Tracing the AfterlivesCommunism in Contemporary Art from Eastern Europe
Since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, how have contemporary artists from Eastern Europe borne witness to the slow but steady disappearance of communism from everyday life? In its wake, what vestiges of this ideology were left behind? How do artists mediate these traces of their communist pasts by returning to this often-fraught history in artworks that then circulate as commodities on the global art market? Ksenia Nouril will address the historical turn in the recent work of Olga Chernysheva and Deimantas Narkevičius, who are based in Moscow, Russia and Vilnius, Lithuania, respectively. Chernysheva and Narkevičius came of age in the Soviet Union during the 1980s, a period known as perestroika or reconstruction, when political, social, and economic reforms aimed to bolster the failing project of communism after years of stagnation. Thus, in their formative years as artists, they experienced the disintegration of Soviet society. Today, through their patient but in no way passive observation of their surroundings, they capture the byproducts of communism still visibly and physically entrenched in the volatile and fragile post-Soviet socio-political ecosystem.Nouril's talk draws upon the writings of Svetlana Boym, Paul Ricoeur, and others, contextualizing contemporary Eastern European art with a larger discourse of studies on history, memory, and trauma. Olga Chernysheva (b. 1962) lives and works in Moscow. She was trained in animation at the Russian State University of Cinematography in Moscow and also studied at the Rijksakademie van Beeldende Kunsten, Amsterdam. Chernysheva represented Russia in the 2001 Venice Biennale and has been featured in recent solo exhibitions at BAK, Utrecht and Kunsthalle Erfurt, Germany. She has participated in numerous prominent group exhibitions and international biennials. More recently, her work was included in the exhibition All the Worlds' Futures in the Arsenale at the 56th Venice Biennale (2015), curated by Okwui Enwezor. In October 2016, she will have an exhibition at The Drawing Center in New York. Deimantas Narkevičius (b. 1964) lives and works in Vilnius, Lithuania. He studied sculpture at the Vilnius Academy of Fine Arts and was a resident at the Delfina Foundation in London from 1992 to 1993. He is one of the most consistent and widely recognized Lithuanian artists on the international art scene. He represented Lithuania at the 49th Venice Biennale in 2001, exhibited at the 50th Venice Biennale Utopia Station in 2003, and in numerous solo and group exhibitions worldwide. His work is in more than two dozen private and public collections, including The Museum of Modern Art in New York, Tate Modern in London, and the French National Collection. Ksenia Nouril is a Brooklyn-based art historian and curator. She is a Contemporary and Modern Art Perspectives (C-MAP) Fellow at The Museum of Modern Art, New York, where she researches and plans programming related to Central and Eastern European art. A PhD candidate at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, she is writing her dissertation on contemporary Eastern European artists whose practices address the legacies of socialism. Her research has been funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Graduate School-New Brunswick, and the Avenir Foundation. Previously, she worked as a Dodge Fellow at the Jane Voorhees Zimmerli Art Museum in New Brunswick, NJ, where she organized Dreamworlds and Catastrophes: Intersections of Art and Science in the Dodge Collection, an exhibition examining unofficial Soviet art during the Cold War. She has published in The Calvert Journal, Art Margins Online, and Inside/Out. She is an editor of and contributor to post: notes on modern and contemporary art, MoMA’s online platform for digital publishing and collaborative research on art from around the globe.
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