Studia Politica, vol. XI, no. 4, 2011
Special issue: Art and Politics in (Post)communism
CATERINA PREDA, Art and Politics in (Post)communism. The Transformation of Institutions and Artistic Practices in Central and Eastern Europe (pp. 597-605)
Art and politics designates an eclectic subfield of political science. The article starts by providing a theoretical framework for this heterogenous field (both institutionally and as several disciplines converge). The relationship of politics and the arts has been dealt with in various ways inside the institutional umbrellas of international political science (APSA and ECPR). The approach of the study of the art from a political perspective has been privileged by Marxist and post-Marxist studies, as well as by the sociological school in Francophone studies. Secondly, an overview of the analysis included in this special issue is provided. Several foci are preferred and multiple case-studies are imagined. The subjects are classified according to several categories: an institutional focus of the postcommunist transformation (film and visual artists), the artistic discourses that discuss the past and the continuous present, memory and its artistic questionings. Imagined as an introduction to the study of art and politics in (post)communism, this article attempts to stimulate a thorough debate on ways to study this complicated relationship, as well as advances a theoretical outline.
Art and politics, postcommunism, theoretical overview
SIMON PAUL BELL, Laibach and the NSK: Ludic Paradigms of Postcommunism (pp. 609-619)
A Slovene collective emerging in the wake of Tito's death and shaped by the break-up of Yugoslavia, the NSK (Neue Slowenische Kunst) are a performance-art movement founded in 1984 in Ljubljana, northern Slovenia. Together with their most influential delivery system the group Laibach they examine Vaclav Havel’s Post-Totalitarian Age, and operate as nexus between East and West in the context of postcommunism. This article interrogates how with the employ of relatively unique and wilfully provocative strategies of Retrogardism, re-mythologisation, and Over-identification, Laibach interrogate contexts of the unfinished narrative of Communism, the aestheticized-political of totalitarianism, and the legacy of Yugoslavian Self-management Socialism. Retrogardism has been re-contextualised by cultural theorist Marina Gržinić as the new ”ism” from the East, and Slavoj Žižek champions Laibach’s acts of disruptive Over-identification. Other diverse subjects such as ideological discourse, Suprematism, ”Balkanisation” and the wider notion of European identity, in particular Western chauvinism, are all fertile ground for Laibach’s controversial provocation and are subject to analysis. The ludic presence of Laibach and the NSK reveals the mechanisms of these discursive fields, whilst simultaneously appearing to re-affirm such, often to an alarming and disconcerting degree.
Laibach, NSK, Slovenia, totalitarianism, postcommunism.
AMY CHARLESWORTH, ”Warte Mal!”. Construction and Consumption of Female Subjectivity after the Velvet Revolution (pp. 621-631)
This paper revisits the politics of representation debates’ post-1989 in relation to Ann-Sofi Sidén’s Warte Mal! Prostitution after the Velvet Revolution (1999). It seeks to address the manner in which the political is thought through the aesthetic, focusing specifically on the mediums of the video camera and the diary as research tools in producing a reconfigured essayistic narrative. This device, I propose seeks to understand an altered subjectivity, its production and consumption in the transition from one socio-economic and political system to another. The work shows a demand for a new type of critical cultural production in the face of the ubiquity of the image in the 21st century and its power, when harnessed by governmental or institutional restrictions, to render lived complexities as static moments confined to narratives of victimization which divert attention away from large-scale historical processes (the cultural, economic, political and social components) that drive women to work in enslaved positions in the sex industry. Boris Groys’ focus on the role of documentation as art and its biopolitical contingencies in his work for Documenta 11 (2002) and his book Art Power (2008) provides the theoretical underpinnings of the paper.
Politics of representation, documentary, biopolitics, subjectivity, essayistic narrative.
ANDREI POAMĂ, Il était une fois un pays. Propagande, pouvoir et ténèbres dans l’Underground d’Emir Kusturica (1995) (”There once was A Country”. Propaganda, Power and Darkness in Emir Kusturica’s Underground ) (pp. 633-645)
This article retraces three levels of intelligibility of the communist adventure of Titoism as they appear in Emir Kusturica’s Underground (1995). Firstly, it identifies the role played by propaganda inside the Yugoslav political regime. Secondly, it examines the way the power relations having shaped the history of the second Yugoslavia are pictured by Kusturica’s film. Finally, it analyses the organization of the fictitious space of Underground as a specific technique of construction, that is, of modification of the identity of the inhabitants.
