ARTMargins Online Blog

Heroism Rises in a Warehouse

Written by Corina L. Apostol

"Veten," (Homeland) Zamir Suleymanov's open-ended film shown in a loop is the starting point of the current exhibition, "Heroism Rises in a Warehouse," at Salonul de Proiecte in Bucharest. The film explores the habitual movements and interactions between a group of young boys in a former Soviet era cinema in Baku, which now functions as a games centre, cafe, perfume shop and pet shop all at once. Blurring reality with cinematic fantasy, the film constructs a dynamic portrait of its main characters, while navigating the interior environment where they seem to spend most of their time - indeed the film give the impression that the young men never leave the cinema. Suggested by the title of the film, which is also the name of the former cinema - "Homeland" - playing on the idea of home, as both a private environment, as well as a public, official defined territory, the film presents life on the periphery of consumer culture, of friendship and of reality itself. The last frames of the film show a boy falling asleep on a bench, intensifying the dream-like quality of the work, suggesting that the viewer has been immersed not only in the architectural space where the young men spend their daily lives, but also the constructed space of their fantasies.

Read more: Heroism Rises in a Warehouse

Artists Amateurs, Alternative Spaces: Experimental Cinema in Eastern Europe, 1960-1990, April 5 to June 14 at the National Gallery of Art (Washington D.C.)

Written by Zdenko Mandušić

Q&A with Co-Organizers Joanna Raczynska and Ksenya Gurshtein

MEDEXP-banner

(L to R) Image is Virus, courtesy Dalibor Martinis; Checkmate and Painted in the Air, both courtesy NFD

Screening over seventy films in the spring of 2014, the series Artists, Amateurs, Alternative Spaces: Experimental Cinema in Eastern Europe, 1960–1990 set out to fill gaps in knowledge about noninstitutional film practices in Eastern Europe. Too frequently national cinemas from this region garner most of the attention, however this film series let general audiences know that the aesthetic and social elements of East European experimental films demand attention. Joanna Raczynska, an assistant curator working in the department of film programs at The National Gallery of Art, and Ksenya Gurshtein, A. W. Mellon Postdoctoral Curatorial Fellow and currently a lecturer at University of Virginia, organized the series, and continued their illuminating work by later launching a website (http://www.nga.gov/content/ngaweb/features/experimental-cinema-in-eastern-europe.html) that documents the program and much more. In addition to describing the project and its organizing principles, the site provides succinct discussions of all the films that were screened, delving into the films’ aesthetic, social, and personal contexts. The series’ digital domain magnifies the program’s original reach, producing for connoisseurs and scholars alike a new way to access, discover, and research experimental film practices in this area of the world. 

Read more: Artists Amateurs, Alternative Spaces: Experimental Cinema in Eastern Europe, 1960-1990, April 5...

The Politicized Portrait in the Unofficial Culture of the former Soviet Union Part 2

Written by Corina L. Apostol

Continued from The Politicized Portrait in the Unofficial Culture of the former Soviet Union Part 1

In the painting The Origin of Socialist Realism (1982-83) from "Nostalgic Socialist Realism" series, the artistic duo Komar and Melamid directly engaged to the highly contentions subject of Stalin, and thus, the claims and legacy of his regime. The boldness of their gesture lies not only that this work was produced under conditions of duress and censorship, for the two artists had already defected from the Soviet Union and were working in NYC (since 1978) when they produced the portrait. Rather, it stood as a provocation, launched from a radically different artistic milieu, looking back at myths of power and empire that remained deeply engrained in their homeland. The provocation lay in the fact that Stalin's image was by then an object of iconoclasm in the Soviet Union, for since the dictator's post-mortem denunciation, his portraits had been hidden or destroyed in an attempt to replace his tyranny with a more human dimension of the political elite. Directly invoking the legacy of Stalin as he was depicted in portraits like those of Shurpin three decades before, Komar and Melamid combined the artistic strategies of Socialist Realism with a neoclassical formal language, while simultaneously subverting these styles' inherent seriousness and elevation.

Read more: The Politicized Portrait in the Unofficial Culture of the former Soviet Union Part 2

The Politicized Portrait in the Unofficial Culture of the former Soviet Union Part 1

Written by Corina L. Apostol

 

In this text I focus on the (mis)uses of official portraiture in the unofficial or underground culture in the former Soviet Union during the 1970s and 1980s. Usually working under dangerous and unstable conditions, some artists produced highly original artworks that self-consciously invoked the cult of political leaders at the time, revealing the inherent artificiality and enduring influence of their portraits on the collective imaginary. Photography played a key role in artists' representation, manipulation and re-staging. Before engaging in an analysis of their process through selected case studies, a discussion of Socialist Realist portraiture and its importance in Soviet history is required, for the aforementioned unofficial artists consistently challenged this tradition, while at the same time critically echoing it in their works.

Read more: The Politicized Portrait in the Unofficial Culture of the former Soviet Union Part 1

AddThis Social Bookmark Button