Art and Climate Change

By Maja and Reuben Fowkes
Published by Thames & Hudson, April 2022

Art and Climate Change collects a wide range of artistic responses to our current ecological emergency. When the future of life on Earth is threatened, creative production for its own sake is not enough. Through contemporary artworks, artists are calling for an active, collective engagement with the planet in order to illuminate some of the structures that threaten biological survival.

Exploring the meeting point of decolonial reparation and ecological restoration, artists are remaking history by drawing on the latest ecological theories, scientific achievements, and indigenous worldviews to engage with the climate crisis. Across five chapters, authors Maja and Reuben Fowkes examine these artworks that respond to the Anthropocene and its detrimental impact on the planet’s climate, from scenes of nature decimated by ongoing extinction events and landscapes turned to waste by extraction, to art coming out of the communities most affected by the environmental injustice of climate change. 

Central and Eastern European Art Since 1950 (World of Art)

By Maja and Reuben Fowkes
Published by Thames & Hudson, 2020.

In this path-breaking new history, Maja and Reuben Fowkes introduce outstanding artworks and major figures from across central and eastern Europe to reveal the movements, theories and styles that have shaped artistic practice since 1950. They emphasize the particularly rich and varied art scenes of Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary and Yugoslavia, extending their gaze at intervals to East Germany, Romania, the Baltic states and the rest of the Balkans. While politics in the region have been marked by unstable geography and dramatic transitions, artists have forged a path of persistent experiment and innovation. This generously illustrated overview explores the richness of their singular contribution to recent art history.Tracing art-historical changes from the short-lived unison of the socialist realist period to the incredible diversity of art in the post-communist era, the authors examine the repercussions of political events on artistic life – notably the uprisings in Hungary and Czechoslovakia, the Solidarity movement in Poland, and the collapse of the communist bloc. But their primary interest is in the experimental art of the neo-avant-garde that resisted official agendas and engaged with global currents such as performance art, video, multimedia and net art.

Ilona Németh: Eastern Sugar 

Edited by Maja and Reuben Fowkes
(Sternberg Press - forthcoming 2021)

The dramaturgy of neo-liberal capitalism's spread throughout Central and Eastern Europe appears today refracted in a new light. Taking as its starting point artist Ilona Németh's multifaceted investigation of the de-industrializing history of Slovak sugar refineries in the post-communist period, this collective volume brings together critical and artistic reassessments of the processes of social and economic transformation, the dislocation and re-composition of labor relations and working practices, as well as the disintegration and rekindling of notions of community and social well-being. Challenging the inevitability of the adoption of the western capitalist system, it examines how, in the rush to uproot the institutions and structures of socialism, the communitarian, microeconomic, and ecological potentialities of non-capitalist modes of living have been lost or endangered. The literal and metaphorical ruins of Eastern Sugar also offer themselves as a site to extend and expand upon the discussion of economic forces to incorporate environmental and decolonial approaches. as well as to explore the parallels and discrepancies between colonial and neo-colonial histories in the disparate geographies of sugar beet and sugar cane.

Actually Existing Artworlds of Socialism

Edited by Reuben Fowkes
Third Text vol.32 no. 153 (2018)

The tensions between actual and ideal versions of socialism elucidated by East German theorist Rudolf Bahro in 1977 are taken as a starting point for reconsidering East European art from the radical effervescence of the 1960s to the post-utopian twilight of the late 1970s. The special issue is premised on the concept that artistic life in Eastern Europe was profoundly shaped by the structures, conventions and workings of the overarching system, with artists and critics compelled to negotiate its productive contradictions. It examines the quotidian functioning of art scenes across the region that entailed the drawing up of tacit compromises and maintenance of calculated ambiguities in relations between party authorities and artists. Ultimately it was the latent and unrealised promise of actually existing socialism as much as its demonstrative failings that marked a crucial difference in the attitude of East European artists to the utopian reverberations of the era.

The Green Bloc: Neo-avant-garde Art and Ecology under Socialism

Maja Fowkes
Central European University Press: 2015

Expanding the horizon of established accounts of Central European art under socialism, The Green Bloc: Neo-avant-garde Art and Ecology under Socialism uncovers the neglected history of artistic engagement with the natural environment in the Eastern Bloc. Focussing on artists and artist groups whose ecological dimension has rarely been considered, including the Pécs Workshop from Hungary, OHO in Slovenia, TOK in Croatia, Rudolf Sikora in Slovakia, and the Czech artist Petr Štembera, Maja Fowkes’s innovative research brings to light an array of distinctive approaches to nature, from attempts to raise environmental awareness among socialist citizens to the exploration of non-anthropocentric positions and the quest for cosmological existence in the midst of red ideology. Embedding artistic production in social, political, and environmental histories of the region, this book reveals the artists’ sophisticated relationship to nature, at the precise moment when ecological crisis was first apprehended on a planetary scale. 