Postcommunism, propaganda, ubuesque power, total common space, fiction.
MARIA ALINA ASAVEI, A Theoretical Excursus on the Concept of Political Art in Communism and its Aftermath (pp. 647-660)
This paper confronts the conceptual meanings of “political art” in communist regimes and liberal democracies. The label “political art” is in general used to designate a wide variety of art productions, practices and art activities. What is political in art? The answer is all the more disputed that politics itself is a conflictive term. After the Second World War, opposition or support given to the expansion of the capitalist/corporatist culture were expressed via a multitude of ways of “making art politically”. In a liberal democracy, art is seen and used as a tool to confront the antagonisms of reality. On the contrary, in totalitarian regimes, “making art politically” means that art is seen and used both as a weapon to distort reality in order to legitimate power and as a way of expressing otherness (”underground”, ”dissident art” from totalitarian regimes).
Political art, communist official art, political power, democracy, opposition art.
FLORENTINA ANDREESCU, The Changing Face of the Sacrificial Romanian Woman in Cinematographic Discourses (pp. 661-674)
Taking as a starting point one of the most relevant Romanian/Eastern European myths, Craftsman Manole, the article examines the female ideal set forth by Romanian filmography before and after 1989. During communism the female ideal had two variants: heroine worker and heroine mother. In the films produced after 1989, we identify a topic that, though not having changed its position within the structure of fantasy, has lost its grip on female desire and consent. The sacrifice performed by women now lacks its moral foundation and is portrayed as an action performed at the behest of a selfish, obscene patriarchal interest. The female sacrifice, performed without a moral justification, becomes a traumatic event. The female ideal after the revolution has two versions: the traditional role of the wife or daughter and the disaffiliated role of a prostitute.
Female ideal, transition, film, Lacan, Romania.
ELENA ARHIRE, Le Centre National de la Cinématographie: articulations du postcommunisme roumain (National Center of Cinematography: Articulations of Romanian Postcommunism) (pp. 675-686)
Endorsing the perspective of democratization studies, this article examines the postcommunism itinerary of the institutional infrastructure of Romanian cinematography. Special emphasis is given to the National Center of Cinematography (NCC). as a privileged locus disclosing both the commerce between institutional continuity and change, and the predicaments of cinematography, squeezed between market and state control.
Cinema, National Center of Cinematography, postcommunism, Romania.
CRISTINA STOENESCU, Continuităţi şi contraste în spaţiul artistic postcomunist românesc (Continuities and Contrasts in the Postcommunist Romanian Artistic Space) (pp. 687-699)
The paper analyzes the institutional transformation of cultural policies in postcommunist Romania and the correspondent emergence of an art market in Romania. The case studies considered show that both artists and policy makers adapted to extraneous expectations and patterns rather than promoting new visions and models. The “triangle metaphor” forged by Magda Cârneci, representing the relationship between artists, the state and the Union of Visual Artists (UAP), offers the basis for analysing the game of continuity and change after the fall of Romanian communism.
Art market, postcommunism, cultural policies, Romania.
TIJEN TUNALI, The Politics of ”Roma Inclusion” at the 52nd Venice Art Biennale (pp. 701-711)
At its 52nd edition, the Venice Biennale featured an ethnic collective: the Roma Pavilion. This particular edition signified an important decision on the part of the Biennial’s organizers in their willingness to incorporate Europe’s largest ethnic minority into the body of an international blockbuster exhibition. By taking into account the consequences of the collapse of communist regime in the Central and Eastern European (CEE) countries, the enlargement of the EU and the effects of neoliberal policies in the region, this article explores the ways in which the politics of “Roma Inclusion” played out in this art exhibition. Considering the project called the ”Decade of Roma Inclusion 2005-2015” that is supported by the Open Society Institute and the World Bank, and endorsed by the prime ministers of eight CEE countries, this question is very timely: Did this particular place of Roma art, sponsored by philanthropy in the corporate environment of a major art institution, aim for negotiating the Roma’s ”particular political vocabulary” in need to be visible to the diverse Roma populations around Europe or was this exhibition part of the institutional creativity aimed at the socio-political integration of the former communist Europe into the global economic circuits?
