Dan Perjovschi: The Power of the Margins

A piece written in 2010 ….   The international art world ‘discovered’ Dan Perjovschi in 1999 when his drawings were displayed in the Romanian Pavilion at the Venice Biennale.[1] Under the title ‘rEST’, he covered the floor with cartoons and slogans in thick marker-pen reflecting on life in Eastern-Central Europe since the overthrow of communist … Continue reading

Études with a camera – Dóra Maurer’s films and photoworks

  What can one do with a cobblestone? This was a question asked and answered by Dóra Maurer in 1971. It is the title of a series of photographs in which she documented a cobblestone being obliged to participate in various activities. After tethering it with string for one photo, in another she pulls it … Continue reading

‘Consumer Art’ and Other Commodity Aesthetics in Eastern Europe under Communist Rule

  This essay was written for a book which was published by Centrum Sztuki Nowoczesnej in Warsaw in January 2017.   In 2015 works from Natalia LL’s ‘Consumer Art’ (1972-5) series featured in Tate Modern’s exhibition, The World Goes Pop. Here, Natalia LL’s reflections on desire and satisfaction were placed in in the company of … Continue reading

Király’s Immoderate Fashion

In 1986 Tamás Király arranged for his latest collection to be photographed on the steps of the Műcsarnok, the kunsthalle in Hősök Tere in central Budapest. A group of adults and children – barefooted, with stiff sculptural caps and belted robes – occupy the steps. The men are peacocks in bright silks; the woman, in … Continue reading

Art, Emotion and Activism in the Post-Socialist Cityscape in Eastern Europe

In 2014 developers in Kraków in southern Poland proposed the construction of ‘Nowa Cracovia’, an office and retail development on the site occupied by the ‘old’ Cracovia, a hotel owned by the state tourist company which opened its doors in the late 1960s (designed in 1959 by Witold Cęckiewicz for Miastoprojekt, Kraków, with structural engineers … Continue reading

The Peasant in the City

This piece was written for a Zacheta show, Polska – kraj folkloru? You can download the catalogue in English here. It includes excellent essays by Gabriela Świtek, Błażej Brzostek and the curator, Joanna Kordjak. A Socialist capital – a city for every citizen … the worker, the peasant and the working intelligentsia’ – political slogan Poland, … Continue reading

Notes from the Underground

In September, Daniel Muzyczuk and I curated a show entitled ‘Notes from the Underground’ for the Muzeum Sztuki in Lodz which explores the intersection of art and music in Eastern Europe under communist rule. Rock, punk and new wave were not only embraced by young musicians in the 1970s and 1980s, they shaped the visual … Continue reading

Hasior’s Dreck

  This essay is a transcript of a talk given in Zakopane in late 2014. It will appear in a book edited by Kola Sliwińska.   Junk and trash seemed to rise to the surface of Polish culture in the mid 1950s. Of course, in the aftermath of the catastrophe of the Second World War, … Continue reading

Every Single Crash – Filip Berendt’s art

This text was written to accompany Filip Berendt’s show at L’étrangère, London in 2015. Working in Taiwan a few years ago, Filip Berendt was struck by the profusion and variety of ordinary materials on sale there. Taipei’s shops offer paper, metal foil, plastics and other other everyday materials in dizzying, even excessive, variety. He was … Continue reading

Nervous Systems: New Machines and Bodies in Polish Art and Film after the Thaw

This essay was published in the catalogue accompanying the Cosmos Calling! exhibition at Zacheta, Warsaw, summer 2014.     In 1973 Krzysztof Zanussi made a movie, ‘Iluminacja’(Illumination), to explore the ways in which science, the state and religion understood life in its most immediate sense, that of the living human being. Relaying the fictional career … Continue reading