Exhibition EAST.ART.MUSEUM in Karl-Ernst-Osthaus-Museum in Hagen (Germany) by Hanno Reichel
back to the future
For the recent years, the project EAST.ART.MAP seemed to consist "only" of the abstract idea of -more or less symbolically- writing the history of EAST.ART and a first attempt to establish this history on the internet-platform www.eastartmap.org. From this start, the internet-based version of EAST.ART.MAP has up to now developed to be a profound reference-system about the whole phenomenon of EAST.ART, organized in accordance with the aim of consciously constructing the very history of EAST.ART itself out of the fact that an official history of this art does not exist yet ("We are planning to transform the legends and stories of the underground into a legal history of art" / "History is not given, it has to be constructed" - IRWIN). In this sense, the driving-force behind EAST.ART.MAP seems strictly conform with the thesis of NSK that "it is not a nation's past that shapes its ideology but [on the contrary] a nation's ideology that shapes its past". Slightly paralleling the artist approach of NSK, the project EAST.ART.MAP can be seen as an organised activity of picking certain objects (in this case: pieces of art), analysing and contextualising them with the single difference that -differing from NSK- this time the material used is objectively contextualised for the first time after being only labelled as "eastern art" for decades before. Paralleling the totalitarian and systematic approach of NSK, this process of contextualising is realised in a very strict way, mapping artists and pieces of art on a logical three-dimensional system of coordinates for time, space and context, thus at least superficially banning any emotional or subjective approach towards the involved elements.
Representing NSK behind these ideas, among other artists, curators and art-experts, IRWIN sign responsible for the selection of certain artworks and artists to be part of the map and of the idea of the map itself. Of course, IRWIN/s participation in creating the EAST.ART.MAP is not the only relation between NSK and the map. Besides IRWIN itself, the map mentions NSK as a whole, LAIBACH and Dragan Zivadinov (former NOORDUNG) in the Slovene section of the 1980ies as important elements of EAST.ART.
Since 11.09.2005, Hagen's Karl-Ernst-Osthaus-Museum hosts the temporary exhibition EAST.ART.MUSEUM, for the first time connecting the long-term project EAST.ART.MAP to touchable reality by framing it within a museum/s context. Following the website, the exhibition is a first attempt to present the idea of EAST.ART.MAP to a larger public in a "normal" exhibition's context, and leaving the purely "virtual" state of the map. In this sense, the exhibtion puts forward the idea of the web-based EAST.ART.MAP, replacing the web-based search-functions by a walk through the museum/s space and the multimedial web-objects by original pieces of art.
Up to now, only a small number of original artworks is presented to the public, but the idea of EAST.ART.MUSEUM goes far beyond the traditional idea of a museum or art-gallery as a simple exhibiting-space for artworks. Replacing the navigational cube of the website EAST.ART.MAP, large glass-containers serve as space for small copies of certain pieces of art, sorted in different ways, contexts and systems enabling the viewer to travel through time, space and ideas with a single move of a finger and a look to the left and right. Accompanying these tools of visualising and understanding, the exhibition offers a large collection of EAST.ART-related books and catalogues in the EAST.ART-library.
Besides these mainly project-related objects, the exhibition of course also features certain original pieces of art from paintings and sculptures to photographs, videos and documentation of performing arts. Most interesting in the context of NSK is the opportunity to witness certain original artworks that definitely belong to the arsenal from which NSK gained at least some of their various influences. Examples for these artworks exhibited are –among lots of others- Malevich's "Fiction Reconstructed" (revisiting the famous Malvich-cross quoted by LAIBACH) or Rasa Todosijevic's video-performance "Was ist Kunst" in which a female's face gets touched, beaten and treated violently to the endless repetition of the aggressively spoken question "Was ist Kunst (what is art)?". This question was later occasionally picked up by IRWIN as the title of certain early series of paintings and generally speaking the performance parallels the appearances of LAIBACH, confronting the audience with a program of "physical and psychic terror" and being –in spite of the totalitarian performance- not an answer or a direction but a gigantic questionmark and total alienation.
forging the future
The current exhibition will not be the final stage of the long-term-project EAST.ART.MAP. Accompanying the exhibition, the international and interdisciplinary discussion "Mind the Map!-History is not given" will be taking place in Leipzig in the middle of October (www.mindthemap.net) as another event to present the project to the interested public and encourage people to participate in the future development of the map: As base-democratic principle, the map allows active participation by getting in contact with the creators of the map and propose changes or supplements, ensuring already today the most broad acceptance of the constructed history in the future.
As a final stage of the project, the initiators are planning to install a permanent EAST.ART.MUSEUM in Berlin. The future will tell if the experiment of consciously constructing history will be successful. Maybe somewhen in 2020, EAST.ART.MUSEUM will be able to draw the appropriate attention of both an eastern and a western public to this forgotten part of European cultural history. Berlin, as the central crossroad between eastern and western Europe in our times seems to be the perfect place for this vision.