[spectre] CFP: Rethinking the (Post-)Socialist Body (Florence, 28-30 Sep 23)

Andreas Broeckmann andreas.broeckmann at leuphana.de
Mon May 15 09:52:10 CEST 2023

From: Natalie Arrowsmith
Date: May 12, 2023
Subject: CFP: Rethinking the (Post-)Socialist Body  (Florence, 28-90 Sep 23)

Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florenz - Max-Planck-Institut, Florence, 
Sep 28–30, 2023
Deadline: May 31, 2023

Rethinking the (Post-)Socialist Body. Art, Theory & Politics.
Transdisciplinary workshop at the Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florenz 
– Max-Planck-Institut, organised by Hana Gründler (KHI-MPI) and 
Magdalena Nieslony (Universität Wien) .

28-30 September 2023

The importance of body politics is once again undeniable: the 
idealization or vilification of bodies on ideological grounds, 
restrictions on abortion rights, and the continued exploitation of 
migrant bodies and labor are global phenomena. These are present not 
only in autocratic regimes but increasingly in democratic forms of 
government as well. This becomes abundantly clear in East-Central 
European post-socialist countries, where in recent years we have seen 
among others the explicit body politics of the Polish government as well 
as the return of the heroic body in the media iconography of the 
Ukrainian war. In most of these examples, control over bodies – 
economic, political or otherwise – is not only carried out within the 
framework of jurisprudence or citizenship but, importantly, also through 
means of spatial construction and limitation as well as visual 
representation, negotiation and last but not least negation. The 
question of the visibility or the invisibility of bodies – and the many 
degrees in between, up to what could be called a hyper-visibility – thus 
remains of central aesthetic, ethical and political concern.

These current phenomena shed new light on the political meanings of the 
body and its representations in the former socialist countries of Europe 
– meanings which for some time now have been questioned. An example here 
would be the criticism on the so-called Critical Art of the 1990s and 
2000s, a Polish artistic current largely devoted to reflecting on the 
social and cultural construction of the body. Critical Art has been 
condemned lately for not being politically relevant because it allegedly 
did not reflect on the own neo-liberal conditions and the economic 
hardships of the then freshly introduced turbo-capitalism. Contrary to 
this view, the assertion of the political and ethical significance of 
the body as a motif, material and agent of art is reinforced not only by 
the above mentioned current developments, but also by the fact that the 
preoccupation with the body has a very long history in East-Central 
Europe. In the 1970s, to give one example, body and performance art 
flourished in the ČSSR under the restrictive policy of normalization, 
where the body quite obviously functioned as a medium of resistance. To 
put it short: The body could be defined as the common denominator for 
the art of the region, as was claimed in the seminal exhibition “Body 
and the East. From the 1960s to the Present” (Ljubljana 1998, curated by 
Zdenka Badovinac).

Given how rich and complex the relationship between the body and art in 
East-Central Europe is, we need to flesh out a novel reflection of body 
in its temporal, phenomenological, aesthetic, philosophical and 
political multiplicity, and embed it in a global context. Thus, this 
conference aims to revisit the (post-)socialist body in East-Central 
European art after 1945, discuss its relation to and transformation of 
well-established artistic and theoretical discourses and international 
networks as well as shed light on reflections and notions of the body in 
other disciplines – including, but not limited to, philosophy, 
literature, technology and politics. We are interested in concrete 
historically grounded case studies and broader systematic-methodological 
approaches that help us expand and re-vise the already well-known and 
received interpretations that have largely drawn on Western 
interpretative frames, especially on Michel Foucault's theory of body 
politics. Next to the much researched body art and performances of the 
1970s as well as the transformation period, we are interested in 
theorizing the “Eastern European” body in a variety of different media 
that has found less critical attention (painting, sculpture and 
architecture, for example). We particularly welcome submissions across 
periods and geographical locations and remain committed to inquiries 
that go beyond the well-established temporalities and narratives (e.g. 
1950s, 2000-today).

In terms of contemporary theorization, we might ask: What transformation 
has the idea of the body undergone? What were and are the productive 
concepts across different disciplinary fields that can help us perceive 
and theorize the body? Can we expand the relation of the body and 
“politics” (the apolitical, antipolitics…) beyond well-known accounts? 
What are the political pre-conditions for constructing the body as 
“Eastern European”? And, in terms of conceptual precision, what, 
furthermore, is the critical purchase of “post-Soviet” in the times of 
transnationalism and neoliberalism? Or, more critically, how do the 
aforementioned frames overlap in the more recent conceptualizations and 
representations of the body?

Contributors are invited to present a short talk of about 25 min 
(followed by a discussion). Please send an abstract of max. 2000 
characters and a short CV (summarised in a pdf) in English by e-mail to 
Fridolin Göbel:

fridolin.goebel at khi.fi.it

We kindly request that the abstract be submitted by 31 May 2023.

Feedback on workshop participation as well as information on lodging and 
travel reimbursement will be provided by 18 June 2023.

Reference / Quellennachweis:
CFP: Rethinking the (Post-)Socialist Body  (Florence, 28-90 Sep 23). In: 
ArtHist.net, May 12, 2023. <https://arthist.net/archive/39257>.

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