«Ideology at Its Purest»: Whose modernism?
Keywords:modernism, nationalism, national identity, ideology and art, national style, tradition, Central and Eastern Europe, heritage, Ukraine
In this review, I aim to analyse the catalogue «In the Eye of the Storm: Modernism in Ukraine, 1900–1930s». The project bearing the same name, for which the catalogue was prepared, commenced in the autumn of 2022 at the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum (Madrid), essentially becoming the first extensive exhibition dedicated to the work of modernist artists in the territory of contemporary Ukraine since 2007. Modernism is an international phenomenon characterised by various movements and ideas, that incorporate local elements into art. However, post-Soviet states instrumentalised knowledge of modernism, seeking to recreate a «tradition» disrupted by the Soviet regime. This involves juxtaposing the modernist movement with socialist realism. The authors of the reviewed publication also adopted this approach: to construct a «national» past, they resorted to the cultural nationalisation of modernism. This is achieved, in part, by using terms such as «Ukrainian modernism/avant-garde», blending ideological traditions of modernity and modernism, and so on. In my text, I aim to clarify these processes and demonstrate the inappropriateness of defining the national identity of artists who worked in the territory of contemporary Ukraine from the 1900s to the 1930s, as well as the appropriation of modernism by one country or another.
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