ARTMargins Online Blog

USSR Passport: Between Soviet Utopias and Post-Socialist Realities

Written by Corina L. Apostol

Since its nineteenth century beginnings photography has functioned as an organisational tool for visually describing the world through groups, categories, communities, from people to plants and planets, in order to better understand the society, as well as to control it. Costumes and props were typically on hand in the photographer's arsenal, so that they could render portraits that recreated compositions from popular plays or paintings. The illusory universes created by photographers in their works resembled worlds that were known or could be imagined. The seeds for documentary, engaged photography were sowed at this time and at the beginning of the 20th century, and were further developed during the post-war period, when artists began to tackle social problems and political issues in a nuanced and evocative way. Making visual arguments through series of photographs taken over time, engaged photographers used experiential perspectives that embraced both objectivity and subjectivity, interpretation and information, art and journalism.

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Alter-global Narratives

Written by Graciela Speranza

Jorge Macchi, Seascape, (2006), 70 x 100 cm

As it has been acknowledged by American art historians and critics, the past twenty years have witnessed "the rapid growth of art historical interest in the post-war period in Latin America" and "an important attempt to question inherited canons, periodizations and critical frameworks of Latin American art".[1] But I would like to go further and even question the continental frame of the narratives of Latin American art in the broader context of contemporary art and literature. The challenge is not new but it is worth revisiting with a view to a genuine globalization of narratives written in Latin America. “We need to think of our heritage as the universe,” Borges argued in the 50's. “We can handle all the European issues,” he also wrote. “Handle them without superstition, with an irreverence that could, and already has had beneficial consequences  (273).” This is what many contemporary artists and writers are doing, in fact, reconfiguring the world in their own image and expanding the scope of their horizon, without losing their singularity. Our critical narratives should then include them without superstition, without making any more distinctions than those imposed by their own works in the greater narrative of the art of the present. It is not that we have not tried to rewrite the history of Latin American art before, inverting the map, postulating alternative modernities, composing atlases with flexible frontiers and plenty more discursive acrobatics, which have fatally left us in more or less the same place, albeit with a fashionable presence on the globalized checklist of  biennials, literary festivals, museums and collections: meager fruits of multiculturalism, the cultural logic of globalized capitalism. We could then start by composing larger, all-encompassing panoramas  -"alter-global narratives," we could call them-  that would free us from the now anachronistic divisions that limit us to local or continental histories of literature or art, coopted to supply a global narrative then composed by others, or tailored to preserve or win space for the regional specialist in the global center.

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Mass Protest against Putin continue… in Venice. The Work of Factory of Found Clothes at the Venice Biennale

Written by Matthias Meindl

FFC: Clothes for a Demonstration
One of the pieces from the series Clothes for a demonstration against the false elections of Vladimir Putin, 2011-2015 by Petersburg- and Amsterdam-based artist Natalia Pershina-Yakimanskaia (better known as "Gluklya" from Factory of Found Clothes) is a brown coarse woolen dress with a cheap jacket in a lighter brown over it. A large horn, like the one of a rhino, has broken through the dresses fabric and through the zipper of the jacket. The effect is disturbing; this of course is not a whim of fashion, but a vagary of nature. The mutation is also not one of the body but seems to concern the clothes themselves. These man-made objects seemingly become objects of nature. This even more so as these coarse, cheap clothes can most likely be attributed to a certain sociological type, a female pensioner, whose habitual resentfulness against Post-Soviet times and anger about her plight seem to have materialized in this horn.

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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.

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