Performance art in Eastern Europe since 1960

Amy Bryzgel
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This book represents the first attempt to write a comprehensive account of performance art in Eastern Europe - the former communist, socialist and Soviet countries of Central, Eastern and Southeastern Europe - since the 1960s. It demonstrates performance art, which encompasses a range of genres, among them body art, happenings, actions and performance. In exploring the manifestations and meanings of performance art, the book highlights the diversity of artistic practice, moments and ways in which performance emerged, and its relationship to each country's sociopolitical climate. The book discusses 21 countries and over 250 artists, exploring the manner in which performance art developed concurrently with the genre in the West. It examines how artists used their bodies in performance to navigate the degrees of state control over artistic production and cultivate personalised forms of individual integration and self-expression of body, gender, politics, identity, and institutional critique. A comparative analysis of examples of performance art addressing gender-related issues from across the socialist and post-socialist East is then presented. The themes addressed provide local cultural and historical references in works concerning beauty, women's sexuality and traditional notions of gender. Artists' efforts to cope with the communist environment, the period of transition and the complexities of life in the post-communist era are highlighted. Artists during the communist period adopted performance art as a free-form, open-ended means of expression to give voice to concepts, relationships and actions that otherwise would not have been possible in the official realm of art.

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‘Bryzgel's text will interest especially those invested in the rapidly expanding field of Central and Eastern European art history and Cold War cultural studies. Its wide swathe of information illustrates the variety and intrigue of performance art in the Cold War East and will surely entice many curious onlookers to storm the field.'
Sara Blaylock, University of Minnesota–Duluth
CAA Reviews

‘By highlighting an instance in which documentation functioned as a substitute for presence, Bryzgel weighs in on art-historical debates regarding the relationship between live art and photography. It is at moments like this that Performance Art inEastern Europe since 1960 most succeeds in its stated aim of 'looking not from the centre to the periphery but the reverse, to see how such an approach might not only challenge but also overturn perceptions regarding art history, artistic styles, and the canon' (p. 5).'
Michelle Maydanchik, University of Pittsburgh
Slavonic and East European Review (vol. 95, no. 4)
October 2017

‘Like any good art historical study the book goes beyond shedding light on an obscure moment in history, bearing much relevance to contemporary artists working in the West today. In this respect, a great strength of the book is its intimate analysis of the operation of the strategy of 'Subversive Affirmation' in the communist era.'
Pil and Galia Kollectiv
Journal of Contemporary Central and Eastern Europe

‘The material provided contributes to the expanded fields of performance studies and art history by offering a rich and fascinating overview of the overlooked artistic practices in Eastern Europe. Furthermore, Bryzgel's approach should challenge the reader's perception of histories of art and performance shaped through the lens of the West.'
Sofia Vranou, Queen Mary University of London
Contemporary theatre review, Volume 28 – Issue 1

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