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Transition in Post-Soviet Art

The Collective Actions Group Before and After 1989


Octavian Eşanu was founding director of the Soros Center for Contemporary Art, Chisinau ( Moldova) and has curated for art institutions in Eastern and Western Europe. Currently he is Curator at the American University of Beirut, running two art spaces dedicated to Middle Eastern and international modern and contemporary art.

Foreword by Boris Groys

The artistic tradition that emerged as a form of cultural resistance in the 1970s changed during the transition from socialism to capitalism. This volume presents the evolution of the Moscow-based conceptual artist group called Collective Actions, proposing it as a case-study for understanding the transformations that took place in Eastern European art after the fall of the Berlin Wall. Esanu introduces Moscow Conceptualism by performing a close examination of the Collective Actions group’s ten-volume publication Journeys Outside the City and of the Dictionary of Moscow Conceptualism. He analyzes above all the evolution of Collective Actions through ten consecutive phases, discussing changes that occur in each new volume of the Journeys. Compares the part of the Journeys produced in the Soviet period with those volumes assembled after the dissolution of the USSR. The concept of “transition” and the activities of Soros Centers for Contemporary Art are also analyzed.


Foreword by Boris Groys; Preface and Acknowledgments; Part I: A General Introduction to KD and Moscow Conceptualism Chapter 1. A Bibliographic Overview The Literature Before 1989 The Literature After 1989 The Consolidation of the Discursive Field of Moscow Conceptualism Chapter 2. Mapping Moscow Conceptualism The Attribute “Romantic” The Central Concept of “Emptiness” Part II: Transition: From KD to [KD] Chapter 1. KD’s Journeys Before 1989 Volume I (phase 1976-80): “Appearance” Volume II (phase 1980-83): “Ten Appearances” Volume III (phase 1983-85): “Discussion” Volume IV (phase 1985-87) and Volume V (1987-89) Chapter 2. “During:” Transition to Capitalism Transition and Transitology The Cultural Transition: The SCCA Model Chapter 3. [KD]’s Journeys After 1989 Temporality of Transition New Schizo- Terms in the Dictionary Bracketed Totality: From KD to [KD] From Numerology to Statistics From Action to Installation From Descriptions to Projects Kievogorskoe Field: From No One’s Land to Housing Development A More Comfortable Journey: From Public to Private Transportation The Democratization of Language Afterword: From KD to [KD]: From Objectivation to Reification; Appendix: Dictionary of Moscow Conceptualism; Bibliography; Index

375 pages, cloth
ISBN 978-615-5225-11-6
$60.00 / €48.00 / £37.00

"Indeed, what Eşanu’s text has traced and described is the story of the gradual institutionalization of art, the co-opting of the avant-garde, which has been rehearsed time and again throughout the twentieth century. In his detailed and thoroughly supported analysis, Eşanu demonstrates how this played out in the Soviet and post- Soviet space in the work of one artistic group in particular—KD. This text is essential reading for those who wish to understand the dramatic changes that took place in the Soviet Union in the latter half of the twentieth century, providing a focused look at how these changes had a concrete and profound eff ect on artistic production, reception, and dissemination in Russia." - Slavic Review

"Eşanu’s analysis of the complicated discourse that defined the various stages of Collective Actions' artistic development uses twentieth-centurty sociological and philosophical theories, and elaborates on the topic - late Soviet and post-Soviet art in Russia - on which English language scholarship is still developing". - Slavic and East European Journal

"Az 1970-es évek közepe óta működő moszkvai művészcsoport, a Kollektivnije Gyejsztvija (a. m. „kollektív akciók” tevékenységét tárja fel. Az ezzel foglalkozó eddigi legnagyobb szabású tudományos munka, amely végigkíséri a csoport történetét. Mindemellett a kötet alapvetően egy folyamatra, az 1989 utáni átmenetre fókuszálva vizsgálja a csoportot, vegyesen alkalmazva a kronologikus elbeszélést és különböző tematikus nézőpontokat. Esanu munkája nem a művészettörténeti iskolák valamelyikében, hanem a Reinhardt Koselleck-i eszmetörténet-írásban találja meg tudományos alapját. Nem hagyhatjuk figyelmen kívül azt sem, hogy a szöveg alapvetően művészettörténeti, azonban egy olyan művészettörténeti olvasatot kínál, amely az esztétikai, politikai és gazdasági tényezőket összefonódva tárgyalja." - Sic itur as astra