Art Research Center
Call for Papers – Beyond Friendships
International conference on Regional Cultural Transfer in the Art of the ’70s

Anna Kutera, PREZENTACJA (Presentation) detail, "F-Art", Festival of Baltic Art Schools, Gdańsk, 1975. Courtesy of the artist.

In May 2022, Artpool Art Research Center, Budapest, and the Central European Research Institute for Art History (KEMKI) are organizing a conference to investigate the concept of cultural transfer and its relevance for the transnational art histories of Central-East Europe.

KEMKI, bearing in its name “Central Europe” and comprising of archives of both underground and state-run institutionswhich were part of different but overlapping international networksconsiders it its responsibility to open a transnational discourse on current and yet to be developed approaches to regional art histories. As a reflection on this extraordinary constellation, the conference will approach cultural transfer as a process transcending the usual official/non-official dichotomies. 

Cultural transfer and histoire croisée developed in the context of 19th-century transnational cultural history to describe cross-border contacts that trigger mutual changes in cultural concepts and practices. Though transfer originally describes larger scale processes—together with the concept of cultural translation introduced by postcolonial studies, these concepts go beyond sheer comparisons that assume a neutral, outside point of view and offer the possibility of overcoming the hierarchical, one-way concept of influence. Following the pathway of horizontal art history set by Piotr Piotrowski, our proposal puts forward a definition and narrative of Central-East European art based on actual contacts, dialogs, and reciprocal effects between the art practitioners instead of the rigid geographical and political definitions of the region and its art scenes. 

The cultural relationships of the East European region were formed in the 20th century by several historical events, waves of emigration, the relocation of minority communities, and multilingual, poly-ethnic urban centers of culture. By the ’70s the relations between the local art scenes were not only defined by centralized, top-down cultural diplomacy of the so-called “friendly,” Comecon countries but the occasional collaboration of the actors of the parallel culture that had just evolved in each country of the region. On the occasion of state-organized research trips, contacts with underground artists could also be established, neo-avant-garde artists who were marginalized in their own countries could exhibit in the state-run art institution of another, at that time, culturally more liberal country. 

The regional commitment of several artists, art historians, and art periodicals played a vital role in the regeneration of regional collaborations. The activities of Lajos Kassák, Tomáš Štrauss, Jindřich Chalupecký, Petr Štembera, László Beke, Dóra Maurer, or János Brendel, KwieKulik, Katalin Ladik, Bálint Szombathy, MAMŰ; or periodicals like Új Symposion can be explored neither purely confined to the concept of national arts, nor by the rigid separation of so-called official and non-official art. Organizing this conference in Budapest we would also like to reflect on Hungary’s special situation in the region complicated by minority cultures and migration.

With this open call, we are inviting researchers to comment on our proposal and present papers that could contribute to the following questions: 

  • Can we, and should we step forward from building transnational art histories on influences, comparisons, parallels, networking, and how can we apply the concept of cultural transfer, translation, or hybridity to the field of Central-East European Art of the Cold War era? 
  • What interplay existed between official friendship, its ideological-political background, and underground networking within the region? What role did cultural diplomacy of friendly countries and the socialist concepts of culture play in the development of self-organized exchanges and vice versa?
  • What were the vectors of cultural transfer? Which transnational cultural agents, events, communities, and traveling concepts facilitated regional exchanges, and what changes and effects did they bring about?

Please send the abstract of your proposed contribution in English (max. 500 words) and your short CV to by January 20, 2022.

The conference is part of the long-run research project, Resonances: Regional and Transregional Cultural Transfer in the Art of the 1970s realized in cooperation with Andrea Euringer Bátorová (Department of Art History of the Comenius University, Bratislava), Pavlína Morganová, Dagmar Svatosova (Academic Research Centre of the Academy of Fine Arts (VVP AVU), Prague), Hana Buddeus (Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic, Institute of Art History), and Magdalena Radomska (Piotr Piotrowski Center for Research on East-Central Europe at the Adam Mickiewicz University, Poznań).  

The proposals will be evaluated by the Resonances research team and applicants will be notified by January 31, 2022.

The project is co-financed by the Governments of Czechia, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia through Visegrad Grants from International Visegrad Fund. The mission of the fund is to advance ideas for sustainable regional cooperation in Central Europe.