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Reshuffling the Keywords: Discussions and Trajectories in Post-Socialist Art History

May 25-26, 2012, Tallinn, Estonia

This seminar, organized by the Institute of Art History of the Estonian Academy of Arts, was a follow-up event to the Clark’s initiative in Central-Eastern Europe in 2010-2011 which brought together a group of scholars and students working on the art history of the region. The seminars elicited a lively discussion on different ways to study and write art history in the post-Soviet/ post-socialist period. Although Central-Eastern Europe is not a homogeneous territory, geographically or intellectually, a set of common keywords and topics emerged. These included: belatedness, asynchronicity, coevalness, trauma, universality vs. locality, and unevenness. Our aim, as stated in the title of this seminar, was to ‘reshuffle’ the keywords and delve deeper into the topics.           

The purpose of this event was to take a critical, closer look at these theoretical notions and to test their usefulness for particular cases and research areas. Local researchers and graduate students were able to test and expand their work, and they were encouraged to further question and unravel the dominance of some of these concepts.

Participants Included:
Edit Andras, Hungarian Academy of Sciences; Natasha Becker, the Clark; David Breslin, the Clark; Magda Carneci, National University of Arts, Bucharest;  Mart Kalm, Estonian Academy of Arts; Katrin Kivimaa, Estonian Academy of Arts; Krista Kodres, Estonian Academy of Arts; Andres Kurg, Estonian Academy of Arts; Mari Laanemets, Estonian Academy of Arts; Epp Lankots, Estonian Academy of Arts; Almira Ousmanova, European Humanities University; Maria-Kristiina Soomre, Estonian Academy of Arts; Virve Sarapik, Estonian Academy of Arts; Sven Spieker, University of California, Santa Barbara

Program:
In order of discussion

May 25

Welcome and Introduction 
Krista Kodres, Natasha Becker, Andres Kurg, David Breslin

Session 1: Belated, Different, Asynchronous?

This session addresses the question of conceptualizing local art production vis-a-vis Western art historical models: if the modernist canon saw Eastern-Central European works as belated manifestations of modernity, then postmodernist interpretations preferred to underline their differences and otherness. Although contrasting, both models maintained the primacy of Western art history. How might we regard local and regional art production from a global art historical perspective? What temporal and spatial models would assist us in rethinking this relationship? Are there local models that could overturn dominant narrations?

Beyond Belatedness and Absences: On Some Examples of Critical Feminist Art from a Post-Soviet Culture
Katrin Kivimaa

Politics of Interdisciplinarity. Rethinking the Concepts of the History of Art of Soviet Estonia
Mari Laanemets

Discussion: Magda Carneci, Krista Kodres, Virve Sarapik

Session 2: Writing about the Soviet Union: Techniques and Geographies

Academic interest in the art and architectural history of the late-Soviet period has grown in recent years. The models for thinking about this period often reproduce the binaries and ideologically motivated concepts developed during the demise of the Soviet Union in the late 1980s and early 1990s. This includes a strong separation between the official and unofficial art spheres, public and private discourse, and work and everyday life. How does new research overcome these polarizations? What theoretical concepts, from post-colonial theory and visual culture studies, for example, can be productively employed? Would ideas from the former “margins” of the Soviet Union redefine dominant representations of the late-Soviet period?

Trouble with Modernization, or Rebranding of Soviet Aesthetics of the Everyday as a Strategy of Reconciliation with the Past
Almira Ousmanova

Art History of the Collective Farm
Mart Kalm

Exhibition Modes in Soviet Art: Representing Dissent
Maria-Kristiina Soomre

Discussion: Edit Andras, Sven Spieker, Epp Lankots, Andres Kurg

May 26

Meeting with the research group of the Tallinn Institute of Art History (Mart Kalm, Katrin Kivimaa, Mari Laanemets, Epp Lankots, Andres Kurg); presentation regarding future projects.