Cold War Avant-gardes Seminar PDF Print

The Cold War Avant-gardes seminar is part of the comprehensive, long-term project 1957–1986. Art from the Decline of Modernism to the Rise of Globalization by the international network L’Internationale. The project focuses on the period between 1957 and 1986, a period in which dictatorial regimes of different kinds predominated in a substantial part of the world (Spain, Portugal, Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, Eastern Europe), but which was also characterized by a postwar belief in the new modern era, in which advanced technologies played an increasingly prominent role, the world was better connected through new types of transport and communication systems, and the media wielded increasingly more power. It was a time of politically and economically isolated spaces and, at the same time, of accelerated globalization processes.

The Cold War Avant-gardes seminar will focus primarily on artistic strategies with emancipatory potential that evolved in the different social contexts which limited freedom of action for various political or economic reasons. The term Cold War is used here to describe the specific relations existing between the East and the West after the Second World War, which on a different level led to very divergent social relations, with dictatorial regimes in Eastern Europe and Latin America on the one hand, and the United States and the European social democracies on the other. Cold War imagery was based on numerous dichotomies, the most fundamental of them being the division between the Soviet and US spheres of influence, with the non aligned countries as a now forgotten third option. One of the goals of the L’Internationale project is to transcend the ideology of dichotomy and search for similarities between the postwar avant-garde tendencies in Eastern Europe, Latin America, and the Western world. Research is being carried out on several levels, focusing on the similarities and differences between the emancipatory potential of artistic practices in different parts of Europe and America.

At a time when totalitarian regimes kept their citizens in isolation in a large part of the world, the postwar avant-gardes served as a model of alternative international communication; it would be therefore misguided to only emphasize their specificities stemming from the isolation of their political regimes. In her book Dreamworld and Catastrophe, Susan Buck-Morss writes about the ways different parts of the world were interconnected in the Cold War period; she even describes the fall of socialism as a result of it following capitalism too faithfully. In his discussion of conceptual tendencies in Eastern European art (Moderna galerija, June 2007), Boris Groys suggested that we should follow more the claim of similarity than identity or difference. He talked about difference, diversity, and identity as contemporary versions of or pseudonyms for modernist authenticity.

The strategies of work artists developed in their individual social contexts were quite context-specific, which dictates reading apparently similar artistic gestures in different ways. With three public lectures and related workshops, the seminar in Ljubljana will look at artistic movements in Slovenia, Russia, and Spain that cannot be interpreted without a prior understanding of their local contexts, while their aesthetic concepts concur with broader international movements, which also allows for comparative analyses.

Programme Seminar Ljubljana