[Marxism] Stalin was a muse?

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Tue Jul 26 07:59:27 MDT 2011


Stalin Was a Muse

"Ostalgia," a giant exhibition at the New Museum, shows how the 
pains of communism made art matter more

A still from a 2008 video called “Perestroika Chronicles”, by 
Dmitry Vilensky, one of more than 50 artists in “Ostalgia,” an 
excellent show now filling all five floors of the New Museum in 
New York. It presents Eastern European art made during or in the 
wake of communism’s last days. The exhibition’s title comes from a 
  German coinage referring to nostalgia for the old communist east 
(“Ost” in German). But that “-algia” suffix reminds me more of 
words like “neuralgia”, all about pain and discomfort. The amazing 
thing is that the painful repressions and privations of communism 
seem to have made it almost easier to make good, significant art. 
Even the most minor act of resistance and expression – and only 
minor acts were possible – had artistic power. Acting out, in one 
way or another, was what mattered, and it turned the entire world 
of aesthetics into a kind of theater of the absurd.

Vilensky’s piece, from the fifth, “documentary” floor of the show, 
simply assembles silent footage of demonstrations that led up to 
the rending of the Iron Curtain. This was the real theater that 
mattered, but it sets the stage for the theatrics that artists got 
up to around the same time. Even if you weren’t acting on the 
historical stage, you could act out symbolically through art, and 
have that matter almost as much. (All five of this week’s Daily 
Pics will be culled from “Ostalgia”.)

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