The Igor Zabel Award for Culture and Theory 2012

Suzana Milevska, art historian, curator and theorist of visual art and culture from Skopje, Macedonia is the recipient of 2012 Igor Zabel Award for Culture and Theory. In addition to the award in the amount of EUR 40,000, three grants, each of EUR 12,000 are being given. The jury granted the Berlin-based Slavicist Sabine Hänsgen and the art historian Klara Kemp-Welch from London; the laureate, Suzana Milevska, gave the third grant to the European Roma Cultural Foundation based in Budapest.

Jury 2012:

Alenka Gregorič, curator and director of Mestna Galerija (Ljubljana)
Yuri Leiderman, artist (Berlin and Moscow)
Hanna Wróblewska, director of the Zachęta National Gallery of Art (Warsaw)

The award ceremony took place in Warsaw at the Zachęta National Gallery of Art on 16 November 2012 accompanied by a conference and presentation of the book Igor Zabel: Contemporary Art Theory.

Laureate 2012

Suzana Milevska is an art historian, curator and theorist of visual art and culture. She is honoured with the Igor Zabel Award for her interdisciplinary approach to both theoretical and curatorial practices. Her work focuses on topics such as arts in post-socialist and transitional societies, collaborative and participatory art practices, gender differences and feminist art, and the construction of visual memory in photographic archives, to name just a few areas. One of her most notable recent curatorial projects was The Renaming Machine  (2008–2010), which focused on the politics of renaming and overwriting memory in politics, art and visual culture in general. In recent years, she has conducted in-depth research projects and prepared exhibitions, talks and symposiums on Roma issues, working mostly with Roma artists. Milevska also remains active in the local art scene as a curator and theorist, where her work plays a vital role for the next generation of artists, theorists and curators. In this respect, the jury views her work as a continuation of the basic premises and principles embodied by the practice of Igor Zabel.

Grant recipients 2012

One of the grants is awarded to Slavicist and culture and media theoretician Sabine Hänsgen (Berlin). The Moscow Conceptualism School is one of her principal areas of interest. Since the beginning of the 1980s, she has built up a video archive of Moscow performance art, which has subsequently transformed into a kind of art installation. Literature and visual activities always went hand-in-hand in Moscow’s conceptual circles: translation and publishing are thus other important elements of Sabine Hänsgen’s work. All her projects lead Sabine Hänsgen to more general questions regarding the creative values of archives in the context of both totalitarian and open societies, towards the border where documentation transforms into poetic gesture. Sabine Hänsgen is herself an artist and a member of the famous Moscow performance art group Collective Actions.

Klara Kemp-Welch is a young British art critic and art historian. She is currently associated with the Courtauld Institute of Art. She is the author of many critical texts, essays and articles published in journals such as Third Text, Art Monthly and Artmargins. Her principal area of interest is the art of the countries of Central and Eastern Europe, as well as those of Latin America, seen, described and interpreted in a political context. She is now also a director of the research project (of which she is a co-founder) Networking the Bloc: East European Experimental Art and International Relations, exploring the non-official exchanges among East European experimental artists and their global counterparts from the Soviet Bloc and the former Yugoslavia in the late socialist period. When awarding her this grant, the jury particularly praised both the theme and the approach to the theme from the perspective of a researcher-outsider (from outside the region) as one that goes beyond the East-West divisions and schemas of thinking that still dominate research, as well as the broad (supra-regional) research field which the project demarcates.

Third working grant is traditionally dedicated by the laureate. Suzana Milevska awarded the European Roma Cultural Foundation with this working grant.

“I want to give the grant to the European Roma Cultural Foundation (ERCF), an independent non-profit foundation that was established in 2010, in Budapest, Hungary, with the principal goal of strengthening and widely promoting the role of the arts and culture of Roma people in an enlarged Europe and elsewhere. The team behind this organisation (its Advisory and Curatorial Boards) consists of several Roma and non-Roma theorists and curators who have dedicated their careers to revising the received knowledge about the traditional and contemporary art and culture of Roma by pinning down issues debated through post-colonial theory and critique such as the essentialisation of Roma identity, cultural differences, hybridisation and subjectivity. The research of the ERCF and their curatorial and activist projects are engaged in a continual fight against negative stereotypes and hostile attitudes towards Roma communities by dealing with the most delicate and urgent issues, such as the Roma Holocaust, anti-Roma sentiment and racism. I strongly believe that Roma communities and all of us will benefit from their profound and committed approach and from their fight for social justice for Roma communities in the extremely hostile nationalist-oriented political environment of contemporary Hungary.” (Suzana Milevska)

Photo: Marek Krzyzanek
Photo: Marek Krzyzanek

After the award

In 2020, we asked previous recipients to reflect on the impact of the award.

Klara Kemp-Welch

“The Igor Zabel Grant was critical in providing support for the research and writing of my book Networking the Bloc: Experimental Art in Eastern Europe 1965–1989 (MIT Press, Cambridge, MA and London, 2018). The project involved extensive travel in order to attend relevant conferences, work in archives, and interview artists across Central and Eastern Europe. The grant enabled me to make the most of these trips, to purchase relevant international publications, and, above all, it gave me the time I needed to focus on the organization of my materials and writing.”

Sabine Hänsgen

“The Igor Zabel Award Grant was a gift that allowed me to spend time inspired by “purposefulness without purpose”. During this time, I developed some of the initial ideas for what later became the research and exhibition project Poetry & Performance: The Eastern European Perspective. Poetry and performance as ephemeral genres presented an opportunity to look for alternative forms of communication and cooperation beyond state culture, the market economy, and mass media circulation. The focus on artistic positions from Eastern Europe does not imply a territorialization of the topic. With the term “perspective”, we aim to change the viewpoint in order to open up new horizons of reflection on what we do and what we are able to do with language in general.”