Arts Themes


This compilation features books of the Central European University Press, published since its establishment in 1993, that have some relevance to the arts. After the latest release, titles in the backlist are arranged by content: contemporary topics are on top, older themes below. For more substantial information about the content and availability, please click on the covers of the book, or on the links inserted into the citations.

“Cultural exhibitions always tell a story, like a play in a theatre. Exhibitions can be seen as theaters turned around: In the theater, the audience is stationary and the show moves; in the museum, the show is stationary and the visitor moves.”—Exhibiting Jewish Culinary Culture.
“Some objects might seem unworthy of attention in their original environment. But they have a story and carry an aura. Objects become even more significant within the context of an exhibition, where they attain real significance in relationship to other elements of the show: to other objects, photographs, texts, etc.”
“Exhibition design as an art form is nothing new, as can be seen from the installations created by some of the best 20th-century designers, including Alvar Aalto, László Moholy-Nagy, Marcel Breuer, and Carlo Scarpa.”
“Exhibitions of food-related art have become quite common. Not only do painters and graphic artists present shows of pictures of Jewish food, but it is also the subject of some video art and museum programs of films.”

“Serbian architecture in the era of Milošević was permeated by kitsch, primitive new-money projects that were highly eclectic and self-deluding in the belief that they belonged to the postmodern idiom.”—An Older and More Beautiful Belgrade.
“The main character in the famous movie Fitzcarraldo was led by his obsession to build an opera house in the Amazon jungle. He didn’t succeed. But Ljubiša Ristić did. In the desolate facilities of a sugar refinery long-abandoned buildings were renovated for this unconventional theater director.”
“Tombstones of members of the Belgrade underworld were created by unknown or by widely recognized artists. The case of a sculptor who in his youth was a state artist creating monuments about revolutionary socialism using abstract forms, and in his old age making figurative memorials for criminals or neo-Chetnik warriors, says a lot not only about the society that accepts such shifts as unremarkable, but also about the artist whose mutable beliefs reveal their weak and floating morality.”

“The first major state-funded art projects concerning the memory of the Holocaust in Hungary were representative, monumental visualizations of the communist leadership’s official memory politics between 1955 and 1965. The insistence on a combatively antifascist narrative was part of a broader attempt to build a heroic antifascist and legitimizing image for an international audience.”—Growing in the Shadow of Antifascism.
“Such commissioned art projects were rarely able to bring in new perspectives, as opposed to non-commissioned artworks that frequently depicted the victims’ perspectives, especially when using such novel techniques as abstraction and figuration.”
“State-funded artistic projects were all conceived within the antifascist historical narrative, but intentionally or unintentionally presented a criticism of official memory politics.”

CEU Press titles featuring the visual arts:

“A period of intensive reacquaintance with international art of several centuries, and also with aspects of Russia’s own suppressed artistic heritage, began in 1954“. The collective volume with thirty-five contributors analyzes artistic interactions within the Soviet bloc and with the West between 1945 and 1989.

  • The story of Moscow Conceptualism, an art movement of avant-garde artists in the Soviet environment. 
  • A monograph unites ecology with conceptual art analysis uncovering the neglected history of artistic engagement with the natural environment in the Eastern Bloc.
  • 20th century private, family, and street photography; photo in contemporary art (Boltanski, Kabakov, Eperjesi)—Exposed Memories.

Books with a variety of cultural themes (contemporary topics on top, historical subjects below):

“How was it that the rockers and punks were able to sing and listen to such critical songs during martial law, at a time when Solidarity activists and others were being locked up and when heavy censorship was reimposed on book publishing and the media?”—from a book on current values in Poland.
“A number of rock, punk, and heavy metal bands have displayed what may be broadly called ‘anti-system tendencies,’ by which I mean tendencies to subject the political system, the Church, Polish thinking and ways of life, and even Poles’ orientation to the past, to severe criticism, parody, or mockery.”
“2007 is recognized as marking the beginning of one of the most noticeable trends in Polish cinematography after 1989—the cinema of national remembrance.”
In his film, “Wajda may seem even pro-feminist, since he concentrates on ‘daughters instead of sons’ who had to carry the burden of the Katyń lie.”

