Kim? Contemporary Art Centre
Group Show “Orient”

Curated by Michal Novotny


At two different locations – Tallinas iela 6 and Kim?, Sporta iela 2 k-1


Artists: Darja Bajagić, Wojciech Bąkowski, Matei Bejenaru, Piotr Bosacki, Pavel Brăila, Veronika Bromová, Jan Brož, Jiří Černický, Romana Drdová, Habima Fuchs, Matyáš Chochola, Anežka Hošková, Atis Jākobsons, Zsófia Keresztes, Aurora Király, Adrian Kiss, Adam Kokesch, Jiří Kovanda, Piotr Łakomy, Václav Litvan, Pavla Malinová, David Maljkovič, Jimena Mendoza, Gizela Mickiewicz, Marge Monko, Vlad Nancă, Ioana Nemeş, Alice Nikitinova, Richard Nikl, Pakui Hardware, Jasanský & Polák, Julius Reichel, Dragana Sapanjoš, Jiří Skála, Adéla Součková, Petr Štembera, Aвдeй Tep-Oгaньян, Mark Ther, Viktor Timofeev, Jerzy Truszkowski, Anetta Mona Chişa & Lucia Tkáčová, Emöke Vargová, Martin Vongrej, Jana Želibská


“A sprawl of snowy hills and ugly roads…there is no one to see them” (0)


The exhibition “Orient” is a meditation on the Eastern European identity. As the unifying aspect of this unclear region, it considers the failure of its own identity. The contradictory longing for pride and patriotism, and the simultaneous shame of where we come from (1), leading to suppression, and the negation of this belonging. The embarrassment growing from the internalisation of the collapse of the surrounding context, once built upon a social and political utopia. The expectation of catching up with the western capitalist standards, for which the integration into Europe, meaning Western Europe, was so often reduced on both sides. The slipping of the Second World from the frame (2), and hence belonging neither to Europe, nor to the West, nor to “non-Western”.

This exhibition chose the projection of an obviously problematic title (3), to constitute the self-ironic identity of the “East European (br)Other” (4). It claims this contradictory “Oedipal relation”(5), by both refusing and craving, as key constituents of the in-between-ness of Eastern (Bloc, Central, post-communist, New etc.) (6) Europe.

Stating the suppressed inferiority complex, as a possible reason for the recent upheaval of nationalism and non democratic tendencies in Eastern Europe, it questions whether the acceptance of this failure in constituting and performing Eastern European identities, could not be turned to be its virtue.

Built on expectations, desires, stories, experiences and stereotypes, it stages a drama that takes the viewer through five genre scenes following the historical dialectics of the region’s development since the end of 1980s. A muddle of most ironic and most earnest intents for creating the new museum of (in)famous national histories. A therapeutic reenactment of our surprises, victories, traumas and humiliations. A dark satirical comedy of “The Fateful Adventures” (7) in the non-existent region after The End of History (8).

Despite the harsh irony (9), this exhibition believes it will help the “wayward children of Europe” (10) to finally grow and return to the European home once again, but also consider home as being more “celebratory” than “self-congratulatory” and more “fraternal” than “patronising”. (11)

This exhibition is not a mapping, nor a survey, but a subjective journey seen from a point in space and time, and constructed with artists chosen not according to nationality or language (12) but via a relation. It doesn’t aim for equality, but rather for inclusion.


0—In LUX: Laura McLean Ferris, New Artist Focus, Laura McLean Ferris on Deimantas Narkevičius: “The landscape of their country – a sprawl of snowy hills and ugly roads, paints a lonely picture, and suggests that there is no one to see them.”


1—“Farewell, Poland, farewell, empty wasteland, forever covered in snow and ice (…) Barbaric people, arrogant and fickle, Braggarts, blabberers, having nothing but language, Who, day and night shut up in a heated room, Amuse themselves with a glass for every pleasure, Smore at the table and sleep on the ground.” Philippe Desportes: Adieu à la Pologne, 1574, translated from French in Philippe Desportes’s “Adieu à la Pologne” and Jan Kochanowski’s “Gallo Crocitanti” by Rory Finnin in Comparative literature studies, Vol. 44, No.4, 2007.


