The ‘Eastern European’ Grey Zone: ‘Works and Words’, Amsterdam 1979.
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This thesis aims at questioning the art historical disparity between the so-called East-Central European region and West Europe through the case of the international art manifestation ‘Works and Words’ in Amsterdam originally held in 1979 and again in a 40 year commemorative archival show in 2018. First the historic and sociopolitical context of this regional and historical disparity will be analyzed. More on, the implications of the historic and sociopolitical context will be reflected onto the art scene which will then help explain the current state of affairs. Knowing that the exchange of information was allegedly restricted during the Cold War era between East and West Europe, the developments in art, largely using the case of Works and Words (1979 and 2018), will be compared and discussed in order to achieve a common ground and understanding of what was happening in both regions. What may have been considered a political rift during the Cold War, could have affected the way in which art from Eastern Europe is perceived. It has come to my attention that even though, on a formal level, the art created in both regions shares many similarities, art from one region (East) is perceived completely differently from that of the other (West). On a conceptual level it is clearer why this would be the case, however the methodology used to analyze and understand the art has not opened this possibility up. This unravels many questions, however one that stands out, is whether the Western methods and aesthetic traditions, set in place to analyze these complex systems of art in a globalized world, are indeed sufficiently complex to actually grasp the context and culture of these works. In the case of the East-Central European region, in order to try to get closer to the epicenter of this art historical disparity, one has to contextualize the issue from different interrelated angles; socio-historically, art historically and aesthetically. Looking at the East Central European region through the Works and Words manifestation and in the specific context in which it will be analyzed, may open up a clearer way in which one can see how and possibly why this region has acquired such a status in the globalized art historical map. Through examining the case of Works and Words, one could potentially relate the eventual questions and approach to other regions of the world as well.