“The aesthetic phenomenon of the underground in East-Central Europe is by no means knotted to the state-socialist context. Indeed, it has endured since the Romantic period, subtly adapting its poetic and rhetorical strategies, and perhaps it survives in the essence of postmodernism.”—Underground Modernity.
“The true underground as it took shape on both sides of the Iron Curtain in the 1980s—excluding several pioneers—would be unimaginable without its embeddedness in rock music, folk, and blues; in performance art, happenings, and actionism.”
“The underground cannot escape the city, nor does it wish to—in spite of escapist tendencies and disaffiliations.”
“The year 1989 transformed the circumstances of all forms of art and public space in the region. While censorship, infiltration, and bans on publishing or performance largely vanished, new selection mechanisms arose in the form of state subsidy policy and the market.”

“Under Soviet rule, the theatre was a very special place in which, using Aesopic language, it was possible to say things about existential matters, ethics, morality, and human values”—from Irena Veisaitė‘s memoir in conversations.
“Although each director had his or her own style and means of expression, the text sometimes had only a secondary role, allowing the visual plane to dominate. What was most important was the search for ways to make classical theatrical plots contemporary.”
“During a meeting of the Estonian Composers’ Union, Pärt made an open statement criticising the cultural policies of the day. It was clear afterwards that he would never again receive a state commission. That was when Arvo and Nora decided to emigrate.”
“Czesław Miłosz was tired of being endlessly asked whether he was a Pole or a Lithuanian. He said that he was the last citizen of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania.”
“Koršunovas’s 2015 interpretation of Słobodzianek’s play Our Class at the Oslo National Theatre was definitely one of the most powerful theatre experiences I have had in recent years.”

“Lviv inspired the notion of one local culture that was distinctive, a distinctive type of jazz (‘L’vov jazz’) and a distinctive urban sociability of song and dance (‘only in Lwów’).””—two cities fundamentally transformed by World War Two.
“Those artists coming from prewar Soviet Ukraine to Lviv considered the local actors ‘totally illiterate,’ and took it upon themselves to re-educate and ‘raise their artistic qualifications with radical and not always efficient methods.’”
“The British curator hoped that the artistic projects might have engaged with the fact of its German, Jewish, and Czech contributions to the urban character of modern Wrocław, its tragic loss of the Jewish community through the WW2, and the forced expulsions of the German populations from Lower Silesia and Wrocław.”
“Andrukhovych, Neborak and Irvanets’ (the Bu-Ba-Bu) subjected Ukrainian national identity to self-mocking scrutiny, rereading and re-interpreting the national culture and the national past and re-assessing the poet’s duties in relation to these.”

Through carefully selected art projects, the book explores representations of the Holocaust in contemporary art practices. It illuminates the specific historical, cultural, and political circumstances that influence the way we speak—or do not speak—about the Holocaust. 

“At some point during my research, poetic fragments began to infiltrate my writing, parallel to or sometimes replacing the scholarly formulations of my subject. Simple factual details of my observations took on metaphorical meaning. My writing gradually became a journey toward a poetic language that echoed and emulated the spiritual poetic sound-milieu it attempted to describe.”
Based on extensive interviews, musical recordings, photographs and erudite analyses, a poetic testimony of the scholar of traditional Jewish music.
“This text is a series of prose poems, and the images are metaphors for the music through which I descended to the depths of prayer.”

“Cultural imperialism, as a part of American diplomacy that serves to export American values, became an important factor in U.S. foreign policy in the second half of the twentieth century, when the idea gained ground inside the administration that America should ‘sell’ the American way of life to the non-American world.”
A monograph on the Americanization of Yugoslav culture in the sixties.
“The premiere of the Partisan spectacle The Battle on the Neretva was attended by its main actors from abroad—Sergei Bondarchuk, Yul Brynner, Franco Nero, Orson Welles etc.”
“Observing that jazz had fallen onto favorable soil in Yugoslavia, Washington moved to support directly the popularization of jazz, and in May 1956, Dizzie Gillespie gave two concerts in Belgrade.”
“Thanks to Americanization, Yugoslav society developed through the acceptance of the codes of Western culture and Western values.”
“What is communism?” Belgrade hippies responded, “Something beautiful and very far away.”

