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David Crowley in Tallinn March 1st 2013

Institute of Art History, Estonian Academy of Arts presents

Open Lecture
March 1st 2013 at 5 PM
Estonian Academy of Sciences, Kohtu 6, Tallinn

Architecture at the Limits of Critique in the Eastern Bloc in the 1980s

Architectural design in Eastern Europe under communist rule was closely tied to power. Space and building materials were under central command and architects were corralled in state bureaus working to official commission. To search for architectural dissent in these conditions seems like a quixotic project. Yet, the late 1970s saw various kinds of critique emerge in Eastern Europe in parallel with both the rise of anti-communist opposition and architectural postmodernism. Critics in the architectural press, novelists, sociologists, film makers, photographers and even pop singers drew connections between the total industrialization of housing and forms of anomie. At the same time, some self-consciously ‘alternative’ practices emerged in the margins of architecture. Expressive schemes dressed with anti-communist symbols were commissioned by the Roman Catholic Church in Poland and elsewhere; ‘paper architects’ throughout the Bloc sought the re-enchantment of their profession; and flamboyant vernacularism was being promoted by ‘Organic Architects’ in Hungary. Such self-consciously post-modern projects often sought to align architecture with the memory politics of the opposition. In a talk focusing on Hungary, Poland and Romania in the 1980s, I will explore the extent to which such critiques of architecture might constitute a critique of illegitimate rule.

David Crowley trained as a historian and now combines art and design history with criticism. He has published a number of books including National Style and Nation-state: Design in Poland (MUP, 1992) Graphic Design: Reproduction and Representation (with Paul Jobling, MUP, 1996) Warsaw (Reaktion, 2003); Style and Socialism and Socialist Spaces (with Susan Reid, Berg, 2002 and 2002) and Pleasures in Socialism (Northwestern University Press, 2010). He was consultant curator of Cold War Modern. Design 1945-1970 at the V&A Museum in London (2008-09); co-curator of 'Roman Cieslewicz' at the Royal College of Art (July and August 2010) and 'The Power of Fantasy: Modern and Contemporary Art from Poland' at BOZAR, Brussels (summer 2011 with a book published by Prestel). He regularly writes for the art and design press and is on the editorial board of Eye magazine. He now runs the Critical Writing in Art and Design programme at the Royal College of Art. He is currently writing a book on the intertwined histories of photography and communism.

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Next open lectures of the Institute of Art History:

April 30
Griselda Pollock (University of Leeds) - Did I just dream it or was there once a feminist revolution in art and art history? Aesthetic reflections on the politics of memory in Art History and its futures

Kenneth Frampton (Columbia University, NY) - Five North American Architects

May 30
Kitty Zijlmans (Universiteit Leiden) - Potatoes, Ears, Passports, Homes. What can be the contribution of artistic research to World Art Studies?

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Additional information:
Karin Nugis
Institute of Art History
Estonian Academy of Arts
Tel: +372 611 76 56
Mob.: +372 53 094 909