Please join us for the UK launch of Networking the Bloc. Experimental Art in Eastern Europe 1965-1981 (Cambridge, Massachusetts and London, England: MIT Press, 2018). The author, Dr Klara Kemp-Welch, will be joined in conversation by Professor Sarah Wilson, to explore how the publication reconsiders the art of the late Cold War period from Eastern European perspectives.
Throughout the 1970s, a network of artists emerged to bridge the East-West divide, and the no less rigid divides between the countries of the Eastern bloc. Originating with a series of creative initiatives by artists, art historians, and critics and centered in places like Budapest, Poznań, and Prague, this experimental dialogue involved Western participation but is today largely forgotten in the West. Klara Kemp-Welch’s book Networking the Bloc documents the elaborate web of artistic connectivity that came about through personal encounters, pioneering dialogues, collaborative projects, and cultural exchanges. Countering the conventional Cold War narrative of Eastern bloc isolation, she shows how artistic ideas were relayed among like-minded artists across ideological boundaries and national frontiers. Drawing on archival documents and interviews with participants, Networking the Bloc looks first at the mobilization of the network, from 1964 to 1972, going on to chart waystations for experimental art from the Soviet bloc between 1972 and 1976, and, finally, convergences— shared exhibitions and events in the second half of the 1970s in locations ranging from Prague to Milan to Moscow.
Klara Kemp-Welch’s Networking the Bloc redefines and enriches a modernist condition of isolation and alienation and proves that a hunger for connectivity beyond local milieus fostered the experimental art of the former Soviet satellite countries. The fact that the same networking mindset fuels today’s global art world makes this book an indispensable manual of how to channel gained information into original and radical art production.
―Margarita Tupitsyn, author of Moscow Vanguard Art, 1922–92 and editor of Russian Dada, 1914–1924
Cold War myths are long-lived. One of the most persistent―that the borders of Soviet Bloc countries were impermeable barriers―is dashed in this deeply researched and highly readable study of the movements of artists, curators, publications, and artworks in what used to be known as Eastern Europe. A vital contribution to the necessary project of decentralizing art history, Klara Kemp-Welch’s book provides vivid portraits of intensely experimental artists who, for far too long, could only be glimpsed at the margins.
―David Crowley, Professor of Visual Culture, NCAD, Dublin; curator, Notes from the Underground: Art and Alternative Music in Eastern Europe after 1968
About the Author
Klara Kemp-Welch is a Lecturer in twentieth-century modernism at the Courtauld Institute of Art, London. She is also the author of Antipolitics in Central European Art (London and New York: IB Tauris, 2014).
The event will be followed by a drinks reception in the lobby.