Katarzyna Murawska-Muthesius: Ego Ideals of East-Central Europe

When composed of the endless stream of ideas, rival ideologies and of the endless variety of artefacts, rooted in Slavic, Latin, Orthodox, Jewish and Islamic cultures, while looking up to Parisian, Viennese, Moscow and New York-derived canons, the 'region' of East-Central Europe seems to collapse in the process of its construction, revealing instead its essential hybridity, as well as competing models of modernity, freedom and democracy. Much research has been focused on the variety of ways of problematizing its perception as the Other, as the periphery of West. But, could we identify the positively valued image of the East-Central European Self? If we step up into the domain of high art produced in this region, past and present, are there any works which have been analyzed as projections of an image of the desirable East-Central European trans-national collective identity, its Ego Ideal (in metaphorical rather than strictly psychosocial meaning of the term)? Are there any paintings, sculptures, prints, buildings, or memorable film frames which could function as positively valued emblems of East-Central Europe – in a way similar to that in which the Sergei Eisenstein's shots, frescoes by Diego Rivera, or drip paintings by Jackson Pollock have been constructed and widely promoted as signifiers of Soviet Russia, engaged art of the Latin America, or the freedom of the West? The paper will look at the choices that have already been made by curators of exhibitions of art in East Central Europe, as well as by the authors and publishers of the books on the topic, comparing the 'master images' on the covers. Clearly, the act of selecting an artwork for the cover frames it as the key image, not only capable of visualizing some aspects of the argument inside, but also strong enough to attract attention of a potential reader, of dragging him or her into the field. By contributing to the iconosphere as the visual signifiers of East Central European art, the book covers, inadvertently enter the battle for signification, and can be subjected, in the same way as maps, to visual discourse analysis.


Dr Katarzyna Murawska-Muthesius teaches at the Department of History of Art, Birkbeck College, University of London. Before her arrival in the UK she had been Curator of Italian Paintings of The National Museum in Warsaw, its Chief Curator, returning to the Museum as its Deputy Director in 2009-11. She was Guest Professor at the Institut für Kunst- und Bildgeschichte at Humboldt University in Berlin in 2009 and in 2013/14 (Rudolf-Arnheim Professor). Her book publications include: Europäische Malerei aus dem Nationalmuseum Warschau (Braunschweig 1988); Trionfo barocco (Gorizia 1990); Borders in Art: Revisiting Kunstgeographie (Warsaw 2000); National Museum in Warsaw Guide: Galleries and Study Collections (2001); Jan Matejko's Battle of Grunwald: New Approaches (2010); and Kantor was Here: Tadeusz Kantor in Great Britain (Black Dog 2011), From Museum Critique to the Critical Museum (Ashgate 2015, co-editor Piotr Piotrowski). Her most current research focuses on caricature and early modernity.

19 November 2015, 6:00pm

Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florenz

Palazzo Grifoni Budini Gattai
Via dei Servi 51
50122 Firenze


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