SocialEast Seminar on Foreign Experience in Post-1989 Art

Ludwig Museum Budapest
7 May 2009

What attracted foreign artists and curators to the capitals of Central and Eastern Europe in the wake of the political changes of 1989 and how have they contributed to local art scenes and national art discourses? Are we moving from a model of national artistic identities to a post-national understanding of contemporary art? What parallels can be drawn with the experience of political exiles returning home and with the reconnection of national minorities and diasporas after the fall of communism?


The Experience of an East European curator in the international art scene. A confessional first-person narration
Nataša Petrešin-Bachelez

Although I have not curated large exhibitions about Eastern Europe, I would like to draw on my own curatorial parcours in my talk, going through my earlier and later writings and curatorial projects self-critically, narrating how I have been transformed from the typically Slovene/Central European “separatist” position - cynical, as the older generation of art academics is, towards the Eastern Europe - to the lover of the Balkans and promoter of the former Eastern European art scenes in France.

On Being an International Artist
Nada Prlja

Born in Sarajevo, and consequently moving to Skopje as a 10-year old child, I started my artistic career during the time of the SCCA support of the local art scene. It was a fruitful position to be in, for me and my generation, starting out at the end of the 90s. We were free of the market driven art scene of the West, being nationally promoted and sent to numerous festivals and biennales. The discovery was mutual – we were discovering the world outside the national borders of our enclosed country, while we were ‘being discovered by them’ too.

Moving to London in ’99, many of my prejudices about this relation between the local and international art-scene, become re-adjusted. With this text, I would like to focus on a set of questions that have been oppressing me as a cultural worker:

Returning back to my native country for an exhibition, I am seen as a foreigner – as the colonialist that brings westernized ideas, a social and political provocateur. This fortifies my position as an outsider/non-national artist. While working in ‘the west’, however, I am clearly seen as a representative of Macedonia…How does this effect my position as an artist?

When exhibiting in Central Europe, both nationalities (UK/Macedonia) are added to my personal name. Is there a national artistic identity in this world of post-national existence? Am I an international artist – and what has contributed towards becoming ‘international’? Has this ‘internationalism’ influenced my position toward my native country, toward my adopted country, or any/every other environment in which I have presence as an artist/cultural worker?

Jet Set, Net Set, Easy Jet Set
Diana McCarthy

In the context of the SocialEast Seminar on Foreign Experience in Post-89 Art, I would propose to speak about, net culture and post-89 euphoria of east/west European discourse networks. My focus is on the lineage of the MetaForum Conference Series, Nettime and related mailing lists, and city nodes of Budapest and Berlin. This lineage can draw direct lines from living room and cafe discussions in Budapest, to the net.time meeting at the Venice Biennale in 1995, back to Budapest, numerous international events, a tremendous amount of east/west and east/east networking, the Beauty and East Nettime Spring Meeting in Ljubljana and the Hybrid Work Space at Documenta X in Kassel. Taking an auto-ethnographic approach as a privileged foreigner, I would examine the kinds of questions and affinities that emerged in these networks, as well as the results on local and international levels. How rooted was the local, how diverse the international and why? Why was there never a Hungarian net.artist? Instead, Koz-Hely emerged, more along the lines of xs4all. I would also like to address political will in terms of funding support and its positive and negative role in culture. A contemporary example is the ongoing work with Prologue: New Feminism, New Europe. While the focus is on an inter-generational East/West discourse, many of the invited women live in Berlin (and only two are German nationals).

Revolutionary Decadence: Foreign Artists in Budapest since 1989 Maja and Reuben Fowkes
A presentation of curatorial research into the experience of foreign artists in Budapest since 1989.

Timezones and Rituals
Szabolcs Kisspal (Artist, Budapest)
16 years ago I immigrated from point A to point B crossing two borders at the same time. The crossing itself was also doubled by the fact that there were many identities of mine engaged in it: vernacular and social, subjective and cultural, individual and historical, private and artistic.
Later I realized that the two points were actually the same, in spite of the changed perspective and all my identities are in a continuous transformation. When asked by some people from point B to take part in a show in point A, I created an anthem which was recorded on video as no choir was willing to perform it.

