A Miracle or Misunderstanding: Socially Engaged Practices in the Art Prospect Network Countries. Field reports from Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Tajikistan, Ukraine, and Uzbekistan.
“Socially engaged art in the former Soviet countries is either a miracle or a misunderstanding, for there are too many reasons why it should not exist.”
This quote, by art theorist and curator Viktor Misiano, serves as a departure point for this publication, which set out to explore how socially engaged art resonates with artists and communities in the post-Soviet environment. Recognizing the dearth of information about socially engaged art in post-Soviet countries, CEC Arts Link undertook an investigation of the history, practice and perception of socially engaged art in ten Post-Soviet Countries. This investigation held within it the aim of facilitating greater international exchange and collaboration. Representatives from each of the featured countries shared their experiences, knowledge, and research about social practice art in their country/city, including history and practice today, impact and perception, and resources and documentation.
Not surprisingly, these essays vary immensely, reflecting not only the diversity of cultures and socio-political situations in these post-Soviet countries, but also how these characteristics influence the role the arts play in society. A recurring theme in these essays is the lack of a framework for contemporary art in post-Soviet countries while also highlighting the diversity of arts practices and cultural traditions in countries little known outside the region. This publication serves as an anthropological exercise as much as an analysis of the role of socially engaged art in Post-Soviet countries, and serves to illuminate just a selection of the vast multiutude of experiences and approaches in each of these countries, which have too long been considered all of a same, part of the “Post-Soviet world”. It serves to shine a light on differing approaches, challenges, styles and practices in each country, thus providing invaluable information to enable international collaboration and exchange.
CEC ArtsLink, founded in 1962, promotes international dialogue and understanding through innovative arts projects. CEC ArtsLink believes that the arts are the most deliberate and profound means of communication that can help overcome long histories of distrust, insularity and conflict, and contribute to building more open and civil societies. The core programs – ArtsLink Fellowships, Art Prospect, and Back Apartment Residency -– facilitate collaboration among leading artists, arts managers, curators, and communities in the U.S. and 37 countries. Their Art Prospect Fellows program provides an opportunity for talented emerging artists from Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Russia, Tajikistan, Ukraine, and Uzbekistan to visit the US for a study residency.