This book examines the relationship of religious people with the manifestations of unearthly, supernatural powers, and miracles. The images are from the author’s photo and postcard collection. They depict people along with divine beings or absent loved ones, accompanied by commentaries and explanations.
Topics include periodic appearances of Christ-like strangers in the Spanish countryside. The iconography of illustrated depictions of divine beings in conjunction with humans is also addressed, including how its conventions were incorporated into commercial postcards and personal photographs, culminating in photo montages of families and their absent soldiers in World War I. The electric moments in Spanish communities are presented when people ritually come into physical contact with saints and with animals, or transform themselves into saints or animals for ritual purposes.
The volume is an expanded and more highly illustrated version of a smaller book released by CEU Press in 2011.

“In October 1932, Mussolini inaugurated the Mostra della rivoluzione fascista. Futurism, Novecento, Rationalism, and neo-Impressionism were all represented, revealing the regime’s cultural pluralism.”—from the book on modern non-democracies.
“Of the 1,097 feature films produced in the Third Reich, the regime classified only 229 of these as overtly propagandistic; by contrast, 50% of the total consisted of love stories or comedies, and another 25% of crime thrillers, musicals, or dramatic films.”
“In April 1945, after German radio announced Hitler’s death, the adagio of Bruckner’s Symphony No. 7 was played, as requested by the Führer.”
“Formalism in orchestral music, meaning the composition of music that did not consist of simple tunes one could whistle or lacked a transparent political agenda, was seen as decadent. It was the charge brought in 1948 by culture boss Zhdanov against the Soviet Union’s four most celebrated composers— Prokofiev, Shostakovich, Kabalevsky, and Khachaturian.”

“It is not the sword but culture that can sustain and make the Hungarian homeland great once again.” Accordingly, on this battlefield, artists, architects, and filmmakers became warriors, just as their paintings, buildings, movies, and other cultural products became weaponry.
The analysis of an early example of soft power.
“Could a happy audience of Béla Bartók’s Bluebeard’s Castle—as magnificent as it is—change the way a foreign government viewed Hungarian political goals?”
“Cultural diplomacy did help establish Hungary’s legitimacy in the international arena, contribute to the modernization of the country, and establish a set of enduring images of Hungary.”

Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria thought himself an expert in artistic matters, and he judged the church designed by Jože Plečnik a mishmash of a Russian bath + stables + a temple to Venus. The Archduke had intervened to prevent his appointment to succeed Otto Wagner as professor of architecture in Vienna. This is the antecedent to Plečnik’s connection to Prague, which lasted twenty-five years.
The restoration of Prague Castle was a collaboration of three remarkable figures: President Masaryk, his daughter Alice, and the Slovenian architect. Jože Plečnik integrated reverence for classical architecture into distinctly modern designs. Their shared vision saw the Castle as the sacred center of the new republic, even the new Europe.
Plečnik refused any suggestion of modern upgrades to churches, such as central heating. “Such modern garbage does not belong in a Catholic cathedral of the Lord. A Catholic church is not a cinema, or a bar or a theater—it’s Calvary.”

The renowned British scholar discusses the Renaissance in Italy, elsewhere in Europe, and in the world beyond Europe as a prime example of cultural hybridization, a process whereby something new that emerges from the combination of diverse older elements.

Dispersed in four countries; many of its pages cropped, cut into four, or lost forever; still, in its fragmented state the Hungarian Angevin Legendary is a unique iconographic medieval treasure, presenting fifty-eight legends on richly gilded folios fully covered by miniatures.

Further titles on the arts from the CEU Press backlist:

  • Essays discuss the museumizing” of the communist past in post-1989 east-central Europe.
  • Essays on women and war mirrored in the arts, ranging from women in novels, films and songs or on posters around World War II, up to recent armed conflicts.
  • The evolution of modernism as reflected in the representation of national cultures.
  • The development of the Bauhaus school of architecture and applied design.
  • Metamorphosis as subject, device and philosophical tenet in twentieth-century Russian culture.