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Communist Hauntings: Aesthetics of Disrupted Times

Venue: Online


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  • A ticket will allow you to join all sessions - you do not have to book for individual sessions
  • A link to join the event via Microsoft Teams will be sent to attendees the day before the event takes place
  • This event will be recorded

Contributors: Lina Dzuverovic, Katerina Gregos, Igor Grubic, Esther Leslie, Francisco Martinez, Michal Murawski, Liene Ozolina, Nada Prlja, Joanna Rajkowska, Magda Schmukalla

The breakdown of Soviet-type communism is usually remembered as a global moment of hopeful change and social improvement. It is less often remembered as a confusing, disorienting and deeply ambiguous time. This event looks at how the Covid-19 pandemic as an unexpected crisis of global scale brings back and resuscitates experiences of the 1989/1991 transitions in Central Eastern Europe and globally, and explores how these revived post-communist sentiments and encounters provide powerful material for alternative accounts of the crisis of Europe and global neoliberalism today. As a transdisciplinary project Communist Hauntings brings together a group of artists, critical theorists, and social scientists who seek to give a contemporary account of the post-communist experience by investigating and discussing the aesthetics of liminal bodies, places and archives and their particular emergence in pandemic times. 

Panel 1: Between Communist and Capitalist Bodies

Speakers: Joanna Rajkowska, Esther Leslie, Magda Schmukalla

Time: 10am - 11:30am (GMT)

The first panel explores the aesthetics, materiality and epistemology of bodies marked by the collapse and subsequent absence of social and ideological orders. It looks specifically at bodies (human and non-human) that were formed by the ideological void that opened up after the breakdown of communism and that were socialized in the absence of a functioning sociality and a suitable political alternative. The speakers will examine how the pandemic revived such unrooted and ghostly bodies, trace their hauntings and reflect on the affects and memories that have been unleashed by their presence.

Panel 2: Transitioning Places

Speakers: Katerina Gregos, Igor Grubic, Francisco Martinez, Michal Murawski

Time: 12pm - 1:30pm (GMT)

This panel examines post-communist places as contradictory and liminal sites which on the one hand create a counter-hegemonic environment for melancholic preservations of lost modern collectives and ideals, while on the other hand being sites for creative forgetting and forward-looking practices. The panel explores how these contradicting processes of ‘creative preservation’ and ‘reparative conversion’ were revived and mobilized by irruptions and closures of the pandemic.

Panel 3: Acting Archives

Speakers: Lina Dzuverovic, Nada Prlja, Liene Ozolina

Time: 3pm - 4:30pm (GMT) 

Starting with a description of a personal archive of artistic photographs documenting the impact of Josip Tito’s death on the everyday in communist Yugoslavia, and showing how this archive was retrieved and used to make sense of the overwhelming loss of normality during the pandemic, the last panel explores how archives with artworks from Socialist times can be a productive source for remapping and rearranging common accounts of everyday life and politics in neoliberal Europe.

Organisers: Birkbeck Institute of Social Research and the Birkbeck Institute of the Humanities. With generous financial support from the ESRC  

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