While Project ‘1975’ researches the relation between international contemporary art and the postcolonial discourse, Former West reflects upon the changes introduced to the world (and thus to the so-called West) by the political, cultural, artistic, and economic events of 1989.
The fall of the Berlin wall in 1989 represented the end of the Cold War between the communist East and the capitalist West, and represented the end of an era (or even ‘the end of history’ in the words of Francis Fukuyama). The term “former West,” the unofficial counterpart to the widely used “former East,” refers to this division. How have the events in 1989 influenced the dichotomy? What has changed since then? And what is it that we have in mind when we now speak of the “East” and the “West?”
These are the questions initiator Maria Hlavajova (artistic director of BAK, basis voor actuele kunst, Utrecht) and co-organisor Charles Esche (director Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven) formulated during the introduction of the first research congress in 2009.
The project, which started in 2008 and will continue until 2014, reflects upon the political, cultural, artistic, and economic events since 1989, while rethinking these global histories in dialogue with post-communist and postcolonial thought. Moreover, the project speculates about a “post-bloc” future, in which the former East and the former West are united. The project consists of research congresses, seminars, research exhibitions and publications, that all explore these topics with and from the field of art. Former West investigates how significant changes in society are reflected and understood in all their complexity in new artistic productions. “We believe art is a useful device to measure a more general consciousness of the state of global relationships today and to help us collectively think beyond them”, Hlavajova and Esche stated. The work of artists Olga Chernysheva, Lawrence Weiner, Mona Vătămanu and Florin Tudor, amongst others, exemplify this statement. Their works were presented in Former West research exhibitions.
Meanwhile two research congresses have taken place. While the first congress in 2009 focused on the definition of the so-called Former West and the relevance of the year 1989, the second congress researched the theoretical notion of the “horizon” and its place within artistic production and political imagination today. The Former West website provides video registrations of all lectures. Furthermore the website offers an extensive bibliography on the topic.