The most revealing instances of this complex intersection of post-communist, post-imperial and post-colonial discourses and imaginaries are to be found not in scholarly publications or official state policies, but rather in the arts, cinema, theater, and fiction.
–Madina Tlostanova, 2012
Questions about the significance of the phase of post-socialist transformation for today’s Pan-European or even global condition have met with unsatisfactory answers. Initiated by cultural studies scholar Ulrike Gerhardt, the project D’EST: A Multi-Curatorial Online Platform for Video Art from the Former ‘East’ and ‘West’ initially kicked off with a prolog entitled O’ Mystical East and West in the autumn of 2016, followed by a curatorial research summit in spring 2018. Over the course of 2018, the online platform published a total of six screening chapters in collaboration with fifteen curators, forty-three artists, and other cultural experts as well as with partner institutions in Germany (Düsseldorf; Berlin), Russia (Moscow), and Poland (Poznań). The D’EST chapters’ thematic focal points delineate post-socialism along post-geographic, horizontal, and feminist perspectives.
The project title D’EST (“From the East”) is borrowed from the eponymous 1993 work of recently deceased filmmaker Chantal Akerman (1950–2015). In From the East’s sensitive, cinematic travelog of transformation, the artist – the daughter of survivors of the Holocaust in Poland – captures emblematic images of women waiting in a moment of hiatus just after the end of the Cold War.
Throughout the year 2018, the online platform introduced mostly female producers and artist collectives, publishing six curated screening chapters that map out feminist and collective forms of post-socialist historiography. These chapters reflect the post-socialist transformation in relation to conceptual paradigms like temporality, language, and semantics, corpo-fictionality and urban cosmetic rejuvenation practices, indexical reading exercises, familial bonds and post-genetic families of choice as well as Eastern futurological experiments of thought. Via deconstructing certain clichées, myths, and stereotypes surrounding ‘the East’ and ‘the West’; the prolog (O’ Mystical East and West, curator: Xandra Popescu) sets the stage for chapter #1, The Suspension and Excess of Time (curators: Kathrin Becker, Jana Seehusen), which reflects anachronical phenomena such as the “feeling of being in transition.” It also sets the stage for chapter #2, Performing Words, Uttering Performance curated by Inga Lāce and the Creative Association of Curators TOK (Anna Bitkina & Maria Veits), which investigates the different performative functions of language before and after the 1990s. Whereas chapter #3, uncovers subcutaneous layers of post-socialist cityscapes (Cosmos Cosmetics: Unresting Memoryscapes and Corpofictions (curators: Miona Bogović, Suza Husse, Suzana Milevska), in chapter #4, the body takes on agency as an indexical tool for reading the visual “pollution of history” since 1989 (The Body as an Indexical Reader, curators: Eva Birkenstock, Ulrike Gerhardt, Naomi Hennig). Shedding light on the lives of children of generations of socialism-builders and welfare state beneficiaries, the second-to-last chapter, #5 We Are Family (curators: Nataša Ilić, Jelena Vesić), concentrates on the notion of family as an extended signifier. Meanwhile, the closing chapter #6, ReTopia (Katja Kobolt, Bettina Knaup), searches for radically different futures.
Participating artists are: Marwa Arsanios, Željka Blakšić aka Gita Blak, Pauline Boudry & Renate Lorenz, Irina Botea Bucan, Marija Bozinovska Jones, Nicu Ilfoveanu, Anetta Mona Chişa & Lucia Tkáčová, Ioana Cojocariu, Cooperative Shvemy, CORO Collective (Eglė Budvytytė, Goda Budvytytė, Ieva Misevičiūtė), Alexandra Croitoru, Larisa Crunțeanu, Maja Čule, Anna Daučíková, Vukica Đilas, doplgenger, Ira Eduardovna, Factory of Found Clothes, Harun Farocki, Gery Georgieva, Melanie Gilligan, Gluklya (Natalya Pershina-Yakimanskaya), Lynn Hershman Leeson, Kerstin Honeit, Ana Hušman, Sanja Iveković, Polina Kanis, Barbora Kleinhamplová, Sasha Litvintseva, Maha Maamoun, Goshka Macuga, Lene Markusen, Ivana Mladenović, Marge Monko, Henrike Naumann, Katrīna Neiburga, Ilona Németh, Katrin Nenasheva, Phuong Linh Nguyen, Rachel O’Reilly, Sasha Pirogova, Renata Poljak, Marta Popivoda & Ana Vujanović, Eglė Rakauskaitė, Tabita Rezaire, Anca Munteanu Rimnic, Józef Robakowski, Ulrike Rosenbach, Elske Rosenfeld, belit sağ, Selma Selman, Shelly Silver, The Bureau of Melodramatic Research, Clarissa Thieme, Milica Tomić, and Katrin Winkler.
Participating curators are: Kathrin Becker, Eva Birkenstock, Miona Bogović, Ulrike Gerhardt, Naomi Hennig, Suza Husse, Nataša Ilić, Bettina Knaup, Katja Kobolt, Inga Lāce, Suzana Milevska, Xandra Popescu, Jana Seehusen, Creative Association of Curators TOK (Anna Bitkina & Maria Veits), and Jelena Vesić.
All video works and texts of the chapters D’EST Prolog: O’Mystical East and West, The Suspension and Excess of Time (#1), Performing Words, Uttering Performance (#2), Cosmos Cosmetics: Unresting Memoryscapes and Corpofictions (#3), The Body as an Indexical Reader (#4), We Are Family (#5) and ReTopia (#6, launch date: December 15, 2018) will be accessible online until the end of 2020. For 2019 and 2020, D’EST’s closed selection of artists and chapters have received worldwide invitations for further exhibition. Therefore, the curatorial approaches and their thematic focal points will be expanding further, leading to new screening events in Estonia (Tallinn) and elsewhere. Please visit our Program page to follow future screening destinations for our online platform. Programmed by Modem Studio, the platform serves as an artistic space, research tool, and information resource for art connoisseurs, institutionally based and freelance curators, artists, historians, journalists, and critics. To be able to see all content available on the website, visitors will first have to register with the site.
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D’EST: A Multi-Curatorial Online Platform for Video Art from the Former ‘East’ and ‘West’ is a project initiated by Ulrike Gerhardt with DISTRICT Berlin. D’EST is hosted in cooperation with the Moscow Museum of Modern Art (MMOMA); the Goethe Institute Moscow; the Kunstverein für die Rheinlande und Westfalen, Düsseldorf; Filmwerkstatt Düsseldorf; the Galeria Miejska Arsenał, Poznań; Pawilon, Poznań; and the Neuer Berliner Kunstverein Video-Forum. This project was made possible through the generous support of the Senate Chancellery Berlin – Department of Culture.