Communisms’ Afterlives (Brussels)

Saturday, 13 February 2010, 15:00 – 18:00
Av. Van Volxemlaan 354, Brussels

Yevgeniy Fiks, Song of Russia no. 17, 2005-2007. Oil on canvas, 36 x 48″

A conference curated by Elena Sorokina and Nataša Petrešin-Bachelez for The Public School. With contributions from Adrian Rifkin, Marko Stamenkovic, Oxana Timofeeva, Grant Watson.

Through a series of polemic dialogues, we would like to trace different generations of intellectuals (artists, curators, philosophers, art historians) from the former East and West of Europe that deal with “shades of red,” the afterlives of Communism and its (un)expected turning points in its most recent philosophical and artistic reception following the financial and, more generally, post-Fordist crisis.

After the collapse of the Soviet bloc, communism as idea, image or problem has been regarded as “outmoded, absurd, deplorable or criminal, depending on the case.” Today, it is often presented by the mainstream media as a parenthesis of history, an aberration of the 20th century, as “a completely forgotten word, only to be identified with a lost experience.” Although the communist hypotheses of previous eras may no longer be valid, their histories, narratives and key notions have never ceased to spark attention and inform recent discussions such as the communal versus the common, and material versus immaterial property, to name just a few. Perceived from a greater distance today, communism has re-emerged as a topic for investigation in artistic and exhibition production, that reflects it in diverse ways, addressing the relevance of the term today or inviting provocative comparisons with the present.

This seminar aims at presenting various works that recast ideas related to communism and revisit it as a complex and diverse arena of political and aesthetic attitudes, which varied between nations, communities and historical periods. By no means does the seminar intends to take a nostalgic tour through the past decades, but rather seeks to address the topic through concrete art and exhibition projects realized recently. All of them are trying to deconstruct the idea of monolith, still very present in today’s reception, and to recuperate various episodes, stories and notably, the “communist apocrypha” — texts, music, visual production — which have never been part of the established ideological canon, and whose intellectual patterns shed new light on what the contemporary uses of the notion of communism might be. Instead of treating communism as pure political abstraction, the projects presented by the seminar deal with concepts, events and/or particular personalities related to communism and its history which have survived the Bildersturm of the recent past and can be artistically reactivated.

The conference is part of The Public School Brussels, a permanent project by the curatorial collective Komplot.

Nataša Petrešin-Bachelez is a curator and critic based in Paris and Ljubljana. She is a Ph.D. candidate at the EHESS in Paris, where she also runs a seminar on contemporary artistic practices with Patricia Falguieres, Elisabeth Lebovici, and Hans Ulrich Obrist. She is currently working as an associate curator at the Centre Pompidou in Paris. She is a member of the editorial board of ARTMargins and Maska.

Elena Sorokina is Paris/Brussels-based curator and critic. She was a Whitney Museum of American Art ISP fellow in New York in 2004. Her recent projects include Petroliana at the Moscow Biennial 2007; Laws of Relativity at the Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo, Turin, Italy; On Traders’ Dilemmas at YBCA, San Francisco, 2008; and Scènes Centrales at Tri Postal, Lille, France, 2009. She has written for Artforum, Moscow Art Magazine, Die Zeit and other publications.

Grant Watson is a curator at MuHKA. He was previously the Curator of Visual Arts at Project in Dublin, where he focused on solo commissions from contemporary Irish and international artists as well as themed projects such as a series on communism that included an exhibition, book and radio programme. Watson has worked with modern and contemporary Indian art since 1999, researching this subject for Documenta 12, as well as co-curating Reflections on Indian Modernism, an ongoing series of exhibitions, talks and events at the Office for Contemporary Art Norway.

Adrian Rifkin is a Professor of Art Writing at the Goldsmith University of London. He is the author of Street Noises – Parisian Pleasure 1900-1940 (1993), Ingres Then, and Now (2000) and Cornelius Cardew: Play for Today, and other publications. He has researched and written widely on cultural and art history and on topics ranging from popular music and opera to Kantian aesthetics and gay subjectivities, and is currently preparing a book-length text provisionally titled “Losing myself.”

Oxana Timofeeva is currently a researcher at the Jan van Eyck Academy (Maastricht). She is a co-editor of the “New Literary Observer” magazine, Moscow, and a contributing editor to different magazines on theory and art. She is a member of the Saint Petersburg-based group Chto Delat (“What is to be done?”) and has worked on art projects that were recently presented at the Istanbul Biennial, Van Abbemuseum, Ludwig Museum of Contemporary Art and other institutions.

Marko Stamenkovic is an independent curator based in Belgrade (Serbia). He has curated projects and exhibitions in Serbia and abroad, among which the most recent are Splav Meduze (Center for Contemporary Art, Celje) and Never Means Nothing (Tatjana Pieters Gallery, Gent). He has participated in numerous international curatorial programs. His current interest revolves around the existence of insular curatorial and artistic practices, the reading of the image, the “spirit of expatriation” and dispersed experience of subjects in constant movement.

In English

Since there are only a limited number of seats, it is strongly recommended to book seats at:

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