CFP: Multiplying Modernity: Vernacular modernisms, nostalgia and the avant-garde

Multiplying Modernity

Vernacular modernisms, nostalgia and the avant-garde

CRAACE workshop, 67 December 2019

East Slovak Gallery, Košice (Slovakia)

In the decades before 1918 there was a vibrant debate over the nature of ‘national art’ in Central Europe. For many this was embodied in folk art and culture. By 1914, this idea was increasingly challenged by avant-garde interests in the metropolis. After the War, however, a return to folk art and regionalism was revisited and gained increasing importance in the decades leading up the Second World War. Within a broad artistic landscape, folk art and culture was used to search for a fundamental essence of human culture, as in the case of the Hungarian painters Lajos Vajda and Dezső Korniss; to create a ‘national style’ with reinterpretations of folk art, as in 1920s Czechoslovakia; and to seek renewal outside a lost imperial capital, like in Austria.

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Catalogue review: Košice Modernism

In 2016, the International Cultural Centre Kraków presented the exhibition Koszycka moderna / Košice Modernism in cooperation with the East Slovak Gallery in the town of Košice. Its catalogue, reviewed here, remains the most recent analysis of Košice Modernism: a term coined by curator Zsófia Kiss-Szemán, and referring to the cultural upsurge in the 1920s Košice, today in eastern Slovakia. Part of Hungary in the Habsburg Empire, the town was an important centre for commerce, located at the intersections of ‘East’ and ‘West’ in Carpathian Ruthenia. With the collapse of the empire, Košice became part of Czechoslovakia in 1918 as an approximately 50,000-strong border town with a mixed Slovak, Hungarian, Jewish, German and Czech population. As the exhibition argues, these socio-political and geographical particularities shaped Košice’s cultural development: while its strategic position on a trading route meant that Košice’s multi-ethnic community could flourish, its incorporation into Czechoslovakia introduced a democratic form of government, which allowed a degree of political freedom that was especially significant for leftist artists seeking refuge from the Horthy regime in Hungary in 1919.

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