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Title: Artistic ruptures and their 'communist' ghosts : on the post-communist condition as threshold experience in art from and in Eastern Europe
Author: Schmukalla, Magda
ISNI:       0000 0004 6499 2862
Awarding Body: Birkbeck, University of London
Current Institution: Birkbeck (University of London)
Date of Award: 2017
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scholars in the social sciences and humanities have often criticized the notion of post-communism for reproducing discursively the East/West divide, this study argues that it is precisely from within the post-communist threshold that the current hegemonic role of the West can be effectively challenged. I begin by showing how the post-communist condition captures an intense experience of being undone and how, with the abrupt breakdown of a communist order and a gradual return to a capitalist structure, the main pillars of modern subjectivities in Eastern European countries have been fundamentally disturbed. As a consequence ‘post-communist sites’ have turned into places or relations in which ghostly relics of past experiences suddenly crop up with no ideological structure being strong enough to control their haunting. The ghosts returning in this state of collective uncertainty do, however, not only disturb today’s Eastern European site but also, I argue, make the Western subject feel haunted by its ‘post-communist Eastern European other’. My aim is further to explore this particular threshold experience on its own terms. In this study the entry point to its transitory realm is therefore neither theory, nor quantitative or qualitative data but the elusive, contradictory, and often very personal realm of contemporary art. By drawing on Adorno’s Aesthetic Theory I discuss how artworks can be understood as mediators of threshold experiences and how an artistic form of reading particular artworks can allow us to ‘speak’ and think from within such liminal states. I then explore the phenomenological and relational reality of the post-communist threshold through selected artworks, all of which engage in one way or the other with the post-communist site. These readings of ‘post-communist artworks’ lead me through an array of contemporary critical and psychoanalytic theory and make me discuss questions about better worlds, alternative ethics and the politics of art in ways that evade common forms of theoretical and empirical analysis. For although the post-communist condition is a state of extreme disarray, it is also a state of being that contains the potential for an alternative epistemology and equally the potential for transformation. The postcommunist threshold, I argue, is thus an opportunity to start thinking about ‘communism’ and radical politics again – and differently.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available