• Record
  • Reality
  • Learn
  • Poetics
  • Transfer

IP Lectures: Susanne Altmann


Looking Forward, Looking Back #5
Lecture by

Susanne Altmann
Thursday, September 26, 2019, 19:00
Rezidența BRD Scena9, 32 I.L.Caragiale St., Bucharest
free access, event held in English

The Institute of the Present (IP) announces a new event as part of its lecture series Looking Forward, Looking Back. The 5th event in this series is dedicated to questions opened up by the recent historiographies of textile art in Eastern European and international space during 1960–1980, a period which determined a paradigm shift in regards to the use, interpretation and theoretical and artistic questioning of the medium. Redefining the possibilities of working with the textiles, of approaching their materiality, organicity and immersive quality in the early 1960s, an era of turmoil and transformations in international geopolitics, caused the textile art to reposition itself and to enter the field of visual arts, to leave its marginal position and to follow a steadily ascending trajectory until the beginning of the 1980s. The transition from the formalism specific to applied arts to the autonomy of the medium took place through the articulation of a new type of discourse, which reflected a radicalisation of artistic vision, the formulation of a new aesthetic which transgressed clichés and managed to imagine a specific positioning towards certain local traditions and communal (ritualic) practices, against the ideological and political tensions or certain minimalist and conceptual concerns in art. The appearance of international networks to promote new trends in textile art such as the Lausanne Biennial (1962) or the Lódź Tapestry Triennial (1972) or the opening of international exhibitions such as Wall Hangings (MoMA, 1969), Perspectief in textiel (Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, 1969) manage to bring to the forefront internationally landmark positions of Eastern European art whose practices synthesise the then quest for the spatialisation of medium, the sculpturalisation and the abstraction of forms. The present talk is aimed at re-contextualising the narratives of textile art, turning its gaze to certain moments and case studies, often forgotten or overlooked.

Susanne Altmann. Disentangling.
Women artists in the Eastern Bloc reinvent Textile and Fibre Art
Often, the artistic work with textiles, fabrics or fibres is connected to traditional female domesticity or, at best, categorised as applied arts. Women artists from Eastern and Central Europe such as Magdalena Abakanowicz, Christa Jeitner, Ana Lupaş and Adriena Šimotová defied such assignments of meaning way before 1989. They did so by infusing the sculptural malleability and everydayness of precisely these materials with aggression, pain and uneasiness. The materials they formed in an artistic process attained sculptural autonomy. In the haptic experience of them, a link to clothing always makes itself felt, and with it a link to that anthropological “layer” that ultimately separates or protects the individual’s body from the social space. This presentation will attempt to plea for a responsible reading of Fibre Art pre-1989 and underscore its uniqueness and groundbreaking originality. The research of how this medium developed and of its transgressions from common ideas of a (post)modernist canon has only just begun. It needs a decisive re-evaluation on the grounds of aesthetic and craft-related parameters in addition to the socio-political interpretations that still often overshadow an art historical perspective.

Susanne Altmann is an art historian based in Dresden. She studied art history and philosophy in Dresden and at the New School for Social Research in New York. In 1998–1999 she has assisted in the curatorial department of the Dia Center for the Art in New York and received a research grant at the University of Oxford in 2004. In addition to various curatorial and publishing activities, since 2004 she has been focusing on art production in the former socialist part of Europe before and after 1989. Her research addresses both the development of a canon and the modes of reception for non-conformist avant-gardes, which includes re-contextualising art that had been created in Eastern Germany. Her essay about Gabriele Stötzer and the Erfurt based Women Artists Group was published in the book All-women Art Spaces in Europe in the Long 1970s (eds. Agata Jakubowska and Katy Deepwell, Liverpool University Press, 2018). In 2017, her monographic study of the oeuvre of Magdalena Jetelova came out in Jetelova’s exhibition catalogue at the National Gallery in Prague. Quite recently, she has contributed with a study on Fibre Art in the former communist Europe for a monograph on artist Magdalena Abakanowicz (Central Museum of Textiles in Lodz, Poland). Since 2010, Altmann has been teaching German and contemporary art history of the 20th and 21st centuries at the Academy of Fine Arts in Dresden (HfBK, DAAD programme in English language). In December 2018, her exhibition The Medea Insurrection. Radical Women Artists behind the Iron Curtain opened at the State Art Collection in Dresden (Albertinum, Kunsthalle Lipsiusbau) and will travel to the USA (Wende Museum of Cold War, Los Angeles) later in 2019. The catalogue was published in 2019 with Walter König Publishers, Cologne.

Looking Forward, Looking Back #5 is part of the project Uncanny Fabrics.
Cultural project co-funded by the Administration of the National Cultural Fund.
Partners: Rezidența BRD Scena9/ Fundația9, CEREFREA/ Villa Noël.
Event identity: Sebastian Pren

The project does not necessarily represent the standpoint of the Administration of the National Cultural Fund. AFCN cannot be held liable for the content of the project or the manner in which the outcomes of the project may be used. These shall devolve entirely on the beneficiary of the financing.

Contact: ip@institutulprezentului.ro.

Zorka Ságlová, Laying out Nappies at Sudoměř, 1970 (detail). Photo: Jan Ságl. Courtesy of the National Gallery in Prague


Institutul Prezentului