Dr Klara Kemp-Welch
This MA Option explores the experimental art scenes that developed, in parallel, in Communist Eastern Europe and under Latin American military dictatorships from the time of the Cuban Revolution of 1959 to the dismantling of the Soviet ‘bloc’ in 1989-91. Following a series of introductory seminars on Latin American and East European modernism, Mexican Muralism, and Soviet Socialist Realism, we focus on the moral encounter between alternative art and mechanisms of military and state repression in 1960s, 1970s and 1980s USSR, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Poland, Romania, Chile, Argentina, Uruguay, Brazil, Mexico, tracing some of the links that developed among artists from these countries. Countercultural activities designed to subvert censorship, challenge political orthodoxy, and to produce alternative models of local and trans-national solidarity will be our core concern. Artists and collectives discussed will include: CADA, Collective Actions, Lygia Clark, Guillermo Deisler, Ion Grigorescu, Roberto Jacoby, Ilya Kabakov, Július Koller, KwieKulik, Dora Maurer, Cildo Meireles, Ana Mendieta, Helio Oiticica, Clemente Padín, Robert Rehfeldt, Tamás Szentjóby, and Horacio Zabala. We will work outwards from artistic propositions and actions to social and political theory, exploring how artists’ projects were embedded in global power structures. This will entail referring to the writings of historic revolutionaries such as Brazilian Carlos Marighella and dissident theorists such as Czech Václav Havel and becoming familiar with the writings of contemporary theorists such as Suely Rolnik, Boris Groys, Ernesto Laclau, and Slavoj Žižek. Fostering fresh approaches to modern and contemporary art history, the course explores the imperatives of art developed outside a market context in relation to recent moves to recuperate this formerly invisible past by a delayed international audience. The task is especially urgent given the rapid museumification of East European and Latin American art and archives, globally, since the 1990s. Questions addressed will include the following: How might we draw parallels between formally similar practices without losing a sense of their ideological specificity? What categories and theories are most relevant for the development of a new ‘global’ art history, beyond national and regional frameworks? The course will equip students with necessary practical and methodological tools to develop individual research projects, taking advantage of relevant archival holdings at the Museum of Modern Art in Oxford, the University of Essex, and Tate, among others.
Reading knowledge of an East European language, Spanish or Portuguese, will be an advantage, but not a requirement.