How can the perspective of postcolonialism be applied to the Baltic and Eastern European region? What are the relationships between natural and artificial systems in the region and what are the discourses surrounding them? How can we change our attitude towards nature, intercalating ecocritical positions with posthumanist ecology, through discourse, visual culture, research, and contemporary art? How can we rethink the ways we can create a diverse and inclusive society, regarding multiple identities? Do these processes in the Baltics seek to be involved in, influenced by or shape their own narratives in the transnational debates? How have these questions been revealed in culture and art and what are the specifics of the flow of ideas in both historical and contemporary perspectives in the region?
Since 2020 the Latvian Centre for Contemporary Art in collaboration with Kumu Art Museum is organising online discussion and reading workshop series “Reflecting Post-Socialism through Post-Colonialism in the Baltics”. These series bring together artists, curators and interdisciplinary researchers dealing with the Baltic region, its neighbouring regions, as well as in broader geographies, with the aim to analyse the imprints of post-socialism and post-colonialism and their impact on contemporary realities. The project seeks to create dialogues and contribute to exchanges that foster new ways of studying the complex postcolonial and post-socialist legacy in the Baltic region. Alongside the contexts of social and political changes, gender and identity issues, discourses of nationalism and decoloniality, these series particularly focus on environmental history and the current ecological crisis.
Curators: Ieva Astahovska, Linda Kaljundi
Indigeneity is a complicated construct. It depends on the existence of a foreigner or outsider who asserts power, dominion, or control despite the ongoing reality and pre-existence of local sovereignty. As colonialism becomes an increasingly influential lens through which to view Baltic history and culture, the meanings, possibilities, and limitations of “indigeneity” assume new urgency. However, the desire to understand an indigenous culture creates other complex issues. Claiming indigeneity became relevant to the forms of symbolic resistance during the Soviet occupation and to the complex relations with national and local minority cultures in the post-Soviet region. However, Baltic “indigeneity” flirts with ethnic nationalism and its claims of authenticity.
Participants: Bart Pushaw, Toms Ķencis, Valters Sīlis, Kristina Norman, Anna Varfolomeeva. Moderators: Linda Kaljundi, Ieva Astahovska.
See more information about the discussion here, and watch the video recordings of the presentations and discussion here.
Decolonialism is not only about critical revisiting of the historical colonial legacy, it also brings new perspectives on how to rethink the complex relations between past and present, especially in terms of the impact of colonial, imperial or occupying power even after its apparent end. In Eastern Europe and the post-Soviet region, decolonial approaches have gained new urgency with Russia's invasion of Ukraine, whose real aim is to effectively restore the imperial power of the past.
The panel discussion focuses on the resistance to the ruining impact of Russia’s war against Ukraine through cultural, ecological, and artistic practices. The speakers discuss the main current threats and the various ways in which Ukraine’s nature and built environment affected by the ruination can experience regeneration and transformation as decolonizing processes. By merging artistic and academic perspectives, the panel will explore how the nature-culture relationship in Ukraine acts as a moving force for resilience, stoicism, and reinvigoration in the face of ongoing violence and destruction.
Participants: Alevtina Kakhidze, Darya Tsymbalyuk, Svitlana Matviyenko, Dmytro Chepurnyi.
Moderated by Svitlana Biedarieva
The present functions of urban gardens, but also their global, colonial and regional histories and heritage are increasingly addressed by artists, making gardening and plants an integral part of contemporary artistic practice. Artists engage gardens as micro-models of our society, incorporating its strengths and weaknesses, histories of segregation and dreams of equality, all while bringing to the fore ecological, communal and participatory concerns. As with all environmental art practices, however, this also raises questions concerning the role of art in the Anthropocene. What are the possibilities of working with gardening as an artistic practice? How can we position ourselves between urban, ecological or community activism and art? Is it even necessary? What ethical and other issues relate to engaging plants and people in these artistic projects?
Participants: Maija Demitere, Evelina Simkute, Mari-Leen Kiipli, Laurie Cluitmans, Laura Kuusk.
Moderators: Linda Kaljundi and Ieva Astahovska.
The outbreak of the Russian war against Ukraine, questions of coloniality, anti-coloniality, post-coloniality and decoloniality have become especially urgent and have gained new importance, as they are becoming reconsidered in public discussion. The online reading workshop on decolonisation narratives in context of Ukraine with art historian and curator Svitlana Biedarieva discussed three texts by Ukrainian artists and scholars – Daria Badior, Oleksiy Radynski and Yaroslav Hrytsak.
During the discussion artists, curators and researchers from Ukraine talked about their works dealing with the entanglements of past and present, memory and cultural decolonization. Collecting, accumulating, and articulating these issues of society’s blind spots, these artists have been building a critical mass of knowledge that are essential in building “a political nation capable of embracing multiple identities, on the foundations of traumatic experiences of the Soviet collectivity and post-Soviet aggressive individuality, colonial recasting of identities and post-colonial national take-over, Soviet totalitarianism and post-Soviet authoritarianism,” as Kateryna Botanova sums up.
Participants: Svitlana Biedarieva, Lia Dostlieva and Andrii Dostliev, Nikolay Karabinovych, Olia Mykhailiuk, Lada Nakonechna, Kateryna Botanova.
Moderators: Ieva Astahovska and Linda Kaljundi.
How do we understand the agency and significance of material forces and their interface with human bodies? What does it mean to be human in these times, with bodies that are inextricably interconnected with our physical world? This reading workshop on environmentalism and ecofeminism organised in collaboration with semiotician Kadri Tüür is addressing the issues of anthropocene, climate change and environmentalism through the prism of ecofeminism, inquiring what does it mean to be human in the current ecological and sociopolitical climate.
