The Conference “East-European Art and Architecture in the 20th Century” (MIT, 5-6 October, 2001)

The conference “East-European Art and Architecture in the 20th century” (MIT, 5-6 October, 2001)

Juliana Maxim and Mark Jarzombek (Boston)

The “East-European Art and Architecture in the 20th century” conference was held at The Massachusetts Institute of Technology on 5 and 6 October 2001. It was chaired by Prof. Mark Jarzombek and Juliana Maxim, and was hosted by History Theory Criticism (HTC), MIT’s Ph.D. program in the history of architecture and art.

The conference brought together scholars, both young and old, for two days of talks and seminar-style meetings. The keynote speaker was Steven A. Mansbach, who has published extensively on various aspects of the modern art in Eastern Europe created between wars. The conference was partially funded by a grant from the Graham Foundation. Other money came from grants internal to MIT.

The purpose of the conference was to raise critical questions about the status of the aesthetic practices during the twentieth century in the former communist block countries, both before and after the Cold War designation of “Eastern Europe.” The conference organizers felt that there is now a great need not only for comparative research, but also for a methodological rethinking of the field as a whole.

What should the disciplinary borders of East European modernism be? How does one deal with the terminological legacies like “East European,” “Central European,” and “East Block”? What is relationship of the aesthetic practices in Eastern Europe to canonical modernism? Should “East European” constitute its own microdiscipline? In what way were East European artists and architects working to achieve an aesthetic identity of their own? How does one define the ambiguous political nature of East European aesthetic practice? How did artists and architects work within the political system of the East Block?

Mark Jarzombek, director of the History Theory Criticism Section, has worked extensively on German modernism and is currently working on East German socialist and postsocialist urbanism. He is preparing a book on that topic focusing on the city of Dresden and the question of memory and trauma.

Juliana Maxim, a Ph.D. candidate in the HTC Section, is working on a dissertation on Romanian architectural modernism of the 1930s. She will explore, in particular, the work of three architects (Marcel Janco, Horia Creanga, and G. M. Cantacuzino) in relation to questions of politics and nationalism.

Related Texts: 

Carmen Popescu, The Imagery of Power: Bucharest’s City Hall

Deborah Schultz, Displacement and Identity: Arnold Daghani

Anna Sokolina, In Opposition to the State: The Soviet Neoavant-garde and East German Aestheticism in the 1980s

Katarzyna Murwaska, Oskar Hansen and the Auschwitz “Countermemorial,” 1958-59

Beate Störtkuhl, Architecture in the Tension-Zone of National Assertiveness? The Examples of Poznan and Upper Silesia in the First Decades of the 20th Century

Tomas Dvorak, A Charming Impasse: Czech Cubist Architecture

Piotr Piotrowski, Central Europe in the Face of Unification