Through a Glass Darkly: Performative Practice…Without Border, Without Name (2011)

by Katarzyna Kosmala, Variant 41, Spring 2011

The socio-economic and ideological transformation of Central and Eastern Europe has accelerated the processes of re-writing ‘identity’ scripts in the region. A new performative turn can now be observed in art production, theory advancement and curatorial initiatives – an approach which involves geographies of shifting borders and appears to coalesce around a feminist critique of dominant politics without addressing it by name. I would argue that such initiatives enact what sociologist Chandra Mohanty refers to as “feminism without borders”1, a politically charged network-based movement raising social justice issues positioned in relation to globalisation and neo-liberalism.

Identification processes are tied to their regions, represented through historical issues and the framings of political events. These processes can be expanded to culturally conditioned, socio-political practices and their geographies. Narratives of belonging to post-Socialist spaces, manifested as a sense of fragmented, resisting, ambivalent and performative micro-hi/stories, reveal both the dynamics of political criticism and subversive positions.

I want to introduce and reflect on art practice broadly enveloped in the Central and Eastern European feminist tactics of today. The intersecting histories and cultures, shared traumas, and recent geo-political conditions within post- Socialist Europe, are embedded in these artists’ cultural practices. By discussing the instances of cultural strategies purposefully located at the tensions between institutional spaces and independent production, my reflections will focus on the Diaspora-infused artistic strategies engaged in cultural forms of representation.

I set out to explore cultural tactics situated in the neo-liberal context of today that point to alternative modes of instituting and relating to society, individuals and institutions. These practices appear to afford illusionary hopes to those areas that are disempowered locally by the inertia effects of global capitalism, and yet also allow for distance to be maintained from such ‘utopian’ pursuits. Accordingly, the questions emerge as to whether feminist-infused critiques can become part of broader histories and social and political struggles, and whether feminist histories transgress the market game concerns and celebrity art-lite of international biennials? Addressing these questions, let us discuss the examples of emergent practice involving geographies of the in-betweens and the post- Socialist European scapes in particular, and their resistance tactics to potential recuperation by the capitalist institution.

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