Piotr Piotrowski: Europe on the Crossroads, or Affirmative Critique


Tuesday, 23 September 2014, at 6 pm
UGM | Maribor Art Gallery, Strossmayerjeva 6, Maribor

Lecture is being prepared by the UGM | Maribor Art Gallery and the Igor Zabel Association for Culture and Theory; lecture will be held in English.

Piotr Piotrowski: Europe on the Crossroads, or Affirmative Critique
The main question I would like to raise in my paper is what kind of critique can we make in order to reveal or even defend the idea of a Europe that has been facing post-colonial, post-totalitarian and maybe post-democratic processes from 1989 up till today. In trying to answer this question, I will develop a method called (after Rosi Braidotti, among others) “affirmative critique” and analyze – as case studies – two European exhibitions: Gender Check (Vienna, 2009) and The Desire for Freedom: Art in Europe since 1945 (Berlin, 2012). The main problem that occurs from that analysis is: what kind of a prospect of the future might be developed from the premises of these exhibitions, especially in terms of a global context, and whether or not European culture, tradition and historical experience, especially recent experience, can provide an ideological background for shaping the new world. Since the second exhibition drew its concept and theoretical framework from Reinhart Koselleck’s Critique and Crisis (1954) with his rather pessimistic vision of the dialectics of the Enlightenment, I would refer instead to his later text “Space of Experience and the Horizon of Expectation” (from the Future Past, 1979), which I find somehow to be an alternative to the previous one. Thus, the final point would be: can the utopia originated from the Enlightenment, i. e. the European idea par excellence, break the private space of desire for freedom and fulfill the public expectation of human rights on a global scale?  

Piotr Piotrowski is a professor ordinarius at the art history department at Adam Mickiewicz University, Poznan, Poland, which he chaired from 1999 to 2008, and a permanent research fellow of the Graduate School for East and South-East European Studies, Ludwig-Maximillians University, Munich and Regensburg University. He is also a former director of the National Museum in Warsaw (2009–10) and a visiting professor at Humboldt University (2011–12), Warsaw University (2011, 2012–13), the Center for Curatorial Studies, Bard College, USA (2001) and Hebrew University in Jerusalem (2003). He was a fellow at – among others – the Center for Advanced Studies in the Visual Arts, Washington D.C. (1989–90), Columbia University (1994), the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, NJ (2000), Collegium Budapest (2005–06) and the Clark Art Institute, Williamstown, MA (2009). He is the author of a dozen books, including: Meanings of Modernism (1999, 2011), In the Shadow of Yalta. Art and the Avant-garde in Eastern Europe (2005, English 2009, Croatian 2011), Art After Politics (2007), Art and Democracy in Post-Communist Europe (2010, English 2012) and Critical Museum (2011, Serbian 2013), as well as editor, co-editor and co-author of many others. For his scholarly achievements, Piotrowski has received, among others, the Jan Dlugosz Award (2006) and the Igor Zabel Award for Culture and Theory (2010).