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David Crowley’s talk will explore the ways in which cultural opposition found alternative platforms for the dissemination of unlicensed ideas and cultural practices in Eastern Europe under communist rule. Seemingly marginal spaces – like apartments, parks, student clubs, abandoned chapels and active churches – were employed by non-conformist and oppositional artists and theatre groups as places in which to produce and disseminate culture which escaped state censorship and control. Without the resources of the state, these exhibitions and performances required considerable improvisation.

The activity of consuming alternative media forms – such as watching an unlicensed performance or visiting an exhibition in a private apartment – involved personal risk for participants too (many of the most vivid reports of these events are to be found in the secret police files). Here, the consumption of culture was, itself, a productive act in the sense that these spaces were central to the formation of what has sometimes been called the Second Public Sphere.


More Information

Focusing on this phenomenon, Crowley will reflect critically on concepts which often seem little more than commonplaces such as the notion of private space or the romantic idea of the ‘underground’. This talk examines the legacy of this phenomenon today – both in terms of the practices of artists, designers and curators active in Eastern Europe and, more generally, in the widespread desire to creative alternative structures for the creation and dissemination of culture.

This lecture is part of the IMMA Summer School 2019, featuring talks and workshops by a range of national and international artists, theorists and critics who will focus on the connections between art and politics. Also see details of a day long public seminar taking place on Tue 11 June here


About the Speaker

David Crowley teaches at the National College of Art and Design (NCAD) in Dublin. His books include Warsaw (2003) and three volumes co-edited with Susan Reid, Socialism and Style. Material Culture in Post-war Eastern Europe (2000); Socialist Spaces. Sites of Everyday Life in the Eastern Bloc (2003); and Pleasures in Socialism: Leisure and Luxury in the Eastern Bloc (2010). Crowley also curates exhibitions including Cold War Modern at the Victoria and Albert Museum in 2008–9 (with Jane Pavitt), Sounding the Body Electric. Experiments in Art and Music in Eastern Europe at Muzeum Sztuki, Łódź, 2012 and Calvert 22, London, 2013, and Notes from Underground. Art and Alternative Music in Eastern Europe 1968-1994 at Muzeum Sztuki, Łódź, 2018 and Akademie der Kunst, Berlin, 2018 (both with Daniel Muzyczuk). His edited volume Ultra Sounds. The Sonic Art of Polish Radio Experimental Studio was published by Kehrer in 2019