Art in East-Central Europe since 1989 can, curiously, summarize the entire premise of the book. The chapter in question is titled “Communism Never Happened.” This sounds paradoxical, of course. Yet the title is fitting: not because Communism is being ignored in this two-hundred-page-long, ambitious overview of art made after the collapse of the Soviet bloc, but because, for all that, it has virtually no impact on the identity of the … Read more
Artpool 40 – Active Archives and Art Networks, Conference at the Artpool Art Research Center, Central European Research Institute of Art History/Museum of Fine Arts, Budapest, February 20–21, 2020.
On February 20, 2020 (an elegant date), a community of artists, scholars, and art enthusiasts gathered at the Museum of Fine Arts in Budapest to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Artpool Art Research Center.(Éva Forgács, “György Galántai and Júlia Klaniczay, Eds., ‘Artpool: The Experimental Art Archive of East-Central Europe’ (Book Review),” ARTMargins, June 2, 2014, https://artmargins.com/gyorgy-galantai-julia-klaniczay-artpool/.) Artpool was established in 1979 by György Galántai and Júlia Klaniczay … Read more
Elizabeth Otto, Haunted Bauhaus: Occult Spirituality, Gender Fluidity, Queer Identities, and Radical Politics (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2019), 280 pp.
Whilst attempts to decenter art history have frequently focused on bringing to the fore marginal movements or places, an equally useful approach is reassessing those practices symbolically located in the center. As any historian of modern design knows, it is impossible to ignore the specter of the Bauhaus hovering unnervingly over any other design institution of the interwar period, especially those belonging to the peripheries. In her new book, Elizabeth Otto turns the tables and haunts the Bauhaus itself, unravelling … Read more
The Takeover: Karol Sienkiewicz on Recent Changes at Warsaw’s Center for Contemporary Art, and Beyond
In Autumn of 2015, when the right wing Law and Justice party (Prawo i Sprawiedliwość, PiS) scored a landslide victory in parliamentary elections in Poland, the Polish artworld braced for the worst. Cultural producers expected that the “good chane”—as the PiS leaders advertised their plans—would quickly permeate all the cultural institutions and sweep most of the directors within weeks, or, in most optimistic scenario, months.
Fortunately this did not happen. Unlike public television, which soon became the tube of the governing party and where the pro-government propaganda overshadowed even communist-era TV and reached the level of absurdity and Internet memes, … Read more
Hungary Turns Its Back on Europe: Dismantling Culture, Education, Science and the Media in Hungary 2010-2019 is the result of voluntary work by more than 30 Hungarian intellectuals, academics, researchers, and journalists. The booklet, which we here make available to a larger audience, is the first comprehensive report on what has happened in Hungary since 2010, when Viktor Orbán and his Fidesz party won the elections (which they did again in 2014 and in 2018). The focus of the report is on the areas of culture, education, science, and the media. The project was coordinated by OHA (Network of Academics), … 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