CFP: Visualizing the Nation: Post-Socialist ImagiNations (Budapest; November 27‒28, 2015)

While nationalism was expected to vanish in the post-Cold War era, it has instead not only survived, but returned with a vengeance. Empowered by a renewed vitality, it has gained a dominant presence all around the world. With respect to Europe, it became characteristic not only of the former-Eastern bloc, but also of the post-crisis life of more affluent countries. The present conference intends to focus on the Central-, Eastern European region, but comparisons with more established democracies outside of the region are also welcome.

Nationalism in any form is considered one of the most visual of all political currents. It presents itself via a plethora of vivid images, symbols, myths, and performative rituals. Contributing to these are dreams, fantasy and imagination, projected equally to the past and to the future. Quite surprisingly, however, despite the undeniably visual nature of this social phenomenon, conferences on nationalism, though abundant, hardly ever address the visual dimensions of their topic. This one broadens the scope of interpretation, moving beyond an exploration of the political, sociological and philosophical aspects of the “imagined communities” of the present, and focuses instead on the often overlooked but fundamental course of visualization of the Nation.

Nationalism inherently speaks the language of images. It offers sensual experiences, and a basic feeling of belonging, as conveyed by a multitude of cherished symbols, signs and elevated performative rituals. Its building blocks are moments of a shared history commemorated by monuments (and by counter-monuments of those excluded from the officially sanctioned memory of the nation), propagated by within and institutional framework. Thus, art and culture have always played a prominent role in the nation-building process. By subverting the assumed naturalness of national identity, detecting hidden elements, decoding messages and uncovering the mechanism by which nationalism impacts our daily lives, art has also been capable of disrupting the hypnosis and mass delusion produced by extreme nationalism. Socially-engaged, critical artists shed light on the operation of both officially promoted state-nationalism and on the privatized forms of national identity.

Visualising the Nation: Post-Socialist ImagiNations is staged as a concomitant event of the closing exhibition of the Private Nationalism Project (at the Budapest History Museum / Kiscell Museum and Budapest Gallery, Oct. 27‒Dec. 15, 2015). At the same time, the conference intends to move beyond the exhibition concept of scrutinizing the process of internalization of national sentiments and attitudes to explore the issue of post-socialist nationalism and its visual aspects within a wider scope.

The four sections of the two-day conference address the issues:

I. Post-socialist nationalisms / re-imagined, re-visualized new communities / competing and conflicting visions / visualizing the conflict / subversive art practices / role of the artist, role of the critic
II. Invading the public space in the name of the nation / forms of symbolic politics / rewriting history and memory / competition, conflict over the past / monuments – counter monuments / visual activism
III. Re-nationalized cultural institutions and cultural canons / use and abuse of national symbols, signs of the nation / nationalized popular culture / institutional critique, critic of national institutions / art interventions
IV. Exclusive versusinclusive visions of the nation / visualizing trans-, post-, and supra-nationalism / the enemy within and beyond the borders / minorities, large-scale dislocation, migration / dreams and nightmares / competing traumas

Please submit a 500 word proposal of the paper to be presented in the framework of one of these sections, along with Curriculum vitae by September 6th 2015.

Proposals should be sent it to

Organizers: Institute of Art History, Research Centre for the Humanities, Hungarian Academy of Sciences, Budapest; Budapest History Museum, Kiscell Museum; Private Nationalism Project, Approach Art Association, Pécs

Advisory board: Members of the Research Group of Critical Theories, Institute of Art History

Organized by: Edit András, Institute of Art History, Research Centre for the Humanities, Hungarian Academy of Sciences, Budapest; Enikő Róka and Zsóka Leposa, Budapest History Museum, Kiscell Museum, Budapest; Maria Dentl, Erste Foundation, Programme Culture, Vienna

The conference is supported by the Erste Foundation

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