Party Lines, Counterpropositions and (Post-)Socialist Spaces

Collectivities Otherwise

Picking up on a series of conversations spanning Kassel and Amsterdam around the recent documenta fifteen, Collectivities Otherwise is presented on the anniversary of the opening of the so-called Iron Curtain. We explore collectivity in this historical context and in critical relation to media technologies and socialist memory / memories of former East Germany, post-socialist Europe and Central Asia.

This event is on-site only.

The event opens with a lecture from feminist art historian and curator Susanne Altmann, which is developed from her research project When Technology Was Female. Here, Altmann traces the resonances (and dissonances) between collective production and thinking of the post-revolutionary, soon-to-be Soviet territories (c.1918) up through the 1980s when new generations of artists—specifically female artists—in East Germany and the broader Eastern Bloc began taking up the tenants of Soviet avant-garde media experimentation but critically devoid of the promises of the Communist machine age. Parallel to her tracking of artists’ shifting relations to these promises of technology, Altmann also examines how entangled notions of “the collective” were reclaimed and re-articulated out- and alongside its status as an ideological tool of the socialist party apparatus.

Following her talk, Altmann engages in a roundtable discussion with Professor Christa-Maria Lerm Hayes (University of Amsterdam), Eszter Szakaćs (co-founder, OFF Biennial Budapest) and Robbie Schweiger (Research Collections, Stedelijk Museum) on the contested notions of collectivity operative across (post-)socialist spaces then and now. The conversation is moderated by If I Can’t Dance programme curator Megan Hoetger.

This event is a part of Susanne Altmann’s When Technology Was Female, a research project commissioned by If I Can’t Dance and curated by Megan Hoetger.

About the speakers

Susanne Altmann is an independent feminist art historian, curator and leading scholar in the contextualisation of women’s artistic production in former East Germany. Recent projects include the landmark exhibition The Medea Insurrection: Women Artists Behind the Iron Curtain, Albertinum, Dresden State Art Collections, 2018 and the Wende Museum, Los Angeles, 2020; the exhibition Pants Wear Skirts: The Erfurt Women Artists’ Group 1984–1994 (co-curator), neue Gesellschaft für bildende Kunst, Berlin, 2021; and a literary transcription of British artist Monica Ross’s text- based work Valentine (2022).

Christa-Maria Lerm Hayes is Professor of Modern and Contemporary Art History, University of Amsterdam and academic director of the Amsterdam School for Heritage, Memory and Material Culture. She is interested in social art practices, performance, post-war art histories and art(istic) research. Her books include: Brian O’Doherty/Patrick Ireland: Word, Image and Institutional Critique (ed., Valiz 2017); Post-War Germany and ‘Objective Chance’: W.G. Sebald, Joseph Beuys and Tacita Dean (Steidl 2011); Joyce in Art (Lilliput 2004); and James Joyce als Inspirationsquelle für Joseph Beuys (Olms 2001). She has curated internationally.

Robbie Schweiger has worked as a curator, researcher, writer, and educator. He studied art history at the University of Amsterdam and Russian and Eurasian Studies at Leiden University. Since 2019 he has been affiliated with the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam as a researcher of collections (archive, library, and art collection). For his research on artist networks in Central Asia he received a NWO museum grant in 2021.

Eszter Szakács is a curator, researcher, and Ph.D. candidate at ASCA at the University of Amsterdam, where she is taking part in the project IMAGINART. She is on the curatorial team of the grassroots art initiative OFF-Biennale Budapest, with which they are lumbung members and documenta fifteen participants. Szakaćs was a member of the East Europe Biennial Alliance team that collectively curated the Kyiv Biennial in 2021. Eszter’s research and writing revolve around grassroots art organizing outside state art infrastructures.

Megan Hoetger (moderator) is a performance historian, curator and researcher. She holds a PhD in performance studies and, since 2019, is a programme curator with If I Can’t Dance, I Don’t Want To Be Part Of Your Revolution. She was a 2021-22 BAK Fellow, Utrecht, and has previously held fellowship and research positions at Ghent University and the Dresden State Art Collections. From 2019-22 she was a contributor to the Whole Life Project at Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin. Her work focuses on transnational distribution infrastructures and event cultures.

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