Studia Politica, vol. XVII, no. 3, 2017
This introductory article presents the study of the state artist in the context of the communist regimes in Eastern Europe and the USSR through several case studies. This introduction places the analyses gathered here of the relationship between artists and the state in different phases of the communist regimes, and in different artistic expressions, as well as in several countries. While the focus is on Romanian cases of study, the articles bring forward possible comparisons with neighboring communist regimes. Some of the articles included in this special issue deal with visual arts, literature, photography, amateur rural comedy brigades, and specific cases of artists (Ion Irimescu and Ion Grigorescu), while other articles discuss the specific institutional contradictions of the Soviet cultural framework. This issue advances thus a little bit further in the comparative institutional archive-based study of cultural institutions during communism.
communism, state artist, unions of artists, creating.
CATERINA PREDA - Assistant Professor, Faculty of Political Science, University of Bucharest, firstname.lastname@example.org.
After the Second World War, a new regional identity was configured through collaboration agreements not only between the USSR and each of the Eastern Bloc countries but, at the same time, through less hierarchical relationships between the newly installed communist regimes. These relationships also entailed cultural conventions, which stipulated joint events and exhibitions or documentary trips for artists. This article focuses on the artistic exchanges between Romania, Bulgaria, and Yugoslavia in the early years of the postwar era giving special attention to the art institutions that were assigned to operate them. Such international relationships are revealing for the local negotiations concerning the relation between artists and the state, but also for the political prospects in the Balkans. Moreover, the early artistic exchanges set out a series of practices that were maintained throughout the entire socialist period and therefore contributed to charting a common artistic identity. Although the Soviet cultural model settled certain borders and modes of action in each country through imported art institutions or policies, the artistic exchanges within the Eastern Bloc had also an independent life, which sometimes even bypassed it. Furthermore, in each country, Socialist Realism was configured at the intersection of Soviet directives, local artistic hierarchies and practices, and bilateral exchanges.
Balkan Federation, cultural diplomacy, Eastern Europe, Socialist Realism, postwar art.
IRINA CĂRĂBAȘ, Assistant Professor, Department of Art History and Theory, Bucharest National University of Arts, email@example.com.
MAGDA PREDESCU, Uniunea Artiștilor Plastici în perioada 1954-1963. Între "aparat de stat" și "dispozitiv" (The Romanian Artists' Union during the Period 1954-1963. Between the "State Apparatus" and the "Dispositif") (pp. 269-291)
This article is a case study of the Romanian Artists’ Union during the Thaw as an institution potentially capable of renewal by creatively applying the rules imposed in the totalitarian communist State. The methodology used is that of archival research through the use of the concepts of Repressive State Apparatus, Ideological State Apparatus (Althusser), dispositif (Foucault), and habitus (Bourdieu). The text shows that from 1953 until 1957, in the context of similar changes in the Soviet Union, the Union of Romanian Fine Artists underwent a gradual transformation, which culminated with the change of the Management Board and a professionalization on specific criteria of the structure. The characteristics of the modern foucauldian dispositif, that the Union acquired in the period of the Thaw, remained valid in the next period, of reideologisation (1958-1963). The conclusions are that even in conditions of totalitarianism, subjects and structures can introduce creative elements into the process of reproduction of a given order, by modifying this order.
UAP, communism, state apparatus, dispositif, habitus.
MAGDA PREDESCU, Scientific Researcher, National Museum of Contemporary Art, Bucharest firstname.lastname@example.org.
ALINA POPESCU, Uniunea Artiștilor Plastici din România, mediator al dialogului artistic cu Estul și Vestul în anii 1950-1980 (The Union of Romanian Artists, Mediator of the Artistic Dialogue with the East and the West in the Years 1950s-1980s) (pp. 293-312)
Although many institutions were involved in the cultural diplomacy of the Romanian communist regime, a very consistent part of the artistic exchanges with the East and the West were mediated by the Union of Artists. This paper would like to highlight the important role the Union played in framing the artistic exchanges with several “capitalist countries” and “popular democracies”, by looking at several agreements of collaboration between Unions or similar institutions. More precisely, we will look at the variations regarding the form and the quantity of exchanges that were established through such official documents and which referred mainly to exchanges of persons, informations or exhibitions. We will also look at the way these were organized In practice: the study of the travel reports, informative notes or daily programs that were produced on such occasions shows that these exchanges were systematically surveilled and politically motivated. A preliminary analysis of these allows us to observe the Union’s interests regarding the East and the West and suggests that the Romanian Union of Artists contributed to the expansion, the regulation and at the same time the control of the cultural contacts with foreign countries.
