Symbolism and modernism through the prism of locality
Debate with Kateryna Iakovlenko, Giedrė Jankevičiūtė, Natalia Sielewicz, Piotr Słodkowski

  • Symbolism and modernism through the prism of locality

    Yevmen Pshechenko, Decorative Panel, 1920s, gouache on paper (reproduction courtesy of the Ukrainian Art Library), National Museum of Ukrainian Folk Decorative Art

The Museum of Modern Art invites to a debate accompanying the exhibition "The Dark Arts. Aleksandra Waliszewska and Symbolism of the East and North".

The debate will focus on indigenous modernisms: the influence of local artistic movements, local literary, spiritual and folkloric traditions on alternative incarnations of modernism, which sit outside the Western canon. Scholars and curators Giedrė Jankevičiūtė, Kateryna Iakovlenko, Piotr Słodkowski and Natalia Sielewicz, will participate in the discussion about modernism and epistemic justice.

The artists present in the exhibition created their own recognizable Balto-Slavic sceneries, consistently emphasizing the specificity and power of indigenous landscapes, legends, and fairy tales.The work of artists including Mykola Murashko, Mikalojus Čiurlionis, Kristjan Raud, and Jaroslav Panuška laid foundations for autonomous cultural and historical identities in Ukraine, Lithuania, Estonia, and Czechoslovakia, respectively, as with Okuń, the Polish symbolist. Although many artists presented in The Dark Arts traveled from their native towns to cultural metropolises such as St. Petersburg, Vienna, Paris, and Dresden for education and broader social exchange, they formulated their own artistic languages and traditions, eventually influencing the development of new styles that emerged in Kyiv, Prague, Kraków, Vilnius, Riga, Tallinn, and other regional capitals. Furthermore, Baltic and Eastern European symbolists made figurative work that was deeply embedded in local languages of allegory and folktales, allowing them to transcend the art world’s elitism and insularity.

How to counteract the harmful clichés and distinctions between the center and the periphery? How to recognize the different ways of knowing and do historical justice to artists? These questions shall be subjects of our talk as they take on particular meaning in the context of the ongoing invasion of Ukraine by the Russian Federation.

Our discussion will be held in English.

Kateryna Iakovlenko
Visual culture researcher and writer. She worked as deputy web editor for „The Day newspaper”(2013-14), curator, and program manager of the Donbas Studies Research Project at Izolyatsia (2014-15); and researcher and curator of public programs at PinchukArtCentre (2016-22). Her research interest touches on art during political transformations and war and explores women’s and gender optics in visual culture. She was the editor of the books Gender Research (2015), Why There Are Great Women Artists in Ukrainian Art (2019), Euphoria and Fatigue: Ukrainian Art and Society after 2014 (co-edited with Tatiana Kochubinska, 2019), and Curatorial Handbook (co-edited with Oleksandra Pogrebnyak and Dmytro Chepurny, 2020), Nikita Kadan. Stone hits Stone (2021). She was the Ukrainian edition chief curator of the Secondary Archive Project (2021). Currently, she is Visiting Fellow at the Institute for Human Sciences in Vienna.

Dr. Piotr Słodkowski
Assistant professor at the Academy of Fine Arts in Warsaw. Author of the book Jewish-Polish Modernism. Henryk Streng/Marek Włodarski and the History of Art (2019, published in Polish). His studies on Streng were awarded prizes by the Polish Art History Association (2018), the "Polityka'' weekly (2019), and Jewish Historical Institute in Warsaw (2020). His research focuses on Polish interwar art as well as art after 1939, especially on theoretical approaches to complex relations between the Holocaust, modernism, and socially engaged art.

Prof Dr Giedrė Jankevičiūtė
Art historian and exhibition curator based in Vilnius, Lithuania, and Rome, Italy. Main area of her professional interest is Central-East European art, architecture and design of long ninetheen and twentieth century. She is a Leading Research Fellow at the Art History and Visual Culture Department of the Lithuanian Institute for Culture Research and professor of art history at the Vilnius Academy of Arts. She has published several monographs and numerous articles on Lithuanian modernism in Lithuanian, Latvian, Estonian, German, Polish, British, Ukrainian and USA academic press, curated exhibitions in Lithuanian, Polish, Italian, German and Indian museums and galleries, edited their catalogues. Currently she is working on the monograph on Lithuanian art and artistic scene on the eve and during the Second World War.

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