Fiction Reconstruced: Eastern Europe, Post-Socialism and the Retro-Avant-Garde (2000)

Written by the Slovenian philosopher and media artist Marina Grzinic – Published by edition selene Vienna + Springerin, Vienna, 2000. In Englih, 230 p. with b/w reproductions.

From the introduction in the book Fiction Reconstructed by Marina Grzinic. Published by the permission of the author. All rights reserved:

In this book, my point of departure is a difference between Eastern and Western Europe that I try to conceptualize philosophically, insisting on a difference – a critical difference within and not a special classification method marking the process of grounding differences, such as apartheid, as Trinh T. Minh-ha has suggested. The question of who is allowed to write about the history of art, culture and politics in the area once known as Eastern Europe must be posed alongside questions of how and when those events are marked.

Trinh T. Minh-ha has proposed a model for re-thinking Asian space and the so-called third world through the concept of the “inappropriate/d Other”. This can also be seen as a possibly useful tool to develop specific concepts of reading – the former Eastern European territory. It is time to find and to re-write paradigms of specific spaces, arts and media productions in Eastern Europe. This book can be perceived as a radical theorization of a particular (Eastern European) position; here positioning means repoliticization.

The biggest part of the book focuses on selected artistic projects and concepts by Mladen Stilinovic (Zagreb), Kasimir Malevich (Belgrade, 1986), and the group Irwin (NSK) (Ljubljana), which were developed in the territory of the former Yugoslavia, and continue to function, develop, and mutate. These projects are read via dialectic positioning (i.e., thesis, anti-thesis, and synthesis) within not only countries of the former Yugoslavia, but also Eastern Europe in general. Finally, they are linked with the notion of ‘Retro-Avant-garde,’ or, as I label it, the new ‘ism’ of the East. ‘Retro-Avant-garde’ has developed before the entrance to the third millennium and represents, metaphorically speaking, the ‘soft revolution’ in Eastern European art and culture. However, these artistic processes, as I demonstrate, can be ascribed to numerous philosophical about faces brought on by the media culture itself. They – not only visualize and conceptualize the processes of thought developed within new media and technology, but also conceptualize the system in itself and the operational logic of new media and technology. Within the framework and context of these works, it became possible to detect models of thought and perception, which allows one to question the visible and the political. Moreover, similar strategies are now being developed by new media technologies and interpreted philosophically and theoretically. Consequently, classical arts strategies and concepts have acquired a radically different meaning compared with this reversed media logic.

If these projects give ‘only’ the appearance of dissimilarity and idiosyncrasy, we should consequently question the genesis of this appearance, and attempt to decipher how and by which mechanisms the events themselves created this phantasmagoric surface.

Set in relation to foreign Western European and American capital centers, the media events (i.e., virtual reality, the Internet, the ‘media obsession’ over the war in Bosnia-Herzegovina, etc.) literally metastasized from day to day, opening up innumerable interpretations. I treat new media in an attempt to re-define certain fundamental concepts in the history of philosophy and theory, notably the subject, real/virtual, (public and media) space, in relation to the real war in Bosnia-Herzegovina and the virtual war of the subject with its so-called double in virtual environments.

I deal therefore with political and ethical questions concerning processes of the (de-)visualization and re-articulation of space and time in relation to new media. I inquire whether it is possible to provide – and if so, how – a positive political image of the visible, which opens new possibilities for creating emancipated politics and, albeit in a limited scope, the project of the positive social environment.

The very process of negotiating the mutations of Post-Socialism requires the development of new visual and media strategies that problematize representation and self-representation. In the last part of the book, I propose models and paradigms of alternating identifications that question familiar forms of representation and allow the formation of new forms of articulation. However, and this is the interesting twist, such an interpretation can be also used for positioning and for raising questions of reflection on and articulation of the Post-Socialist ‘Eastern European’ condition. There is something very definite about this condition – it produces a specific spectralization of representation, space and time.

Fiction Reconstructed is also placed within a certain personal interpretative system, a logic in which to develop the theory of aesthetics and politics, and to re-philosophize the Eastern European region. It is the successor to the book entitled In the Line for Virtual Bread. Time, Space, Subject and the New Media in the Year 2000 (ZPS, Ljubljana 1996), in which I presented, linked and supplemented for the internal, Slavic space, the general paradigms of theories and philosophies of the new media in connection with our post-socialist reality. Fiction Reconstructed, on the other hand, offers a very detailed inquiry into specific Post-Socialist art and media strategies.

The essays in the book are therefore the fruits of more than a decade of writing about the artistic, cultural and media events that have taken place in the former Yugoslav territories throughout the 1980’s and 1990’s. Over the years, a number of these essays have been widely published in Slovenia and abroad. All the essays presented in this volume are revisited.

In many ways, the East has not provided the West with the relevant theoretical and interpretative instruments to recognize the uniqueness, idiosyncrasies, diversity and originality of artistic projects in Eastern Europe. There is very little documentation of this history, and sometimes it seems as though even the cultural and theoretical domain of Eastern Europe is incapable of offering interpretation or self-reflection on these projects and phenomena. I hope that this book will help to fill that void.

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