East-West connections, art exchanges, cultural agreements, communism, Romanian Union of Artists.
ALINA POPESCU, Associated Researcher, Université Paris Ouest-Nanterre la Défense, email@example.com.
MARIA OROSAN-TELEA, Arta fotografică românească în perioada 1968-1978. Evoluţia revistei Fotografia (Romanian Photographic Art between 1968 and 1978. The Evolution of the Fotografia Magazine) (pp. 313-336)
During the communist regime, photography was a popular activity due to the existence of the Association of Photographic Artists. Its members weren’t professional artists, but mostly people with technical backgrounds, and who transformed their hobby into a job. The lack of interest of Romanian artists in photography (except for a few particular cases such as Ion Grigorescu or Ștefan Bertalan) can be explained by the fact that there were no photo-video departments within the art universities and the Romanian Artists’ Union (UAP), the only form of institutional organization of the Romanian artists, had no special photography department. Therefore, the photographic practice in communist Romania was linked to the Association of Photographic Artists and not to the Romanian Artists’ Union. The evolution of its activity in the period between 1968 and 1978, and the impact that politics had on it transpire very well from the evolution of the Fotografia magazine, the only photo periodical of that era. This article shows that even in a creative field, which was overlooked by the Communist Party, the echoes of the official political discourse were felt, mainly after 1975. We have outlined two aesthetic trends in the mid-1970s. One was the photograph obtained by laboratory procedures, supported by a depoliticized discourse and the second was a pseudo reportage photography, namely the communist propaganda photography.
photography, communism, propaganda, photo magazine, Romania.
MARIA OROSAN-TELEA, West University Timișoara, Romania, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Although the phenomenon of the amateur comedy brigades was widespread after the 1960s in communist Romania, there is a lacuna in addressing this topic in academic publications. A few academic studies focus on the “clandestine” political humor while “official”, state-supported humor during Romanian communist regime is much less addressed and explored. This paper aims to fill this gap. To this end, it addresses the topic of amateur rural comedy brigades in communist Romania, focusing on a rural comedy brigade from Vaslui County which performed at the comedy festivals organized by the state. The main purpose of the state-supported humor was to educate “the people” in light of the new man’s ideology, and integrate them into artificial organizations. Although this project was never fully successful, the cultural hegemony of the moment regarded humor as a weapon of social amendment. Correspondingly, “laughing for the state” represented a form of euphemized submission to authority whose political dimensions have been many times overlooked in the studies dedicated to the communist culture. The paper concludes that humor’s power to intervene politically cannot be simplistically divided into collaboration with and resistance to the communist status quo.
amateur artists, rural comedy brigades, political humor, political jokes, Romanian communism.
MARIA ALINA ASAVEI, Senior Lecturer, Russian and East European Department, Charles University in Prague, email@example.com.
By the late 1980s, many East German authors had for years called for expanding what could be said publicly about the ruling regime. The ruling Socialist Unity Party (SED) was quick to suppress such rhetoric, however, and many fellow writers condemned outspoken colleagues for providing ammunition to the West. Yet after years of struggle, the year 1987 witnessed an eruption of public criticism during the Tenth Writers Congress, hosted by the East German Writers Union, the government dominated organization to which all authors had to belong. These congresses were typically propaganda events, but in 1987, inspired by Mikhail Gorbachev’s calls for greater openness in the USSR, several authors, in front of the media, interrogated many aspects of the dictatorship, stunning the SED elite and secret police in the process. This article explores the congress, tracing the Writers Union’s role in shaping debates about freedom of expression. Changes in the preceding years meant that by 1987, critical views had become more widespread, including among those who had once condemned nonconformists. Consequently, at the congress a critical mass of writers succeeded in expanding the limits of speech, joining a wider call for liberalization across the communist world.
East German Writers Union, Tenth Writers Congress, Hermann Kant, glasnost, Jurij Koch.
