Extending the Dialogue
The authors whose writings appear in this book come from twelve different countries and represent a range of disciplines and interests: they are art historians, philosophers, cultural theorists and activists, critics, curators, and poets, with most of them falling into two or three of these categories. All have made important contributions to contemporary art and cultural production, art history writing, and critical thought within, and sometimes far beyond, the region once known, problematically, as “Eastern Europe”.
And all of them are either laureates or grant recipients of the prestigious Igor Zabel Award for Culture and Theory, or have served on the award jury. Named in honour of the distinguished Slovene curator and art writer Igor Zabel (1958–2005), the award, an initiative of the ERSTE Foundation (Vienna) and the Igor Zabel Association for Culture and Theory (Ljubljana), has been presented biannually since 2008. The award honours the exceptional cultural achievements of those dedicated to deepening and broadening our knowledge of visual art and culture in Central, Eastern and South-eastern Europe.
The book thus offers a collection of urgencies and agencies in art history, art writing, and art and cultural production from across this cultural and political geography. A survey of the pressing issues that stimulate the authors’ scholarly, curatorial, and cultural investments, the book provides a referential, if fragmented and incomplete, picture of current conditions of art and culture in the region.
Given the authors’ diverse backgrounds, their writings express a variety of concerns and approaches, although certain groupings are apparent. A number of them address issues in art history and theory from a geo-political perspective; the question of the centre–periphery relationship in writing about Central and Eastern European art is further enriched by perspectives from other “peripheries”, with feminist, post-colonial, and minority positions coming into play as the matrix of power in art writing, art history, and art education is critically examined. The second (and largest) group of writings discuss specific art phenomena, from the1960s to the present. Several authors apply comparative and horizontal art-historical methods to reposition Eastern European art within the global context. Among the important topics represented here are environmental concerns and – since many of the artworks under discussion were developed as ephemeral works – the artistic and performative potential of documentation and archives. Other authors, meanwhile, reflect on the conditions of contemporary cultural production and the role of cultural institutions in the region. The last group of writings deal with the intersection of politics and art, specifically with the region’s (utopian) legacy of revolution, socialism, and communism.
In 2008, when the first Igor Zabel Award was presented, the Igor Zabel Association and the ERSTE Foundation co-published the book, Continuing Dialogues: A Tribute to Igor Zabel. The present book is titled Extending the Dialogue not only because, in some senses, it is a follow-up to that first publication, but also because these texts examine issues and offer views that go far beyond local and regional concerns.