SUMMER SCHOOL | The Big Shift: the 1990s. Avant-gardes in Eastern Europe and Their Legacy
23 August 2019 — 30 August 2019

Marko Peljhan, Makrolab, MAKROLAB mark IIex CAMPALTO ISLAND OPERATIONS, part of the Individual Systems, curated by Igor Zabel at the Venice Biennale 2003



The Big Shift: the 1990s. Avant-gardes in Eastern Europe and Their Legacy


Museum of Modern Art plus Museum of Contemporary Art Metelkova, MG+MSUM

23 to 30 August 2019


The last week in August, Moderna galerija in Ljubljana is organizing, for the second year in a row, an international summer school. Entitled The Big Shift: The 1990s Avant-gardes in Eastern Europe and Their Legacy, the summer school is taking place in both Moderna galerija’s museums, the Museum of Modern Art and the Museum of Contemporary Art Metelkova.


This year’s summer school continues to draw on the topics related to the legacy of Eastern European avant-gardes. A particular emphasis will be placed on the major changes caused by the collapse of socialism, the end of the Cold War and the restoration of capitalism in the late 1980s to the early 1990s. The discussions will focus on the paradigm of an avant-garde artist and art that was thoroughly shaken and altered in the 1990s.


During the socialist era, the main point of reference for Eastern European (including Russian) art was the Communist ideology and the conflict with the West. Today, the main (explicit or non-explicit) points of reference are the new nationalist and populist movements in Europe and the attempts to define one’s cultural identity by artistic means. This also implies a reassessment and reinterpretation of the avant-garde traditions and of the socialist past.


The summer school will be organized around four major topics: Art and Economy,

Art and War, Art and Identity and the Third Path.


In the 1990s, the rapid transition to capitalism brought many new elements in the field of culture. In Eastern Europe, art and culture lost their previous absolute state protection, and private initiatives became important; nonetheless, the state continues to be the principal provider of art funds to this day. In the 1990s, art collectives, so characteristic of the socialist era, transformed: some artists organized in NGOs, or artist-run spaces, or small institutions. Now artists have somehow stopped fighting the wheels of history and ideology and started pragmatically adapting to or resisting the same thing: the all-powerful neo-liberalism. Despite the equalizing power of global capitalism, there are still major differences between different spaces: the market in Eastern Europe, for instance, has remained undeveloped. In any case, the international market shows a growing demand for artists with different geographical backgrounds, which stimulates their pragmatism in one way or another. To what extent have artists truly betrayed the avant-garde values, and to what extent have they remained society’s conscience?


The war in the Balkans left a deep mark on the work of artists and institutions. Some of the artists who began their careers in the 1990s, for example Marko Peljhan, attempted to explore the relationship between art and technology in the context of the wars in the Balkan. The early 1990s were further marked by a global war for dominance in the field of information. Another very important tool of resistance in the 1990s was political performance – in many cases it was not only considered a “witness” to the events, but also direct political action against the regime (such as Milošević’s regime in Serbia). This kind of engagement was often called “art in extreme political circumstances”. Moderna galerija organized the Living with Genocide symposium (1996) and initiated the project For the Museum of Contemporary Art Sarajevo 2000, which can be described as a museum of solidarity.


The 1990s saw the framing of different identity policies: regional, gender, class, racial etc. In Eastern Europe, this related especially to the common experience of socialism, which nonetheless differed significantly from country to country. Yugoslavia with its self-managing socialism and the Non-Aligned Movement was a particular exception. Especially in Ljubljana, the 1990s saw a strong trend of focusing on Eastern European art by both artists and institutions alike.


In Moderna galerija, The Body and the East exhibition, staged in 1998, started the ongoing process of mapping Eastern art; one of the results of this orientation is the international Arteast 2000+ collection, presented in 2000 in a former Yugoslav People’s Army complex in Metelkova. Also intriguing is the question of present-day relevance of regional identities as approached in the 1990s. Is it still meaningful to continue to research Eastern European art based on some common denominators?


Over the summer, the Southern Constellations exhibition is on view at the +MSUM, featuring both historical works and materials and contemporary artists responding to the Non-Aligned Movement. The historical experience of the Non-Aligned Movement is certainly an inspiration for reflection on different current global alliances outside today’s centers of power. Our summer school will not limit its topics to the Eastern European context alone, but attempt to point out the dialogue with other spaces operating outside the Western context.


The summer school was conceived by Boris Groys, a Global Distinguished Professor of Russian and Slavic Studies at New York University and Senior Research Fellow at the Karlsruhe University of Arts and Design in Karlsruhe, and one of the most notable theorists and curators of Eastern European art, in particular Russian, and Zdenka Badovinac, Director of Moderna galerija, curator, writer and initiator of the Arteast 2000+ Collection.


120 candidates from across the world applied for the summer school this year, mostly from Europe and the United States, and also Canada, Mexico, Brazil, and Australia. The jury selected 45 participants, 5 of them from Slovenia. 15 scholarships were granted in collaboration with the Igor Zabel Association for Culture and Theory and the Erste Foundation.


The summer school program consists of open lectures aimed at the interested audience and workshops aimed exclusively at the summer school participants and led by the lecturers and some Moderna galerija curators.


Lecturers and mentors

Boris Groys, Zdenka Badovinac, Inke Arns, Sezgin Boynik, Boris Buden, Branislav Dimitrijević, Keti Chukhrov, Eda Čufer, Charles Esche, Marko Jenko, Viktor Misiano, Marko Peljhan, Bojana Piškur, Walid Raad, Igor Španjol, Anton Vidokle, Martina Vovk, Arseny Zhilyaev.


Public program starts on Friday, 23 August 2019 at 6.30 p.m. in the Moderna galerija auditorium with Anton Vidokle’s opening lecture, to be followed by the screening of his Cosmos Trilogy. Also other public lectures will be delivered in the MG+ auditorium at 6 p.m. The lecturers: Zdenka Badovinac and Boris Buden (Saturday, 24 August 2019), Inke Arns and Keti Chukhrov (Sunday, 25 August 2019), Arseny Zhilyaev and Branislav Dimitrijević (Monday, 26 August 2019), Charles Esche and Viktor Misiano (Tuesday, 27 August 2019), and Marko Peljhan and Eda Čufer (Thursday, 29 August 2019). On Thursday, 29 August at 10 p.m., Walid Raad will give a performance for participants of the summer school as part of the Mladi levi/ Young Lions festival.



The Summer School: The Big Shift / the 1990s. Avant-gardes in Eastern Europe and Their Legacy is a part of a four-year programme Our Many Europes led by L'Internationale confederation of museums with its partners Valand Academy (University of Gothenburg) and National College of Art and Design Dublin. Supported by the Creative Europe Programme of the European Union, Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Slovenia and Igor Zabel Association for Culture and Theory.