THOMAS GOLDSTEIN, Assistant Professor, Department of History and Anthropology, University of Central Missouri, US, firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article is based on original archival research (The State Archive of Russian Federation and The Foreign Policy Archive of the Russian Federation) and is dedicated to a donation process that took place in the period 1945-1949 when a collection of modern Mexican art was given to the Soviet state. The story behind this donation process was discovered by the author in 2016 and has never been published or mentioned by scholars before. In 1943, the Soviet ambassador to Mexico Konstantin Umansky had the idea to introduce Mexican visual arts to the Soviet public by donating works of the Mexican contemporary artists. Two institutions were involved in this process: “The Institute of Mexican-Russian cultural exchange” (MRI) as a sending party and the “All-Union Society for Cultural Relations with Foreign Countries” (VOKS) as a receiving party. Preparations and letter correspondence took about two years until finally, the donation arrived in the Soviet Union in December 1947. Though the Soviet officials were involved in the process, in Moscow nearly all of the works were declared to be “formalistic and surrealist” and therefore not suitable for public display. Since the 1950s this unique, but eventually unwanted gift has been reported as lost. Reconstructing all the steps of the process and locating every artwork still has to be done.
Soviet Union, Mexico, 1940s, lost donation, Frida Kahlo.
KATARINA LOPATKINA, Independent Researcher, Helsinki, Finland, email@example.com.
ILEANA PINTILIE, Artă în spațiul public sau artă pentru sine. Ipostaze ale artistului Ion Grigorescu în epoca comunistă și posttotalitară (Art in the Public Space or Art for Oneself. Hypostases of the Artist Ion Grigorescu during Communism and the Post-totalitarian Period) (pp. 399-415)
This article discusses the case of Ion Grigorescu, and of his ambiguous relationship with the communist regime, which he registered through a form of ”documentary realism”. Through his ”realgrams” Grigorescu documented real life experiences in an innovatory approach to the majority of Romanian artists of the time using photographs of his everyday environment and being inspired by his social and political context. Grigorescu is thus an artist committed to the public space and assuming a critical stance without it being discursive, pedant or moralizing. The approach of this study is descriptive, based on the artists’ artworks and self-descriptions, and seeking to situate Grigorescu’s approach in the context of the communist regime and its transformation after 1990 into a democratic regime. The conclusions show that Grigorescu’s artworks are anti-system, criticizing any establishment, no matter in which regime he finds himself. His contestation is specific to a committed artist that chooses to express his freedom of expression beyond his own studio.
socialism, realgrams, photo-montage, film, subversive.
ILEANA PINTILIE, Professor, Faculty of Arts, West University Timișoara, Romania, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Starting from the case of Ion Irimescu, this article discusses the issue of continuity among Romanian visual artists before and after 1944. In this study, I argue that it was essential for the visual artists’ survival and establishment as artists during the communist regime to enter into a clientpatron relationship. The existence of this relationship meant access for the artists to financial funds, promotion within the UAP, and protection from the measures, which the Securitate could have taken against them. This article is divided into four sections. Every section examines an episode from the life of Ion Irimescu. His interwar biography is presented in the first section, and his adaptation to the communist regime is the subject of the second part of this study. The last two parts analyse the factors which facilitated his confirmation and promotion as a state artist after 1944 and the relation of the artist with the Securitate.
Ion Irimescu, biography, continuity, client-patron relationship, Securitate.
DUMITRU LĂCĂTUȘU, Research Assistant, A.D. Xenopol History Institute / University of Bucharest, email@example.com.
HORVÁTH GYÖRGY, A művészek bevonulása. A képzőművészet politikai irányításának és igazgatásának története 1945-1992, Corvina Kiadó, Budapest, 2015 (KRISTÓF NAGY) (pp. 437-440)
CATERINA PREDA (ed.), The State Artist in Romania and Eastern Europe. The Role of the Creative Unions, Editura Universității din București, București, 2017 (ALINA-ALEXANDRA IORDACHE) (pp. 440-444)
CĂLIN DAN, IOSIF KIRALY, ANCA OROVEANU, MAGDA RADU (coord.), Arta în România între anii 1945-2000, NEC & UNArte & MNAC, București, 2016 (CRISTINA STOENESCU) (pp. 444-449)
CONSTANTIN PÂRVULESCU, Orphans of the East. Postwar Eastern European Cinema and the Revolutionary Subject, Indiana University Press, Bloomington & Indianapolis, 2015 (ALINA POPESCU) (pp. 449-452)