'Eastern Europe Can Be Yours! Alternative Art of the Eighties,'
By Maja and Reuben Fowkes
Published in Afterall (September 2017)
In spite of its reputation as the decade of the ‘return of painting’, the overriding characteristic of the art of the East European eighties was its pluralism, which also accounts for its resistance to strict definition. While there was a tendency to play down the social and political role of art, the context in which the new generation worked was unavoidably influenced by the ideological chill at the beginning of the decade and the unstoppable liberalisation of its latter half. And although they continued to work in relatively marketfree
conditions, their dislike of state art institutions that imposed limits on artistic expression prompted them to appropriate minor spaces, from community centres to university corridors, as well as private
apartments and studios, to create optimal conditions for their art practice. Despite the distrust of the ethos of collectivism, they often gravitated towards the formation of artistic groups that provided a means to express their divergence from the dissipation of the late socialist system. Demonstrating their openness towards the world in their willingness to cross genre boundaries, receptivity to inter-cultural and historical borrowings, as well as immersion in sub-cultures of music, fashion and poetry, the alternative artists of the eighties in Eastern Europe were eagerly poised for the imminent fall of the political frontiers too.