Reconsidering the Avant-Garde: Afrika, the Russian Dog, and Marilyn Monroe
Amy Bryzgel (University of Aberdeen)

My paper will focus on the work of three contemporary performance artists in Russia in relation to the theories of the avant-garde written and developed in the West. While the general consensus, in the West, is that the historical avant-garde has either failed (Burger) or is doomed to repeat itself (Krauss, Foster), my paper will consider how the work of these avant-garde artists from the East can be situated within these theories, arguing for a reconsideration of the canon of Western art, performance art, and the avant-garde. From St. Petersburg artist Afrika’s (Sergei Bugaev) 2-week stay in a mental institution in search of a new Russian identity, to Oleg Kulik’s performance as the “Russian Dog” or Vladik Mamyshev’s Marilyn Monroe impersonations, all of these performances draw on experiences of Western art, yet owing to their separate and distinct social context of having been cultivated in Post-Soviet Russia, beg the question of their place in art history. Through an analysis of these performances in light of avant-garde theory, this paper calls for a re-evaluation of performance art that takes into consideration these artists from the “East.”

Foreign Experience Against the Slipping Down Into the Intellectual Provincialism
Lena Prents

As I was asked some years ago by colleagues from the Centre for Contemporary Art in Gdansk to prepare an exhibition of Byelorussian art I rated it as a strange idea. I fact, I come from Byelarus and have a lot of contacts to the artists there, but I studied in Germany and have been living and working here for 15 years. I had some ideas about the topics I’m interested in and looked how the artistic scene in Minsk discussed them. They didn’t do it at all. Concerning the perception of urban spaces, there were some conceptual projects, but in the majority of cases artists (good artists) photographed the old districts (which average only 2% from the hole city development) in a style of postcards under the motto „My beautiful city“. So I decided to make this exhibition for Laznia and so „Minsk, urban diary“ came into being.
(Please see )
I invited artists from Minsk and also artists who live and work like me in West Europe and reflect from a different perspective their native town.
To my delight this exhibition evoked a lot of discussions – in Poland, but also between participated artists. Somebody from Minsk said: „We must use our Byelarussian language and feel ourselves as Byelarussians. Only in this case we can reach political changes.“ Somebody who was born in Byelarus, studied in Poland and lives in Rotterdam and Berlin remarked: „The one Byelarussian thing I own is my passport.“ Well, the ideas about the own identity can be very different.
All following projects concerning Byelarussian art I try to realize by communicating with art historians and curators from Byelarus and West Europe. New-colonial thoughts like „Let’s teach East Europe how to work with art“ are alien to me. But I enjoyed a lot the atmosphere in Berlin in the 1990ties when I came here – the international atmosphere with hot discusses and possibilities to realize art projects beyond the official structures. I‘m appreciatingthese distinctiveness till now. That is what I wish the artistic scene in Byelarus as a medicine against the slipping down into the nationalism and intellectual provincialism.

Beyond Soros Realism
Oleksiy Radynski

This research concentrates on two case studies that represent the reciprocal trajectories of artistic interactions between Ukrainian art scene and the global art world. Both of these cases are connected with the activity of Soros CCA in Kyiv, and both go beyond its patterns of international cooperation, closely tied to the neoliberal idea of art as an efficient tool of the normalization of society. Boris Mikhailov, the first Ukrainian artist to gain full international recognition who moved from Kharkiv to Berlin in late 1990, reacted to his experience of integration to the global art discourse with his book project Look at Me, I Look at Water (2004). Mikhailov compared this work to ‘an obscure quest, a quest which is also a sort of experiment’. American artist Sean Snyder moved from Berlin to Kyiv in the mid-2000s; his integration with the local intellectual community was crucial for the development of post-Soros art institution. Snyder’s video work Exhibition (2008), based on local media artifact, contains numerous insights into the functioning of contemporary art apparatus. These two research based artworks provide us with heuristic tools to question the demands of neocapitalist ideology implied in the discourse of post-Soviet art institutions. 

Created with Mobirise - Find out