A Reader in East-Central European Modernism makes available secondary literature on East-Central European art in English, contributing to the ongoing process of re-unifying European art history, on the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. In addition to commissioning and publishing new work, the editors’ aim has been to identify previously un-translated materials, presenting some of the most interesting scholarship in the field produced in the past decades. Taking as its timeframe 1918-1956, the reader calls into question European modernism’s usual framing, deliberately including periods of national autonomy, radical and conservative moments, democratic as well as state socialist periods. It acknowledges the centrality of war and of the Holocaust, often erased in an art historical division of modernism into ‘interwar’ and ‘post-war’. European cultural production has always been closely bound up with the history of shifting borders and patterns of migration. The contributions to the reader demonstrate the region’s diversity of cultures to discover the critical debates in aesthetics and politics they occasioned, positioning these in relation to today’s art historical concerns. Contributors to the reader examine the projects of modernism and modernity from a range of East-Central European perspectives, combining the consideration of major ‘isms’ of art such as Dada, Constructivism and Surrealism with research on artists’ particular, local, aspirations. The fluid interpretation of the modernist idiom and its intermixing with local twists gave rise to a particular creative power in the region. Promoting critical reflection on the interlinked, interactive nature of art historical processes and relationships, the reader recognises cross-border flows, connections and itinerant biographies as a constituent part of national art histories. The overarching ambition of the publication is to go beyond existing frameworks and to offer pathways to rethinking European modernism as an interdependent whole, from the starting point that it cannot be thought properly without a deeper understanding of the art of East-Central Europe.
With thanks to Marie-Louise von Motesiczky Charitable Trust for their support of the research and publication.
The talks will be followed by a drinks reception.