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Confrontations: Sessions in East European Art History

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Speculative Futures

MajaFowkes5 November 2019

An open seminar at the Academy of Fine Arts set out to bring together feminist, post-socialist and decolonial perspectives on post-war national art collections, with a particular focus on the case of the National Gallery in Prague. Participants in the panel included Daniela Kramerová, who had been involved in preparing a far advanced proposal for rehanging the modern and contemporary collection of the gallery that was eventually cancelled. She used the opportunity to present her working version in public and disclose the curatorial processes behind such a task, as well as the pressure exerted by the museum management. Julia Bailey, as a representative of the National Gallery, shared her delicate perspective as a non-native curator working on the Czech national collection, as well as attempts to bring in international experience of diversifying arts funding. Karina Kottová represented the views of the collectively founded Feminist Art Institution, encouraging the audience to imagine what a feminist approach would mean in terms of the praxis of the National Gallery, while also extending solidarity to unrepresented groups within the national canon, such as Roma artists. Finally Jan Skřivánek also contributed to the discussion of how to incorporate diverse art practise into museum collections and offer new interpretations of Czech art history through non-traditional exhibition displays.

(Maja & Reuben Fowkes)

The panel discussion ‘Questioning the National Collection’ demonstrated the difficulties and to some extent the failure to establish a discourse or narration of the post war period. It became obvious that the shadows of the present are overlapping with the past and vice versa. Once again, this panel discussion revealed the process of constructing history and history as a construction. It also showed that the construction of history reflects much more the present and its actual debates. Therefore, it draws much more a picture of the present than of the past.

(Constanze Fritzsch)

Before the Nineties

MajaFowkes29 April 2019

The group had a further chance to connect with the Zagreb art scene during an Open Seminar held at the Institute of Contemporary Art Zagreb. After an insightful and in depth analysis by art historian Leonida Kovač of the singular oeuvre of Edita Schubert (1947-2001), an artist whose practice still awaits international recognition, the evening carried on with an engaging conversation exploring the heterogenous streams of eighties art with curator and director of the ICA, Janka Vukmir.

The issues that were addressed included the importance of alternative art venues such as the Gallery of Extended Media in providing a platform for subcultural trends and the visual arts. Furthermore, what can be salvaged from the interrupted legacy of the time before the nineties?

Afterwards our speakers joined us for a memorable dinner. On our last night in Zagreb, everyone was full of impressions and keen to exchange notes and deepen acquaintances with fellow members of Confrontations.
(MRF)