ARTMargins Online Blog

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

Notes on Photographic Practice before 1989: an Interview with Ion Grigorescu

Written by Corina L. Apostol

 

Ion Grigorescu (b.1945, Romania) is an artist that since the 1960s has worked on social and political issues, engaging with recent historical processes. He became well known internationally for his hermetic performances, as well as his photographs, films, drawings and paintings that address themes of body, sexuality and the realities in Romanian society during the socialist period and the transition to capitalism. In this interview we have focused on a lesser known aspect of Grigorescu's practice, namely his collaborations and friendships with other artists, writers and critics of his generation. 

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More Than Medium Awareness: Jan Hřebejk's Family Cycle

Written by Zdenko Mandušić

More Than_Medium_Awareness1

The last two Czech That Film festivals in Chicago have opportunely featured Jan Hřebejk's three-part cycle of family dramas: Innocence (Nevinnost, 2011), screened last year; Kawasaki's Rose (Kawasakiho růže, 2009) and Honeymoon (Líbánky, 2013), were two of the seven films that played this year at the Gene Siskel Film Center, July 13 - 30. These films mark a departure for Hřebejk and his longtime collaborator, scriptwriter Petr Jarchovský, who up to now were known for comedies. The family-cycle films center on characters with dark secrets and suspect ethics. In addition to their winding plots, these films are also distinguished by visual elements that extend beyond their sleek production quality. Kawasaki's Rose, Innocence, and Honeymoon betray an interest in using moving images as much as dramaturgy to present information and complicate meaning. For starters, there is the constant presence of cameras, screens, and projectors, which point to the filmmaking process and make viewers aware of the filmmaker’s hand. Apart from these meta-textual gestures, these films also effectively use visual cues and exploit cinematographic elements like framing, editing, and lighting to expand the viewers’ involvement with the moving images.

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SOSka: Towards a New Iconography of Post-Soviet Ukraine

Written by Corina L. Apostol

The Kharkiv-based SOSka group was established in 2005, in the wake of the Orange Revolution in Ukraine, by Mykola Ridnyi, Ganna Kriventsova and Serhiy Popov. Kharkiv, once the capital of the Ukrainian Socialist Republic, and of radical artistic traditions dating back to the avant-garde period, today lacks the infrastructure and resources to support an independent artistic scene. Nonetheless, a post-Soviet wave of socially engaged artists emphasize their development grew out of the 2004 revolution, adopting strategies of self-organization and organizing alternative social spheres in the city. Kharkiv is also associated with the legacy of the pioneering Soviet-era photographer, Boris Mikhailov, whose photographic oeuvre was dedicated to representing the human misery and social devastation after the dissolution of the USSR. Mikhailov remains an important reference and mentor for the post-Soviet generation.

Read more: SOSka: Towards a New Iconography of Post-Soviet Ukraine

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