Neighboring Alterity: Eastern European Art and Global Art Studies
The European today in art historical writing faces the Eastern European yesterday. Intentional laminations of national and ethnic ‘legacies’, still present in research, preserve the old directionality of art history and go against every attempt to overcome the traditional image of absorptive Easternness and progressive Westernness. Consequently, Eastern European art after WWII is still appealing due to its projected obscure anachronistic clichés based on escapist visions of modernist resistance against oppression taken from the long 20th century and cultivated primarily during the Cold War. This deficiency creates a challenge for the transcultural and global approaches. The latter not only try to overthrow the directionality, but also to recognize timely differences between intention, production and reception, as described long ago e.g. by George Kubler. These are essential in comprehending the past and contemporary world art scenes without falling into a new generation of comparative and formalistic art historical colonialism. Within the ongoing endeavors of furnishing Eastern European art production with easily legible ‘Eastern’ labels, the corpus delicti still are, however, certain Western notions of art’s autonomy, which at a certain time shaped certain debates on modernity. This introductory essay shows this problem in relation to selected contemporary artistic interventions dealing with remembrance and oblivion.