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Assembling Bittersweet Testimonies for Posterity

By Maja and Reuben Fowkes
In Ilona Németh: Eastern Sugar (Bratislava: Kunsthalle, 2018)

Back then, in the warm afterglow of the revolutions of 1989, the divisive histories of the twentieth century seemed to have come to a definitive end. The prospects of pluralistic democracy and the rebirth of civil society gave a tailwind to the forces of cultural and economic globalisation that would soon transform the world even more fundamentally than the long decades of the Cold War. The upward trajectory reached new heights with the ostensibly amicable expansion of the European Union to the East, setting a course of economic integration, convergence of living standards and consolidation of democratic norms. Today this optimistic vision has however been replaced by a more dystopian outlook marked by increasing rates of emigration, the revival of historic hostilities and an alarming wave of populism, illiberalism and xenophobia. With the exhibition Eastern Sugar Ilona Németh investigates the pathologies of transition, uncovering their roots in the flawed mechanism of privatisation mired by asset-stripping and systemic nepotism during the headlong rush from the dissipation of late socialism to the unruliness of feral capitalism.