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This exhibition takes its title from the German word
ostalgie, a term that emerged in the 1990s to describe a sense of longing and nostalgia for the era before the collapse of the Communist Bloc (Ost means East). Twenty years ago—after the fall of the Berlin Wall—a process of dissolution led to the break-up of the Soviet Union and many other countries that had been united under Communist governments.

From the Baltic republics to the Balkans, from Central Europe to Central Asia, entire regions and nations were reconfigured, their constitutions rewritten, their borders redrawn. Ostalgia looks at the art produced in and about some of these countries, many of which did not formally exist two decades ago. Mixing private confessions and collective traumas, the exhibition traces a psychological landscape in which individuals and entire societies must negotiate new relationships to history, geography and ideology.

Ostalgia brings together the work of more than 50 artists from 20 countries across Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Republics. Many of the works offer a series of reportages on aspects of life and art under Communism and in the new post-Soviet countries. The exhibition pays particular attention to the unique place that artists came to occupy in Socialist countries, acting simultaneously as outcasts, visionaries and witnesses. Unlike a conventional geographical survey, the exhibition includes works produced by Western European artists who have grappled with the reality and the myth of the East.

Some of the preoccupations that unite the artists in
Ostalgia are a romantic belief in the power of art as a transformative, almost curative agent; an obsession with language; the conception of a new aesthetic of the body; a fascination with the ruins of history as represented by monuments and architectural vestiges; and an understanding of artwork as a form of sentimental documentary that mediates between cultural pressures and individual anxieties.

Combining seminal figures and younger artists,
Ostalgia does not follow a chronological perspective, establishing instead a series of dialogues between different generations and geographies. Zigzagging across distant cultural landscapes, the exhibition exposes local avant-garde practices and highlights international affinities, which indirectly question the centrality of Western art historical paradigms.

Ostalgia is curated by Massimiliano Gioni, Associate Director and Director of Exhibitions, with Jarrett Gregory, Assistant Curator.


Other Language(s): Polish

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