Art criticism in V4 countries after 1989

Bridging the Gaps. An Anthology of Art Criticism in Central and Eastern Europe

AICA Polska, 2023

ISBN: ISBN 978-83-928207-1-0

ISBN (ebook): ISBN 978-83-928207-2-7


The Project realized together with AICA Slovakia, AICA Czech Republic and AICA Hungary with the support of the Visegrad Fund.

The aim of the project is to reflect on the state of art criticism of V4 countries after 1989 till today. It consists of a panel discussion about the differences between art criticism of Central and Eastern Europe vs. Western Europe organized online, and selecting critical texts (in the field of contemporary visual art), translating them into English, and publishing them in an anthology, divided into several applicable Categories (chapters). The project will be accompanied by discussions by art critics from the thematic areas of the publication in each of the partner countries.

The main issue with visual art criticism (reviews of exhibitions, events, trends etc.) is that it is mostly published in mother languages, so it is unavailable for research or reference for scholars or art critics from different countries in the region. Our aim is to collect the dispersed material and make it available for research for international scholars and art critics, also from V4 countries. In the contemporary art history of Central and Eastern Europe (after 1989), systematic research on art criticism is very rare and so are the books collecting dispersed texts written by art critics, and almost always they are published in their original language. If there are such books published, these are collections of texts by one author and mostly they deal with earlier periods – 1970s and 80s. This field lacks an anthology of texts illustrating the vital discussions in which art criticism was engaged parallelly in all V4 countries in the post-1989 period. It results in the absence of the history of art criticism in the V4 region, the lack of a sense of its continuity, and the lack of knowledge of its meaning in the culture of a given period. It also makes comparative studies within the V4 region impossible in the realm of art criticism. Art criticism from the V4 region is also not widely known internationally, for the same reason – the texts are dispersed and only available in mother languages. Therefore, international scholars are unable to read, analyze and compare them.

To address the issue, we need the critical texts to be translated into English. The roundtable discussion will be an occasion to reflect on the specificity of art criticism from the region. Its transcription will serve as main introduction to the anthology. The texts, (80 pages from each country) will be published in chapters: 1. Art during the transition period, 2. Gender and body, 3. Feminism, 4. Otherness and politics of identities, 5. Institutional Critique, 6. Political (Engaged) Art and Censorship, 7. Art in public spaces, 8. Critique of critique, 9. Critique on art from before 1989. This will organize art criticism and facilitate future research. With Partners we will organize international discussions about various issues relevant to art criticism in the region (eg. ecology, feminism etc.). It will promote the Project and create an opportunity to popularize art criticism outside of our region and make possible the exchange and communication between art critics within V4 region. It will also be an opportunity for self-reflection on the state of art criticism in the region and the discussion on the differences and similarities within the region, as well as between the V4 region and Western Europe. During these discussions, we’ll have an opportunity to think over the main points of the introductions to the chapters of the book. Each Partner (also Applicant) will organize such a discussion in their country. Also, during the Project, we will re-publish texts from all countries in art magazines of all V4 countries. Every Partner will choose one art magazine.

There hasn’t been any similar multi-national initiative so far. The publication of an anthology translated into English and organized into thematical chapters, as well as the longer-term cooperation of art critics from V4 countries, takes place for the first time. The project will start with a round table discussion (online through zoom) with the editors involved in this publication. It will help to identify key features of critical writing on art and culture in CEE after 1989. It will function as an extended, collective introduction to the anthology. Departing from included texts, the panel will aim to synthesize the most significant characteristics of the era as they unfolded in relation to the local, regional, and global developments in art, culture, socio-politics, technology, and ecology. The panel will attempt to identify what chronotype (time-space) has been produced in and through critical discourse on the notions of seven conceptual categories forming the chapters of the book. The round table will be transmitted online and later the transmission will be embedded in the website dedicated to the project, together with an Anthology available in pdf. It will be the first attempt to look at art criticism from CEE, published after 1989, holistically. The anthology will be the first step of the long-term collaboration of the partners from Central Europe and the starting point of the creation of an extended bibliography of critical texts from the field of contemporary art criticism in V4 countries which we plan to develop in the future.

The Anthology, the round table discussion and discussions in Partner countries will help to answer vital questions, such as: What role does 1989 play in the critical discourse in CEE? What kind of exchange took place among critical writing and discourse across CEE? What does critical writing on art and culture have in common across CEE, and what are the (local, national) differences? How has critical writing after-1989 envisioned the position and place of CEE in the world? Have the dichotomies of the second half of the twentieth century (such as East vs West) continued shaping the conversations? Asking these questions is vital for the intellectual development of our region, its self-awareness, and the decolonization from the (so-called) Western culture. While individual texts have their concrete foci (exhibition, event, cultural trend, etc.), collectively the selected texts articulate the critical post-1989 era in CEE through a unique perspective: namely, the structure of collective feeling. By focusing not on the commonplace history-writing as a progression of cultural and political events but on capturing human emotions in, with, and through art–the anthology will offer an alternative, unparalleled understanding of the development of young and still fragile democracies within the Visegrad alliance. Through capturing the affective infrastructure of this era, the book will show relations and connections among the scenes across V4 as well as the pronunciations of the shared commitment to the hopeful futures.

The Project is co-sponsored by AICA International.