THE TRANSITION OF
THE SOROS CENTERS
TO CONTEMPORARY ART
THE MANAGED
AVANT-GARDE


Written by Octavian Esanu
Published by CCCK at Periferic 8
Biennial for Contemporary Art
Art as gift
Design of the publication
by Kateryna Svirgunenko
1000 copies
Printed in Romania



EXCERPTS


As in other transitological regions of the world, in Eastern Europe, throughout the 1990s, this "neo-liberal discourse of radical reform" became a new ideology. It quickly installed itself in the vacuum left after the collapse of Marxism-Leninism, and its working postulates (directed primarily at politics and economics) soon reached into the domain of art and culture, altering not only pre-established artistic and aesthetic conventions but changing also the social status of art in the post-communist society. While in such fields as politics and economy this doctrine has been recognized and accepted from the very beginning as a legitimate discourse - prompting some scholars to call for "the end of the transition paradigm" - by contrast, in art no analysis has been done on the importance of the notion of "transition" and the impact of transitology. The effect of this paradigm on art, however, was significant. Many individual changes within art resemble the pattern of political and economic reforms to such a degree that one may infer the existence of a "cultural transitology" - a hidden managerial agenda that monitored and implemented reforms in the field of culture. One of the first points on this agenda was the transition to a Western artistic model, and this was one of the main tasks of the SCCAs. One can set a parallel and compare the role of the SCCA network with that played by such active participants in the process of transition as the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank. While these international organizations have been concerned in such fields as economics and politics with various aspects of social transformation - disputing such issues as the conversion of planned economies into free markets, or the dissemination of liberal democratic values at the expense of other political doctrines - the SCCAs dealt mainly with the emancipation of art and culture from the ideological, political and economic control of the state. On the aesthetic level this transition was manifested in the attempt to break with the doctrine of Socialist Realism, with its aesthetic and ideological principles; artists were encouraged to work with new media whereas art historians were to write new art histories, which would evolve around the narrative of the formerly suppressed non-conformism. Economically the SCCAs provided expertise for developing local networks of Western styled private and corporate art institutions capable of accommodating to the logic of the free market. After escaping the ideological and material control of the state the centers were to help local artists adjust to a new order, devoting a good part of their efforts to cultural management and fund raising.
(p5)

Institutionalization, domestication, administration, and management, in the way that the words are used by these authors, refer to a series of strategies of containment of Western art and culture. In other words, they suggest a way of keeping under control the political activism and the social and aesthetic utopias that were at the heart of the classical avant-garde. Among the signs and results of committing the political impetus of modern art to the past was the emergence of a new type of art institution (the Museum of Modern Art), the development of a series of theories of modernism and of the avant-garde, the appearance of a series of art publications which had the goal of bringing some order into the proliferation of the "isms," and last but not least, the growing demand for works of "modern art," which led to the expansion of a large-scale art market.
(p8)


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CCCK

POST FUNDING
TRY TO FIND ANOTHER COW
AND PRIVATE INVESTORS APPEAR
A SHORT INSTITUTIONAL AFFAIR
EXTERIORS
SPEAKING OF A GAP CAN CAUSE DOUBLES
ZOMBIE #1 DOUBLES
OCTOBER PROJECT
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TEXTS WAITING FOR HISTORY
DEPARTMENT OF READING INSERTION

THE MANAGED AVANT-GARDE
OCTAVIAN ESANU

SPEAKING OF A GAP
CATALOGUE TEXTS AND IMAGE




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-- Octavian Esanu is currently completing his Ph.D. in the Art, Art History & Visual Studies Department at Duke University. Born in 1966 in the Moldovan Soviet Socialist Republic of the former USSR, he completed a degree in studio art at the Repin Art School in Kishinev and later graduated from the Interior Design Department of the Moldovan State Institute of Art. In 1995 he was appointed director of the Soros Center for Contemporary Art (SCCA) in Chisinau - a position he held until 1998 when he was accepted as a participant at the Jan van Eyck Akademie in Maastricht, the Netherlands. He has curated and published for various contemporary art institutions in the Netherlands and in Germany. He currently resides in Princeton, NJ, USA.