International conference IV: The Art of the Socialist Period between Contempt, Fetishism and Transition

International conference IV: The Art of the Socialist Period between Contempt, Fetishism and Transition
Tirana Art Lab, Tirana, Albania
Natural Historical Museum, Tirana, Albania
29–30 April 2016


HWL _ TAL _ Poster 1

Conference speakers: Sezgin Boynik, Marta Jecu & Jose Manuel Gomes Pinto, Vladan Jeremić, Romeo Kodra, Róna Kopeczky, Gëzim Qëndro, Pirro Vaso, Willem Jan Renders, Jelena Vesić

As part of the “Heroes We Love” project, Tirana Art Lab – Center for Contemporary Art will host the international conference The Art of the Socialist Period between Contempt, Fetishism and Transition and two artistic interventions dedicated to the art of the socialist period in the former Eastern bloc.  The conference will focus on the legacy and perception of the art of the socialist period of the former Eastern bloc in contemporary artist and societies of those countries. Various presentations and panel discussions will explore the contemporary narratives with its dilemmas, relations between local focus and international approach, issues and representations in relation of artistic-curatorial collaborations.

In this event, like in others, Tirana Art Lab remains loyal to its philosophy of promoting artists and researchers of the contemporary art of Central, Eastern and Southern Europe, focusing on the process and research that throbs behind artistic concepts, which embody the crucial movement against contemporary neoliberal reality.

The interventions of the conference speakers will lay out evidence illustrating the complexity of the “former bloc” contexts after the fall of the Berlin Wall, and the perception that these contexts have regarding the art of the socialist past and its linguistic plurality. Through the interventions in this Tirana Art Lab event, an artistic and critical view will be presented, one which shuns the homogeneity which usually characterizes the art of the socialist period and clarifies the construction of contemporary narratives about it.

In conceiving the Tirana Art Lab event, the construction of contemporary narratives on the art of the socialist past constitutes a singularly unique node because these narratives are often materialized by foreign factors and actors, beyond the world of art or even the “former bloc” contexts. It is for this reason that the speakers selected here are ones whose practice is based on a former, current, direct and intimate bond to the context in question and a long experience which eliminates the risk of exotic and alienating readings and interpretations.

In Tirana Art Lab, during our research and activities in the “former bloc” contexts, we had the opportunity to highlight artistic practices and popular trends ranging from denial and contempt to nostalgia and fetishism of the art of the socialist era. We have also encountered contemporary artists who critically deconstruct and re-elaborate the art of socialist realism and modernism. We have encountered artists who go beyond the perception of the art of the socialist era as transitional objects. These artists deconstruct and re-elaborate even the tracks of these practices of denial, contempt, nostalgia and fetish-filled trends which the Socialist era has left behind, in the contemporary era. These artists are incited by and incite with works of art from the socialist period and socialist identity itself. They do not see the “transition period” of the “former bloc” context as an initiatory or formative (de = Bildung) transition towards the pan-European promised land in the name of which more than a quarter century has been sacrificed. It seems as though the artists of this “transition” period, unlike the political rhetoric and mass media contexts of the “former bloc”, have grasped a historic lesson from the sacrifice of the daily for the better world of tomorrow. From this story of the “sacral” and heroic sacrifice – of these 26 years of “transition” towards a “free market democracy” and decades of “the construction of the new communist man and world” – it seems that these contemporary artists have uncovered a common denominator: transition. These artists’ stance towards it, paradoxically, is not transitory, but confrontational, thus, fostering or cultivating the transition.

The artists’ and presenters’ interventions in the “Heroes We Love” event in Tirana will raise questions and explore possible answers, though by no means conclusive. Firstly, questions will be raised which will examine the cultivation of dreams and nightmares in the “former bloc” contexts and the cultivation of a complete and ideal world will be explored, as well, along with its heterotopic and heterochronic gaps. Similarly, the questions and exploration will widen in scope to include not only the perspective of yesterday, but the one of today and tomorrow, enabling the extraction of several axioms for the interpretation of the former bloc realities. Lastly, through these axioms, we will attempt to decipher the erotic formula of the “heroes” with whom “we” consistently fall in “love”, repeating the sacred and heroic cycle of the sacrifice of the daily for the sake of the future.



Friday, 29th April, 2016

14.00 – 14.15   Welcome – Romeo Kodra (Tirana Art Lab)

14.15 – 14.30   Welcome – Melsi Labi (Director of Albanian National Museum of History)

14.30 – 15.30   Pirro Vaso /Romeo Kodra – “Pyramidal Disclosure. Production of Artistic Subjectivity in Albania”

15.45 – 16.30   Marta Jecu / Jose Manuel Gomez Pinto – “Open Monument”

16.45 – 17.15    Coffee Break

17.15 – 18.00   Gëzim Qëndro – “Thanksgiving”

18.15 – 19.00   Vladan Jeremić – “Ironworks ABC” / case study

Saturday, 30th April, 2016

14.00 – 14.45   Jelena Vesić – “Shock-work, Enthusiasm, Workaholism”

15.00 – 15.45   Willem Jan Renders – “Utopia and Reality” / “From Kapital to Capital”

16.00 – 16.30   Coffee Break

16.30 – 17.15    Róna Kopeczky – “Deconstruction of nation building strategies”

17.30 – 18.15    Boynik Sezgin – “Artistic Subjectivity versus National Objectivity”

18.30 – 19.00   Open Discussion

Photos: Eni Derhemi
This event is co-funded by the Creative Europe Programme of the European Union, in cooperation with Allianz Cultural Foundation and the Albanian National Historical Museum.

HWL _ TAL _ Poster