See more information about the workshop here.
Gender equality policy in the Baltic and broader postsocialist region is challenged by various aspects that have deformed the idea of gender parity. We often come across claims that the presence of feminism in today’s social, economic and cultural space must be justified, and one has to explain that feminism and strategies of women’s movements aren’t “foreign traditions” borrowed from the West, but that they have a deep history in our region. In this discussion researchers and artists from the Baltic region discuss these issues based on their practice, both artistic strategies and research, tracking stages of change at different periods of time.
Participants: Maria Kapajeva, Piret Karro, Agne Bagdžiunaite, Ieva Melgalve, Madina Tlostanova.
Moderator: Andra Silapētere.
The workshop organised in collaboration with cultural historian and cultural sociologist Eglė Rindzevičiūtė is addressing the Cold War or dissonant heritage and the landscapes of technologically political infrastructures in the Baltics and elsewhere. Nowadays, with the focus on the Anthropocene, planetary care and decolonisation, suggestions prevail on how to transform, rather than to ignore or erase, this heritage, and to adapt it to today’s technological, social and cultural contexts.
See more information about the workshop here.
Attempts to write and curate art histories from ecocritical and environmental perspectives appear emblematic of the contemporary art and museum scene. While these efforts are also characterised by an increasing awareness about the importance of approaching art history from global, comparative and transnational perspectives, they are also facing an already existing and well-established tradition of ecocritical art history that has been produced from the perspective of the West. In the discussion researchers and curators dealing with the Baltic region talked about challenges based on their own experiences of writing and curating Baltic art history from ecocritical and environmental perspectives and deprovincialising environmental histories hidden in the peripheries of Eastern European art history.
Participants: Bart Pushaw, Inga Lāce, Eda Tuulberg, Nomeda and Gediminas Urbonas, Maja and Reuben Fowkes.
Moderators: Linda Kaljundi, Ieva Astahovska.
The visible traces of the Soviet period in the Baltic landscapes include diverse and numerous technologically political infrastructures. Nowadays, with the focus on the Anthropocene, planetary care and decolonisation, suggestions prevail on how to transform, rather than to ignore or erase, this heritage. In this discussion artists and researchers from the Baltic region discussed how we might find new strategies for its use, adapting it to today’s technological, social and cultural contexts.
Participants: Eglė Rindzevičiūtė, Hilkka Hiiop, Kati Lindström, Raitis Šmits, Linara Dovydaitytė, Ele Carpenter.
Moderators: Ieva Astahovska, Linda Kaljundi.
New research has put attention on the different faces of the Counterculture that emerged and spread in Eastern Europe under communist rule in the late 1960s and 1970s. Communes, psychedelics and other aspects of the hippie lifestyle were embraced as alternatives both to conservative 'bourgeois' life and the hollow revolutionary rhetoric of Soviet power. Some took a more ideological approach by aligning themselves to the Civil Rights and the Anti-Vietnam War movements in the West, or by drawing inspiration from the liberation movements in Cuba and Africa or even the Cultural Revolution in Mao's China. Sexuality and gender also formed new fronts of political action and thinking. In this workshop contributors explored the ways in which Counter-Cultural affinities and New Left politics – defined broadly – were channelled by artists, theatre, film-makers, writers, musicians and others in Eastern Europe in the 1960s and 1970s.
Moderators: Ieva Astahovska, David Crowley and Mari Laanements.
Keynote: Keti Chukhrov.
Participants: Gabriela Świtek, Marko Zubak, Dorota Jarecka, Paulina Olszewska, Magdalena Radomska, Wiktoria Szczupacka, David Crowley, Alessandra Franetovich, Cristian Nae, Ana Peraica, Samo Oleami, Agata Jakubowska.
The discussion focused on issues of gender, sexuality, queerness, and feminism, analysing these issues in the Baltic states and within the larger context of post-socialist region, as well as their reflection in the contemporary culture. The focus of the conversation regarded questions on how contemporary culture practices can enhance the understanding of various aspects of equality, as well as how to consider the entanglement of past in the present through the perspective of queer studies.
Participants: Yevgeniy Fiks, Agnė Jokšė, Matīss Gricmanis, Rita Ruduša, Airi Triisberg.
Moderator: Andra Silapētere.
Environmental issues exceed the national or even the regional borders, nevertheless, there are specific nodes that form the local attitudes, and impact policies–from the local discourses regarding nature, environment and climate, to energy and transport systems and other infrastructures. The discussion focused on eco-critical examinations from fields of contemporary art, architecture, geography and other practices across the Baltic region to determine the past and present entanglements at stake surrounding the natural environment and imagining potential futures of our human-environment systems.
Participants: Artis Svece un Anita Zariņa, Jonas Žukauskas, Jurga Daubaraite & Egija Inzule, Redi Koobak, Lukas Brašiskis.
Respondent: Epp Annus.
Moderator: Inga Lāce.
The understanding of colonialism in the Baltic States represents the complexity of historical processes in the region. It has been affected both by the Soviet and post-Soviet experience and the historical memory of earlier powers in the territories of the Baltic States; these understandings are also inseparably intertwined with constructions of national identity and self-confidence. The discussion focused on the legacy of the colonial past in the Baltics. How can we think about the legacy of the colonial past in our region through a critical perspective? How do memory institutions work to rethink those legacies today?
Participants: Inga Lāce, Bart Pushaw, Quinsy Gario, Karolis Kaupinis, Dace Dzenovska, Linda Kaljundi.
Moderator: Ieva Astahovska.
Project is supported by