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Confrontations: Sessions in East European Art History

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Deterritorialising Modernity

3 March 2020

Asja Mandić

After the group seminar and thought-provoking presentations in Museum Sztuki/MS 1, the group headed to the newest museum branch, MS 2 for a guided tour with Joanna Sokolowska who showed us the museum collection through the Atlas of Modernity exhibition.

The venue, located inside Manufactura, the former 19th century factory complex, now the city’s main touristic hub, associates the museum to the world of spectacle, entertainment and leisure culture of the post-industrial consumer society. Enveloped in the redbrick, it does retain the image of the mill factory, nevertheless the interior gallery spaces are somewhat conscious of the modern white cube. Atlas of Modernity reflects a similar mode. Modernity, the ideas about it and the experience of modernity in the 20th century art as well as its traces in recent artistic practices, as the main conceptual framework of this show, directs presentation of national as well as international pieces from the collection. Rather than providing an historical overview of modern art in Poland, the exhibition pinpoints several themes, like the points in an atlas or a map, among which are machine, progress, capital, revolution, emancipation, but also autonomy and the self. Arranged in a manner to correspond to this web of ideas or fragments of modernity, the works from various media, time periods as well as stylistic features, make very interesting juxtapositions.

This inspiring museum visit brought us back to some questions addressed in our previous discussions, such as relationship between socialism and modernisation, issues of socialist modernity… as well as to the notion that “socialism and modernity do coexist”. (Tomáš Pospiszyl)

Institute of Art History

MajaFowkes29 April 2019

Still in Zagreb, next morning we visited the Institute of Art History, where the group met with art historian Sandra Križić Roban for a seminar on the history of the Institute and the art history journal, Život umjetnosti, of which until recently she was the editor in chief.She emphasised the role of particular individuals in determining and building up the profession of art history after the Second World War, while discussion also shifted towards the confrontation between EXAT51 and Edo Murtić over their designs for a mural in the Ritz Bar nightclub in 1953 as epitomising the struggle between competing streams of modernism in Yugoslavia after the Stalin-Tito split of 1948.  We also had a tour around the building, one of the most representative achievements of socialist-era architecture and design, which opened in 1961 as the Moša Pijade Workers and Peoples University.  The tour even took us into the basement of the institution, a trapdoor into a past world and a reminder that the infrastructure of the present is built upon the material world created by socialist modernity.
(MRF)