Specters of Socialist Realism in Contemporary Art: Poland and Ukraine

Screening and conversation with Magdalena Moskalewicz and Lada Nakonechna

What traces have been left in the arts after the collapse of the Soviet Union? How do the specters of Socialist Realism still fuel the discussions about the past and impact the artistic present of two independent Eastern European countries?

This screening and conversation will consider Poland and Ukraine, two art scenes that shared the Socialist Realist doctrine in the 1950s but went two different paths later in the Communist era. While Poland enjoyed certain liberties that allowed it to develop robust modern art, Ukraine continued facing strict censorship that held its culture hostage within the figurative canon. 

This conversation will take as a point of departure two artworks that investigate Socialist Realism from a contemporary perspective: Joanna Malinowska and C.T. Jasper’s “Who is Afraid of Natasha?” (2021) and R.E.P. group’s “R.E.P. correspondent: Academy” (2006). Both videos use documentary language to investigate the spirits that lurk in the lingering images occupying the politics of memory; those that settled in the field of art education as well as the construction of public spaces in the post-Communist Eastern Europe. The conversation will attempt to capture those specters, including their presence in new state policies.

Dr. Magdalena Moskalewicz is an art historian, curator, and editor based in Chicago who has engaged in revisionist rewriting of art histories through both academic research and curatorial practice. Her research mostly focuses on the former Eastern Europe, while her curatorial projects examine the postsocialist condition and its parallels with postcoloniality. Moskalewicz published internationally on Eastern European neo-avantgardes, including their connection to Fluxus, Socialist Realism, Cold War exhibition histories as well as contemporary art practices

Lada Nakonechna is an artist and researcher. She was involved in a number of collective projects such as R.E.P. artists group and curatorial union Hudrada, cofounder of ISTM—the Art Workers’ Self-defense Initiative (2011–2013). From 2015 she is co-curator of the educational and scientific programs of the Method Fund, an independent, nonprofit organization aimed at developing contemporary art and culture in Ukraine. In 2022, Nakonechna was a guest lecturer at the University of Fine Arts Hamburg, and in 2023 joined the documenta Institute as a research fellow. She is currently a doctoral candidate at the University of Kassel researching the Modernist and Socialist Realist Artistic Paradigms in Kyiv Art Institute. As an artist she uses institutional critique approaches to investigate the connection of art with the practices of power production.

This event is realized in the frame of the documenta Institute lecture series “Global Modernities?” as an addition to the lecture on July 15, "The Aesthetics of Communist Modernity. System versus Style," by Magdalena Moskalewicz, 6 pm, Fridericianum, Kassel https://www.documenta-institut.de/en/artikel/global-modernities

Location: Kunsthochschule Kassel, seminar room 0223 (atrium)
Time: Tuesday, July 16, 10 a.m. - 12 p.m.
No admission required.
The event will be held in English.