2—Lucy Steeds in “How We Talk About East-European Art?” conference by “There was only one Eastern European artist included in Les Magiciens de la Terre (…) We’re now gonna shift to Havana, to consider the 3rd Art Biennale of 1989, which as you can see here, was the subject of the first of the two volumes, under the “Making Art Global” title. And I can tell you right away that no Eastern European Artists were included, but if you look at the catalogue, no Western artists, as strictly, were represented either.”


3—Edward Said in “Orientalism”, compare to “Inventing Eastern Europe” by Larry Wolff: “As late as the eve of World War I, French scholarship still alternated between two seemingly similar terms, l’Europe orientale (Eastern Europe) and l’Orient européen (the European Orient). (…) The idea of Eastern Europe was entangled with evolving Orientalism, for while Philosophic Geography casually excluded Eastern Europe from Europe, implicitly shifting it into Asia, scientific cartography seemed to contradict such fanciful construction. (…) Such uncertainty encouraged the construction of Eastern Europe as a paradox of simultaneous inclusion and exclusion, Europe, but not Europe.”


4—in The Third Text: Welcome to Slaka, Katarzyna Murawska-Muthesius writes that“the ideological construction of the racialised colonial Other and the ‘undeservingly white’ East European (br)Other in the dominant western discourses reveal too many points in common to be ignored.”


5—unknowingly killing his father and marrying his mother, questions of who is who remains.


6—Katarzyna Murawska Mathesius in “Mapping Eastern Europe: Cartography and Art History” adds many different names for this region: Marchlands, shatter zone, the belt of political change, the other Europe, New Europe, Mitteleuropa, Zwischeneuropa and many others.


7—Jaroslav Hašek: The Fateful Adventures of Brave Soldier Švejk.


8—Francis Fukuyama: The End of History and The Last Man.


9—“In November 1956, the director of Hungarian News Agency, shortly before his office was flattened by artillery fire, sent a telex to the entire world with a desperate message announcing that the Russian attack against Budapest had begun. The dispatch ended with these words: We are going to die for Hungary and for Europe.” Milan Kundera in “The Tragedy of Central Europe”, The New York Reviews of Books, 1984.


10—this term that Václav Havel used in his speech to U.S: Congress on February 22nd 1990, was translated from the original Czech word “zbloudilé” meaning rather “abandoned”, “lost”, or “stray children” by the simultaneous interpreter as “wayward children.”


11—in “Political Critique: Eastern Europe according to British media”: More likely to go to Italy for cappuccinos than join the ethnic fighting in Kosovo, Anna Azarova further writes” “Eastern Europe’s main attraction is, of course, that it’s cheap. (…) “knock-down prices, […] lured by dirt-cheap flights,” “cheap beer and even cheaper women,” (…) The inhabitants of these cheap countries who lived the painful past and its consequences were similarly hardly mentioned – except in the context of describing their excitement at the sight of westerners’ purcha$ing power; or as wild, undesirable side-effects.””


12—“Well, dearest friend, dearest Hikkitihoki, that is your name as you must know. We all invented names for ourselves on the journey. They are: I am Punkitititi. My wife is Schabla Pumfa. Hofer is Rozkapumpa. Adler is Notschopikitischibi. My servant Joseph is Sagadarata. My dog Goukeri is Schomanski. Madam Quallenberg is Runzifunzi. Mlle. Krox is Rumborimuri. Freistaetler is Gaulimauli. Be so kind as to tell him his name.” these lines to Gottfried von Jacquin, from January 1787, were written by German speaking Mozart after his journey from Vienna to Prague through Czech speaking lands of “Bohemia.”


Download Handout

The exhibition is co-organised by BOZAR Centre for Fine Arts, Brussels and Bunkier Sztuki Gallery of Contemporary Art in Krakow in the framework of Trauma and Revival, a European project on cultural relations between Eastern and Western Europe. The project partners are BOZAR Center for Fine Arts, ZKM Zentrum für Kunst und Medientechnologie Karlsruhe, Kim? Contemporary Art Centre, Cittadellarte — Fondazione Pistoletto, Bunkier Sztuki Gallery of Contemporary Art in Krakow, Jyvaskylan Yliopisto, Austrian Culture Forum Moscow, Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts, State Museum and Exhibition Center ROSIZO, Tretyakov State Gallery.
The exhibition is organised within Latvian Centenary Programme and is co-funded by the Creative Europe Programme of the European Union, Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Latvia, State Culture Capital Foundation of Latvia, Riga City Council, the Belgian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Flemish Government, and the Federation of Brussels and Wallonia.