This article focuses on some of the ways in which subjectivization, representation, and self-representation have been carried out in Eastern Europe and on the role that art plays in these processes. The author first points to two related features of the region: an absence of a common point of identification and a split between the view from the outside and that from within the region. Although it appears that Eastern Europe has existed as a self-reflected regional identity, it existed as such only at the time of the Cold War; otherwise, a self-reflected identity existed only in its constitutive (national) parts. Rancière’s notions of “voice” and “speech” are introduced, with “speech” being proposed as a precondition for subjectivization and political representation. Various analytic approaches in the study of Eastern Europe and its history are then explored, leading to the conclusion that the frequent application of postcolonial theories to the study of the region is to some extent enlightening but essentially insufficient. The author then broaches the main topic of the article—the import of Eastern European art in recent processes of subjectivization, identification, and representation of the region’s constitutive parts. These started in the 1980s and reached their apogee in the decade after 1989, when art acquired a central place and an unprecedented role in Eastern European societies, for it not only expressed and reflected upon the ongoing political and social events but also supplied persuasive artistic achievements that facilitated Eastern Europe’s progressive proximity to Western Europe. This special position of art in the region diminished with the historical developments that followed, which no longer necessitated or supported such an extraordinary place of art in the former East Europe.
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Aleš Erjavec; Eastern Europe, Art, and the Politics of Representation. boundary 2 1 February 2014; 41 (1): 51–77. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/01903659-2409775
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