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After the Red Square: Guest Lecturer Mikhail Iampolski on Post-Communist Russian Film

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After the Red Square: Guest Lecturer Mikhail Iampolski on Post-Communist Russian Film

February 1 2008

The contemporary, post-communist situation is mostly understood as a time after the full and final victory of the market over all the attempts to put this rule into question. Accordingly, art is equated to the art market and an individual artwork is seen primarily as a commodity. Under this regime the only way for art to become “serious” is to become “critical,” which means that it tries to reflect explicitly on its own character as a commodity. It is telling that the art of the former communist or socialist countries is regarded from this perspective as non-serious because it is non-critical by definition; this art could not reflect on itself as a commodity because it was not a commodity. (It was not a commodity because there was no market, and certainly no art market under socialism.)

But the equation between art and art market, be it critical or not, not only brings about the erasure of a substantial part of the art heritage of the 20th Century; it also-and this is the more important point-ignores the non-market dimensions of contemporary art that functions not only as commodity but also as propaganda (for example: Islamist videos), as a means to organize a new type of communal space and a new type of community itself. The goal of this seminar, organized by Boris Groys, is to investigate precisely these non-market aspects of contemporary art in its relationship to the long tradition of non-market uses of art, related initially to the socialist-communist tradition.

Mikhail Iampolski is Associate Professor of Comparative Literature and Russian and Slavic Studies at New York University. He moved to the United States from Russia in 1991. After one year at the Getty Center, he came to teach at NYU, first in the Departments of Cinema and Performance Studies and later in the Departments of Comparative Literature and Russian Studies. He has published seven books and more than 300 articles in various languages on cinema, literature and history of European culture, including The Memory of Tiresias: Intertextuality and Film. Iampolski’s interests include Slavic literatures and cinema, theories of representation, and the body in culture. Currently his main interest lies in interdisciplinary studies of the history and theory of visual representation and of political representation in particular.

Night School is an artist’s project by Anton Vidokle in the form of a temporary school. A yearlong program of monthly seminars and workshops, Night School draws upon a group of local and international artists, writers, and theorists to conceptualize and conduct the program.

Suggested reading
Boris Groys, The Total Art of Stalinism, trans. Chrales Rougle, Princeton University Press, 1992. Boris Groys, Ilya Kabakov: The Man who Flew into Space from His Apartment, Afterall Books, 2006. Boris Groys et al., Dream Factory Communism, Frankfurt: Hatje Cantz Publishers, 2003. Jacques Derrida, Specters of Marx, New York: Routledge, 1994. Giorgio Agamben, Die kommende Gemeinschaft, Berlin: Merve Verlage, 2003.