The book addresses late-Soviet and post-Soviet art in Armenia in the context of turbulent social, political and cultural transformations in the late 1980s, throughout the 1990s and in early 2000s through the aesthetic figure of the ‘painterly real’ and its conceptual transformations. It explores the emergence of ‘contemporary art’ in Armenia from within and in opposition to the practices, aesthetics and institutions of Socialist Realism and National Modernism. The book presents the argument that avant-garde art best captures the historical and social contradictions of the period of the so-called ‘transition,’ especially if one considers ‘transition’ from the perspective of the former Soviet republics that have been consistently marginalized in Russian- and East European-dominated post-Socialist studies. Throughout the two decades that encompass the chronological scope of this work, contemporary art has encapsulated the difficult dilemmas of autonomy and social participation, innovation and tradition, progressive political ethos and national identification, the problematic of communication with the world outside of Armenia’s borders, dreams of subjective freedom and the imperative to find an identity in the new circumstances after the collapse of the Soviet Union. This historical study outlines the politics (liberal democracy), aesthetics (autonomous art secured by the gesture of the individual artist), and ethics (ideals of absolute freedom and radical individualism) of contemporary art in Armenia. Through the historical investigation, a theory of post-Soviet art historiography is developed, one that is based on a dialectic of rupture and continuity in relation to the Soviet past. As the first English-language study on contemporary art in Armenia, the book is of prime interest for artists, scholars, curators and critics interested in post-Soviet art and culture and in global art historiography.
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.
The conceptual horizons of the avant-garde in Armenia
Between the ideal and a hard
Between the ideal and a hard place: the
conceptual horizons of the avant-garde
Art as the avant-garde of the contemporary
This chapter interrogates the historical relationship between ‘contemporary
art’ and the ‘avant-garde’ from the perspective of late Soviet and post-Soviet
cultural discourses. Further, the chapter defines one of the key conceptual figures of the book, the concept of the ideal in a historical materialist
understanding. From a historical materialist perspective, concepts do not
precede or even
, within the specific
context of post-Soviet transformations and the emergence of the new state
in Armenia, has the potential to challenge reified interpretations in EuroAmerican academia of the function of politically and socially engaged art in
society. The interpretations of modernism, the historical avant-gardes, the
neo-avant-gardes and of contemporary art that have prevailed in the critical
discourses of art history over the past sixty years have largely centred on the
fragility of art’s autonomy in the face of either state-ideological or market
investigations that go beyond the author presented by Soviet scholars to
satisfy the demands of the Soviet and post-Soviet literary markets and to
be candid about the role that neurasthenia played in his life and works.
Madness in the fin de siècle
There is a long thematic tradition of madness and the mentally ill in
Russian literature; in the works of Pushkin, Vladimir Odoevskii
(1803–1869), Gogol’, Dostoevskii and many more. Andreev was a
product of the evolution in cultural perceptions of madness during the
Russian fin de siècle. As a representative sample, I will compare
Watching the red dawn charts the responses of the American avant-garde to the cultural works of its Soviet counterpart in period from the formation of the USSR in 1922 to recognition of this new communist nation by USA in 1933. In this period American artists, writers, and designers looked at the emerging Soviet Union with fascination, as they observed this epochal experiment in communism develop out of the chaos of the Russian Revolution and Civil War. They organised exhibitions of Soviet art and culture, reported on visits to Russia in books and articles, and produced works that were inspired by post-revolutionary culture. One of the most important innovations of Soviet culture was to collapse boundaries between disciplines, as part of a general aim to bring art into everyday life. Correspondingly, this book takes an interdisciplinary approach by looking at American avant-garde responses to Soviet culture across several media, including architecture, theatre, film, photography, and literature. As such, Watching the red dawn considers the putative area of ‘American Constructivism’ by examining the interconnected ways in which Constructivist works were influential upon American practices.
activity that is being denounced in order to denounce it’, this co-opting was
unavoidable.5 In other words, artists who engaged in institutional critique had
no other option than to be conscripted into the capitalist machine, given that
there would be no outside position from which to launch their critique.
In Eastern Europe, there was generally no art market to speak of. In the
Soviet Union and the Eastern Bloc, the main patron of the arts was the state.
Some form of a market economy did exist in Yugoslavia, but still none comparable to that experienced by
, not only designs for collective life. The prerequisite for articulating
group identities is the identity of the basic social “unit” – the socialist
individual. Designing this individual, as well as designing for him or her,
was an ideological and practical task that defined Soviet architecture of
the 1920s and the 1930s.
The notion that the history of modernity can be explored as the
history of the self is far from new. It particularly dominates French
post-structuralism and the critical theory of the 1990s influenced by it
in the English language. Critics of modern
Art’s contiguous ideal of autonomy
This book addresses the discursive and representational field of contemporary
art in Armenia in the context of the post-Soviet condition, from the late 1980s
through the 1990s up until the early 2000s. Contemporary art, I argue, is what
best captures the historical and social contradictions of the period of the socalled ‘transition’, especially if one considers ‘transition’ from the perspective
of the former Soviet republics that have been consistently marginalized in
Russian- and East
In practice, I examine American reporting on Soviet culture and the exhibition,
largely in New York, of post-revolutionary works, and also discuss how the
American avant-garde received Soviet ideas and styles in the conception of its
own practices, whether in polemical, utopian or formal terms.
All of this activity occurred in an avant-garde milieu that was interdisciplinary in its practices and, like many coeval European groupings such as the
Bauhaus and the Surrealist movement, was aesthetically and ideologically sympathetic to the radical cross