ARTMargins Online Blog

Appropriation and re-staging in subREAL’s photographic archives

Written by Corina L. Apostol

The archival projects of the Romanian photographic duo subREAL emerged in a period of discussions around recuperating historical consciousness in the 1990s, a time not so far removed from the end of the Cold War and the fall of the Berlin wall, that still resonated with the aftereffects of the dramatic geo-political and social transformations of the 1980s. During this time, artists and scholars from Eastern Europe have stressed the need for engendering socially-oriented artistic platforms that facilitate processes of engaging critically with the so-called interrupted histories of this region. (1)

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Leningrad’s Photo-Postscriptum: Towards a Historical Reinscription of a Provincial Avant-garde

Written by Corina L. Apostol

Dmitry Vilensky, Untitled, "Red City" series, 1986-1993

The 1995/1996 Winter issue of the magazine IMAGO - Another European Photography published in Bratislava, included an essay by the photo-association Photo-Postscriptum, a new creative alliance in the former Russian capital, St. Petersburg. Under the title "St. Petersburg Photo-Postscriptum: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow," the author and founding member Dmitry Vilensky posed an unsettling but fundamental question: could there be such a thing as a post Cold war avant-garde emerging in a city which had reached "a state of unique provinciality?"(1) 

Indeed, St. Petersburg (the name given to the city from Vladimir Lenin's death in 1924 to the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991) had once been the urban milieu from which some of the most sophisticated art was launched. A central stage of revolution in 1905 and again in 1917, the city was then at the focus of events that changed not only the map of Europe but also the cultural and ideological map of the world. During Sergei Diaghilev's Paris theater seasons "Les Ballets Russes" and after the Bolshevik Revolution, the nexus of avant-garde artists, most notably representatives of the Suprematists, Constructivists and Productivists taught at the Institute for Artistic Culture or GINKhUK(2) and produced an engaged art that, on the background of intense socio-political transformations at the beginning of the 20th century, dramatically changed the way people traditionally understood the artistic process.(3) The mid to late 1920s and the 1930s saw the rise of so-called "Heroic Realism" and the Soviet government's increasing control over artistic production, culminating in the 1934 announcement Socialist Realism as the official style of Soviet art. Following Joseph Stalin's death in 1953, the monolith of official culture began to erode, while artists began to explore means of expression and subjects banned during the Stalin era. (4)


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Touring Moscow's Art House Cinemas

Written by Zdenko Mandušić

On a research trip to Moscow earlier this fall, excursions to the city's art house cinemas were my incentive for spending hours in the Russian State Archive of Literature and Art. Along with pausing work on my dissertation and temporally setting aside the stress that comes with it, I wanted to see where Muscovites with a discerning eye for film get their fix. After provided several suggestions, I went in search of these movie houses, trying to get a sense of what defines art house cinemas in Moscow. Such theaters in the United States stand out by the type of films they show and the particular atmosphere they offer audiences. For instance, Landmark Theaters describes itself as the "recognized leader in the industry for providing to its customers consistently diverse and entertaining film products in a sophisticated adult-oriented atmosphere," emphasizing the variety of films this company exhibits, their difference from mainstream Hollywood spectacles, and the experience of high-culture pretenses ( In contemporary Russian film culture, art house cinemas appear to follow a similar model. These venues are not only defined by the films they screen, but also by their relationship to the megaplex theaters.

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Czech That Film — Czech Cinematography Festival in Chicago, Gene Siskel Film Center, June 9 - July 3, 2013

Written by Zdenko Mandušić

What beyond language gives films a national quality? As the cinemas of Eastern and Central Europe seek to promote themselves abroad, solely appealing to the singularity of each nation no longer looks to be enough. More than cultural idiosyncrasies, it seems these cinemas have to claim stakes in the production of new film movements. Over the course of four weeks in June 2013, the Czech That Film festival promoted the output of modern Czech cinema at Chicago's Gene Siskel Film Center. The eight films screened in Chicago were selections from a larger repertoire, which toured ten American cities from April to August 2013. These films might represent images and narratives shaped by Czech culture, but they should not be viewed anthropologically for signs of a supposed Czech psyche or national character. Nor should audiences expect uniform narrative interests or aesthetics. By virtue of narratives that ranged from suspenseful dramas to coming-of-age stories and romantic comedies, variously set in the present-day or during Communist times (1948-1989), and through a mix of minimalist and stylized aesthetics, the films shown in Chicago truly represented a range of styles and genres. Instead of considering their national identity, the projection of these films and the festival itself should be considered within the context of global film distribution and promotion.

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