As artists beginning within the framework of the communist dictatorships of Romania, the former Yugoslavia and Poland, Geta Brătescu (Ploiesti, 1926), Sanja Iveković (Zagreb, 1929) and Ewa Partum (Grodzisk, 1945) created works that question artistic specificity and autonomy at the same time that they allude to repressive contexts and the subject’s capacity for transformation and representation in works of art.
Brătescu - along with Ion Grigorescu (Bucarest, 1945), one of the pioneers in Romanian Conceptualism - establishes the definition of a daily autonomous space, the artist’s studio, as a sphere for freedom and a terrain for the invention of the subject through play and theatricality. The artist defined her workplace with these words: “spherical, concentric, anamorphic, image-object globular and ornamental, the study reflects glimmers with the irony of the magic present, to be contained in what you contain, to wear what you wear.”
Iveković addresses the socio-political context of a socialist state associated with the consumer market through video, performance art and photomontage. Her early works show an interest in the perception of the body and the physical relationship between the artist and the public, while she later began to explore the discursive construction of gender and female identity in public spaces and the mass media, confronting stereotypes of femininity and social vulnerability in the politics of gender. Her latest works reflect on memory and the subjective reconstruction of these historical circumstances.
Partum was a pioneer in accepting Fluxus in the Polish context through the Adres Gallery (which she founded and directed in Lódz between 1972 and 1979) and in linguistic conceptualism, which Partum incorporated into feminist discourse. While her early work dealt with the limits of meaning through fate, context and the tautologies in different media like film and visual poetry, she ended up using performance art as a way to criticise the construction of femininity in the history of representation.
Twenty years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, this series is designed to promote reflection on a poetics of public and private gestures that, in the context of the Iron Curtain dictatorships, made it possible to redefine politics in subjective terms.