Maja and Reuben Fowkes: Political Ecology in Eastern Europe - Curatorial Perspectives

13.11.2015
Szabolcs Kisspál, Greater Hungaries, 2013. Photo Miklós Surányi
Szabolcs Kisspál, Greater Hungaries, 2013. Photo Miklós Surányi

Lecture (in English), Friday, November 13, 2015, at 7 pm, Škuc Gallery, Stari trg 21, Ljubljana

Curating shows and art projects in Eastern Europe that deal with ecology sometimes brings to mind Don Quixote’s ‘tilting at windmills’, due to the widespread assumption inherited from the socialist era and reinforced by capitalism that the real political issues are to be found elsewhere. By presenting particular moments of artistic and curatorial engagement with ecological questions both from the first wave of global environmental concern in the early 1970s and the contemporary context, this presentation will explore the political dimensions of artistic approaches to ecology in Eastern Europe. Addressing a range of curatorial and artistic strategies, it investigates the politics of cautious official support of artworks in public space dealing with environmental problems and the deeper implications of radical ecological thought for a socialist system based on industrial growth, as well the political challenge of integral ecology to the current systemic crisis in the human relation to the natural world.

The lecture is organised upon the occasion of the recent release of two books on art and ecology by the speakers: Maja Fowkes is the author of The Green Bloc: Neo-avant-garde Art and Ecology under Socialism (2015) and together they published River Ecologies: Contemporary Art and Environmental Humanities on the Danube (2015).

Maja and Reuben Fowkes are co-directors of the Translocal Institute for Contemporary Art, a centre for transnational research into East European art and ecology based in Budapest that operates across the disciplinary boundaries of art history, contemporary art and ecological thought. www.translocal.org


The Green Bloc: Neo-avant-garde Art and Ecology under Socialism
By Maja Fowkes
Central European University Press, 2015

Expanding the horizon of established accounts of Central European art under socialism, this book uncovers the neglected history of artistic engagement with the natural environment in the Eastern Bloc. Focussing on artists and artist groups whose ecological dimension has rarely been considered, including the Pécs Workshop from Hungary, OHO in Slovenia, TOK in Croatia, Rudolf Sikora in Slovakia, and the Czech artist Petr Štembera, The Green Bloc: Neo-avant-garde Art and Ecology under Socialism brings to light an array of distinctive approaches to nature, from attempts to raise environmental awareness among socialist citizens to the exploration of non-anthropocentric positions and the quest for cosmological existence in the midst of red ideology. Embedding artistic production in social, political, and environmental histories of the region, this book reveals the Central European artists' sophisticated relationship to nature, at the precise moment when ecological crisis was first apprehended on a planetary scale.

River Ecologies: Contemporary Art and Environmental Humanities on the Danube
Edited by: Maja and Reuben Fowkes
Translocal Institute, 2015

Challenging anthropocentric conventions that seek to harness the river for economic, cultural and political purposes, River Ecologies places the complex ecological materiality of the Danube at the centre of artistic and scholarly attention. Drawing on the insights of artists, scientists, anthropologists, writers and environmental historians, brought together in the experiential setting of the River School, this collective inquiry journeys to sites of urban and natural wilderness to explore issues of reciprocity, resilience, non-human agency and interspecies solidarity.


Organized by: Igor Zabel Association for Culture and Theory & Škuc Gallery