Performative Strategies of Making Visible: Contemporary Art in Central and Eastern Europe

This dissertation project examines notions of performativity, monumentality, and historiography in contemporary, post-post-Soviet artistic practices that actively engage in shaping narratives, canons, and (art)historiographies to include those hitherto excluded by colonization of power, repression, and marginalization.

In six diverse case studies, this thesis will argue that contemporary art practices from Central and Eastern Europe centrally use performance-based and performative strategies to make visible those who had been rendered invisible by dominant historiography and its institutions.

To reflect upon larger aesthetic, social, and political issues, this dissertation project will center on close readings of exemplary artworks, including but not limited to performance. Zooming in on the notion of ‘performativity,’ it will also focus on related practices of mixed media, installation, the audio-visual, or the archival as well as subversive takes on traditional art historical categories such as painting, inquiring to what extent they can be characterized as performative and what this, in turn, means for a contemporary art-historical conceptualization of performativity.

In analyzing works by Karol Radziszewski, Alexandra Pirici, Aykan Safoğlu, Flo Kasearu, Emilia Rigova, Selma Selman, and Taus Makhacheva, it will offer the prospective reader an overview of critical, discourse-shaping artistic practices negotiating thematic complexes that confront the discipline of art history with pressing questions regarding its own mechanisms and the role of the art historian, particularly considering post- and decolonial efforts.

Eat the Museum 010 taus
Taus Makhacheva, Selection of works from the Dagestan Museum of Fine Arts named after P.S. Gamzatova, Makhachkala, exhibition view “Eat the Museum”, Alte Fabrik, Rapperswil, Switzerland, 2020, Photo: Niklas Goldbach.