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Postmodernism and the Postsocialist Condition

Politicized Art under Late Socialism

Ales Erjavec (Editor), Martin Jay (Foreword), Boris Groys (Contributor), Misko Suvakovic (Contributor), Peter Gyorgy (Contributor), Gerardo Mosquera (Contributor), Minglu Gao (Contributor) & 2 more

Available worldwide

Hardcover, 316 pages
ISBN: 9780520233348
September 2003
$85.00, £71.00
The Berlin Wall was coming down, the Soviet Union was dissolving, Communist China was well on its way down the capitalist path; the world was witnessing political and social transformations without precedent. Artists, seeing it all firsthand, responded with a revolution of their own. What form this revolution took—how artists in the 1980s marked their societies' traumatic transition from decaying socialism to an insecure future—emerges in this remarkable volume. With in-depth perspectives on art and artists in the former Soviet Union, the Balkans and Mitteleuropa, China, and Cuba—all from scholars and art critics who were players in the tumultuous cultural landscapes they describe—this stunningly illustrated collection captures a singular period in the history of world art, and a critical moment in the cultural and political transition from the last century to our own.

Authors Ales Erjavec, Gao Minglu, Boris Groys, Péter György, Gerardo Mosquera, and Misko Suvakovic observe distinct national differences in artistic responses to the social and political challenges of the time. But their essays also reveal a clear pattern in the ways in which artists registered the exhaustion of the socialist vision and absorbed the influence of art movements such as constructivism, pop art, and conceptual art, as well as the provocations of western pop culture. Indebted to but not derived from capitalist postmodernism, the result was a unique version of postsocialist postmodernism, an artistic/political innovation clearly identified and illustrated for the first time in these pages.
List of Illustrations
Martin Jay

Ales Erjavec
The Other Gaze: Russian Unofficial Art’s View of the Soviet World
Boris Groys
Art as a Political Machine: Fragments on the Late Socialist and Postsocialist Art of Mitteleuropa and the Balkans
Misko Suvakovic
Neue Slowenische Kunst—New Slovenian Art: Slovenia, Yugoslavia, Self-Management, and the 1980s
Ales Erjavec
Hungarian Marginal Art in the Late Period of State Socialism
Peter Gyorgy
The New Cuban Art 208
Gerardo Mosquera
Post-Utopian Avant-Garde Art in China
Gao Minglu

List of Contributors
Ales Erjavec is Professor and Research Director at the Institute of Philosophy, Scientific Research Center of the Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts in Ljubljana, Slovenia. His publications include K podobi (Towards the Image) (1996, 2002), and Ljubljana, Ljubljana: The Eighties in Slovene Art and Culture (1991, with Marina Grzinic).
"This crucial study presents an epic narrative of how postmodernism gave the artists of Eastern and Central Europe the expressive means to work their way out from the ruins of state socialism into the global art world in which their compatriots in the West are themselves struggling to find their identity. The authors bring to consciousness the art history of the present from important and unsuspected perspectives. This is not just a book for specialists-it is for everyone who lives the life of art in unprecedented times."—Arthur C. Danto, author of After the End of Art: Contemporary Art and the Pale of History

"A fascinating document in the understanding of one of the decisive cultural moments in the postmodern world. The book's diversity of approaches illuminates both postmodern art and politics from a distinctive angle. Postmodernism and the Postsocialist Condition is likely to become a significant primary source for future cultural historians."—Paul Crowther, author of The Transhistorical Image: Philosophizing Art and Its History

"This fine volume deals with the postmodernist approaches that helped artists and intellectuals cope with political reality after socialism and provided the means to face the cultural vacuum without regressing to premodern attitudes. The book suggests that dissenting voices have a better chance to be heard in smaller countries like Hungary, Cuba, Slovenia, and other republics of the former Yugoslavia. It should indeed make us pay more attention to what has happened and is happening in these countries as well as in larger countries like Russia and China."—Wolfgang Welsch, author of Undoing Aesthetics

"This collection genuinely crackles with vitality. Tracking postmodernism far away from the canonical centers of the modern, it presents an exhilarating patchwork of mythic repetitions, sociopolitical reflections, and sheer creative exuberance."—Stephen Bann, University of Bristol

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