[artinfo] The Green Bloc: Neo-avant-garde Art and Ecology under Socialism / Maja Fowkes

Translocal Institute fowkes at translocal.org
Thu Jun 4 13:20:42 CEST 2015

The Green Bloc: Neo-avant-garde Art and Ecology under Socialism

by Maja Fowkes

New York / Budapest
Central European University Press
308 pages
ISBN 978-963-386-068-7 cloth 
ISBN 978-615-5225-92-5 paperback 

Expanding the horizon of established accounts of 
Central European art under socialism, this book 
uncovers the neglected history of artistic 
engagement with the natural environment in the 
Eastern Bloc. The turbulent legacy of 1968, which 
saw the confluence of political upheaval, spread 
of counterculture, rise of ecological 
consciousness, and emergence of global conceptual 
art, provides the setting for Maja Fowkes's 
innovative reassessment of the environmental 
practice of the Central European neo-avant-garde. 
Focussing on artists and artist groups whose 
ecological dimension has rarely been considered, 
including the Pécs Workshop from Hungary, OHO in 
Slovenia, TOK in Croatia, Rudolf Sikora in 
Slovakia, and the Czech artist Petr ·tembera, The 
Green Bloc: Neo-avant-garde Art and Ecology under 
Socialism brings to light an array of distinctive 
approaches to nature, from attempts to raise 
environmental awareness among socialist citizens 
to the exploration of non-anthropocentric 
positions and the quest for cosmological 
existence in the midst of red ideology. Embedding 
artistic production in social, political, and 
environmental histories of the region, this book 
reveals the Central European artists' 
sophisticated relationship to nature, at the 
precise moment when ecological crisis was first 
apprehended on a planetary scale.

Dr. Maja Fowkes is Co-Director of the 
Institute for Contemporary Art Budapest. She has 
a PhD from University College London and is 
author of several books, including River 
Ecologies: Contemporary Art and Environmental 
Humanities on the Danube (2015) and Loophole to 
Happiness (2011).

About The Green Bloc:
"Measuring progress in tons of wheat or coal, the 
communist authorities in Eastern Europe treated 
the natural environment as little more than a 
resource to be ruthlessly exploited. But, as Maja 
Fowkes shows in her pioneering book, 
environmentally minded artists in Hungary, 
Czechoslovakia, and Yugoslavia in the 1970s found 
highly creative ways of testing official 
indifference to the effects of industrial 
modernity. Most of their artworks and actions 
were ephemeral, leaving few traces either in the 
landscape or in art history. The Green Bloc is a 
deeply researched and vividly written act of 
rediscovery." Professor David Crowley, Head of 
Critical Writing in Art & Design Programme, Royal 
College of Art, London

"The Green Bloc has it all: original research on 
an uncommon subject, a new approach uniting 
ecology with conceptual art analysis, as well as 
a language able to carry the reader all through 
the text while discovering the particular ways 
art and nature built up a new social landscape. 
Using as a ground the socialist environment of 
Central Europe, the book is concerned with ways 
of introducing new questions into the narrative 
of art history, furthering our understanding of 
how artists managed to expand state ideas of the 
social and performed the emergence of a discourse 
on co-evolution that is extremely important 
today." Professor Chus Martinez, Head of the 
Institute of Art of the FHNW Academy of Arts and 
Design, Basel
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