Roma Inclusion, representation, postcommunism, art biennial, neoliberalism.
ZORAN POPOSKI, Spaces of Democracy: Art, Politics and Artivism in the Post-socialist City (pp. 713-723)
In the countries of former Eastern Europe, the collapse of socialism and the subsequent onset of neoliberal capitalism have resulted in a massive transfiguration of urban public space at the hands of commercial interests. Examples include the proliferation of outdoor advertising that destroys the character of natural and historic urban landscapes, commercial events that restrict access to parks and squares, the design of retail kiosks and storefronts in and around public spaces that does not respect the local context sending a signal that it no longer represents the local community. Instead of public space where people interact freely, without the coercion of state institutions – the productive, constantly remade, democratic public space – there is space for recreation and entertainment where access is limited only to suitable members of the public: ”A controlled and orderly retreat where a properly behaved public might experience the spectacle of the city” (Mitchell). Drawing on insights from major theorists of public space, this paper explores the transformation of urban space in the post-socialist cities of Central and Southeast Europe (Skopje), focusing on examples of creative reuse, artistic conversion and social re-writing of the urban landscape in the face of massive economic, political and social changes.
Public space, spatial practices, artivism, Macedonia.
ELENA GKARTZONIKA, Post-Cold War Trajectories of Memory and Oblivion in Bulgaria and Kosovo (pp. 725-736)
The article offers a comparative analysis of two monumental constructions that carry changes of both the Cold War and post-1990’s Balkan state rhetoric. The current state of both monuments highlight concrete and complex attitudes of disseminating new versions of contemporary dilemmas, namely the mutations of the once heroic Cold War national/socialist collective memory. Along with their initial national symbolism and ideological usage in political discourse, we are interested in investigating how political changes incorporate social crises, only to become their echo. Bridging present/past attitudes, this deconstructive tautology prevents social vigilance and, thus, democratization. Suffice is to mention two cases. First, the slogan “Forget your past” was written recently between the Communist Manifesto’s citation over the entrance of the ravaged monument on Buzludža's peak. Secondly, there are soldiers who are guarding the entrance of Gazimestan, where the 14th c. “Kosovo Curse” is inscribed. Both case-studies illustrate contrasts between memory and oblivion, empathy, pride or repression, all imposed on emotional appeal along with a hegemonic imaginary that is regulated only by the relations of power and its ideological support system to itself.
Collective memory in the Balkans, post-cold war national ideology, lieux de mémoire, Buzludža, Gazimestan.
JACQUES RANCIÈRE, The Politics of Aesthetics: The Distribution of the Sensible, Continuum, London, New York, 2010 (ALEXANDRA IRIMIA), pp. 739-741
JACQUES RANCIÈRE, Dissensus: on Politics and Aesthetics. Edited and translated by STEVEN CORCORAN, Continuum International Publishing Group, Great Britain, 2010 (ANDRA GRIGORE), pp. 741-744
MICHAEL SHAPIRO, Cinematic Geopolitics, Routledge, New York, 2009 (IRINA VELICU), pp. 744-747
MICHAEL SHAPIRO, The Time of the City: Politics, Philosophy, and Genre, Routledge, New York, 2010 (JOHN SWEENEY), pp. 747-752
BORIS GROYS, Art Power, MIT Press, Cambridge, 2008 (GABRIELLA CALCHI-NOVATI), pp. 753-755
PIOTR PIOTROWSKI, In the Shadow of Yalta. The Avant-garde in Eastern Europe, 1945-1989, translated by Anna Brzyski, Reaktion Books, London, 2009 (ALEXANDRA NEACŞU), pp. 756-760
ANCA BENERA, ALINA ŞERBAN (ed.), Bucureşti. Materie şi istorie. Monumentul public şi distopiile lui, R.A. Monitorul Oficial, Bucureşti, 2010 (ELENA ARHIRE), pp. 761-765
CRISTIAN VASILE, Literatura și artele în România comunistă: 1948-1953, Humanitas, Seria Istorie contemporană, București, 2010 (RALUCA PETRE-ŞANDOR), pp. 766-769
IOANA MACREA-TOMA, Privileghenţia: Instituţii literare în comunismul românesc, Casa Cărţii de ştiinţă, Cluj-Napoca, 2009 (LIANA IONIŢĂ), pp. 769-773