Roads to Convergence behind the Iron Curtain: Remapping Conceptual Art in the Era of (Post)Socialism

Maia Toteva, Texas Tech University, USA,

In 2010, the critic Peter Osborne argued that contemporary art is post-conceptual. Notwithstanding broad generalizations, it is undeniable that key traits of contemporary art are rooted in the notion of “global conceptualism.” Two decades after the closing of the blockbuster exhibition Global Conceptualism: Points of Origin, 1950s-1980s, scholars still ponder the dilemma that propelled the show’s ambitious agenda. Was conceptualism a unified movement that emerged in the West and spread worldwide, or did unique local circumstances give birth to multiple conceptual trends in distant geographic regions? What factors facilitated the development of a global phenomenon, and what transcultural considerations prompted the shift from the formalist preoccupation with material objects toward broader attention to the ideas and conceptual framing of artworks?

Reviving the quandary, this session reconsiders the conceptual practices of the Eastern Bloc before and after the fall of the Iron Curtain. How did conceptual trends born in (post)socialist countries (e.g., “Sots Art” or “Moscow Conceptualism”) relate to Western conceptual art, and how did such movements fit into the globalist narratives advanced by transnational alliances, international markets, and neoliberal ideologies? If Anglo-American conceptualism emerged in reaction to formalism as articulated by Clement Greenberg, while modernist movements in the Communist Bloc waned disrupted by socialist realism, what conditions prompted the inception of a “flexible and elastic” Eastern European conceptual art as a strategy of interrogating systems of socialism, capitalism, and political oppression? Raising such questions, we seek to reassess the role of (post)conceptual art in the eras of post-truth and post-socialism.

Information about the speakers and papers on this panel will be posted shortly. 



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