Contemporary Art as Ars Memoriae: Curatorial Strategies for Challenging the Post-Communist Condition

JVF Conference Papers

The purportedly “post-modern” inflation of memory, attributable to the acceleration of history, manifests itself not only in the hyper-production of what Pierre Nora has referred to as “sites of memory.”

The fall of the Berlin Wall in particular has brought about an unprecedented boom in “memorialist” cultural production such as museums, memorials, memoirs, films, archives, and collections, dealing with the history and memory of the communist totalitarian regimes. The film industry, literature, the performing and the visual arts have been equally caught up in the current upsurge in memory. While the issues of rewriting histories and reconstructing identities in the post-communist societies have been extensively contemplated by scholars in the humanities and the social sciences, the aesthetic response of the visual arts, both Eastern and Western, to the fall of the Iron Curtain, has up to date largely escaped an in-depth scrutiny on the side of cultural studies. The present article looks into the exhibitions of late socialist and post-socialist visual art from Central and Eastern Europe, put on after 1989, as a possible medium for carrying and shaping memories of the recent past.

The specific curatorial narratives and artistic practices of facing the communist past, negotiating post-communist identities, and re-positioning of the former East in the new geographies of art are positioned at the center of the analysis.

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