ISBN 978-963-386-068-7
cloth $65
ISBN 978-615-5225-92-5
paperback $40.00
Publication date: 2015
308 pages

River Ecologies: Contemporary Art and Environmental Humanities on the Danube

Edited by: Maja and Reuben Fowkes
Translocal Institute Budapest, 2015
ISBN: 978-963-12-2126-8

Challenging anthropocentric conventions that seek to harness the river for economic, cultural and political purposes, River Ecologies places the complex ecological materiality of the Danube at the centre of artistic and scholarly attention. Drawing on the insights of artists, scientists, anthropologists, writers and environmental historians, brought together in the experiential setting of the River School, this collective inquiry journeys to sites of urban and natural wilderness to explore issues of reciprocity, resilience, non-human agency and interspecies solidarity. From the confluence of contemporary art and environmental humanities, the artistic and theoretical reflections of River Ecologies flow through the critical habitats of Rewilding Mentalities, Avian Ethnographies, Environmental Histories and Biosphere Responsibility to reengage with the natural world. 

Greta Alfaro, Lise Autogena, Vlad Basalici, Anca Benera and Arnold Estefan, Ursula Biemann, Axel Braun, Peter Coates, Ian Fairlie, Fernando Garcia-Dory, Michal Hvorecky, John Jordan and Isa Fremeaux, József R. Juhász, Tamás Kaszás and Anikó Loránt, Szabolcs Kisspál, London Fieldworks, Cecylia Malik, Ilona Németh, James Prosek, Andrea Roe, Martin Schmid, Miruna Tîrcă, Vaylo

Price 25 euro including p&p
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Loophole to Happiness

Edited by: Maja and Reuben Fowkes
Translocal Institute, 2011
ISBN: 978-963-08-2491-0

Loophole to Happiness sets out to locate and explore the freedom-enhancing loopholes that exist on the margins of social systems from East European communism to global capitalism. Faced with the perfection of techniques of absorbing criticism and the systematic mobilisation of our creativity, sociability and sentiments for economic ends, the search is on for new forms of resistance to the endless pressure of production. The exhibition takes the inventive strategies of worker resistance under communism as the starting point for fresh attempts to imagine exceptions, find escape routes and evade the smooth surface of today’s neo-liberal capitalist order. The title of the show comes from the cult book A Worker in a Worker’s State by Hungarian dissident Miklós Haraszti, who was also interviewed as part of this project. His ‘post-socialist realist’ account of the exploitative working conditions and bold acts of worker resistance in socialist era factories was banned by the communist authorities in the early 1970s, but smuggled out of the country and published abroad. The socio-poetic climax of the book, which resonates strongly with the artworks in Loophole to Happiness, is his description of the practice of making ‘homers' - objects crafted by the worker in defiance of regulations - as an outlet for creativity and agency that disrupted the monotony of factory life and challenged the economic rationale of piece-rates.

Priced 20 euro including postage 

Revolutionary Decadence

Edited by: Maja and Reuben Fowkes
Kiscelli Museum, 2009

Revolutionary Decadence is the last in a trilogy of exhibitions investigating the revolutionary moments of recent history and takes as its subject the contribution of foreign artists to the Hungarian art scene since 1989. While the first exhibition focussed on 1956 as a year of revolutionary insurrection and dealt with artistic reflections on the possibilities of revolution, the second exhibition took as its starting point the revolutionary atmosphere in the period around 1968, perceived as the first global resistance movement, and questioned its legacy for contemporary artistic strategies. The Revolution Trilogy closes with the sequence that began in 1989 and focuses on the effect of the changes on a single community in one locality, namely the enclave of foreign artists within the Budapest art world, and examines their participation in libratory forms of sociability, negotiation of the politics of belonging, and contribution to a post-national understanding of contemporary art in post-communist Europe.  

Price 20 euro including postage

Revolution I Love You

Edited by: Maja and Reuben Fowkes
Manchester Metropolitan University, 2008
ISBN 978-1-905476-34-3

Revolution I Love You considers the interconnection of art, politics and philosophy in 1968 across a divided Europe. It is a mosaic of interviews, statements and essays by prominent theorists, historians, curators, cultural workers and artists that shows the multipolar and interrelated experience of that extraordinary year. Contributing artists and theorists: Maja and Reuben Fowkes, Kostis Kornetis, Rajko Grlić, Viktor Misiano, Kwiekulik, Fia Stina Sandlund, Jens Kastner, Heath Bunting, Oliver Ressler, RugaNegra, Jean Baptiste Ganne, Łukasz Ronduda, Mladen Stilinović, G.M. Tamás, Tamás St.Auby, Simon Ford, Miklós Erhardt, Nancy Davenport, Stefanos Tsivopoulos, Marko Lulić, Krunoslav Stojaković and Katja Diefenbach.

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Revolution is not a Garden Party

Edited by: Maja and Reuben Fowkes
Manchester Metropolitan University, 2007
ISBN: 978-1905476121

This publication brings together the artistic response to contemporary revolution represented by the exhibition and new reflections on the relationship between art and revolution by theorists and art historians.  The book includes illustrations and interviews with the artists, and essays that tackle issues such as art and revolution, aesthetics and politics, ecology and anarchism. Gerald Raunig marks out alternatives to the takeover of the state apparatus as the primary goal of revolutionary activity. Benda Hofmeyr locates the significance of revolution in its transformation into a spectacle that provokes fervour in the minds of viewers. Simon Sheikh reviews the divide between aesthetics and politics and Chus Martinez examines Revolution and Garden Party as two opposing cultural idioms. Maja and Reuben Fowkes connect anarchy, ecology and art as factors of contemporary revolution. Responses to individual works by artists and curators highlight the variety of experiences and understandings of revolution in the context of contemporary art.

Price 25 euro including postage

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