What Does It Mean to Be Post-Soviet?

Decolonial Art from the Ruins of the Soviet Empire

Book Pages: 160 Illustrations: 21 illustrations Published: June 2018

Art and Visual Culture > Art History, European Studies > Eastern Europe and Russia, Postcolonial and Colonial Studies

In What Does It Mean to Be Post-Soviet? Madina Tlostanova traces how contemporary post-Soviet art mediates this human condition. Observing how the concept of the happy future—which was at the core of the project of Soviet modernity—has lapsed from the post-Soviet imagination, Tlostanova shows how the possible way out of such a sense of futurelessness lies in the engagement with activist art. She interviews artists, art collectives, and writers such as Estonian artist Liina Siib, Uzbek artist Vyacheslav Akhunov, and Azerbaijani writer Afanassy Mamedov who frame the post-Soviet condition through the experience and expression of community, space, temporality, gender, and negotiating the demands of the state and the market. In foregrounding the unfolding aesthesis and activism in the post-Soviet space, Tlostanova emphasizes the important role that decolonial art plays in providing the foundation upon which to build new modes of thought and a decolonial future.


"Well researched and insightful. . . . Thought-provoking and compelling. . . . A valuable addition to any academic library that supports research in contemporary art, as well as institutions that support research in Slavic studies." — Melanie E. Emerson, ARLIS/NA Reviews

"Madina Tlostanova's search for decolonial art in the unlikeliest of places, vividly illustrated and peppered with live and virtual interviews with the artists themselves, makes the theoretical claims of the first  three chapters come to life in the best possible way. Any reader curious about why art matters in what is indeed stereotypically thought as 'the ruins of the Soviet empire,' even those for whom this is a first primer into the debates of 'post-' and 'de-,' would understand the point of keeping those debates alive." — Anindita Banerjee, Russian Review

"The author’s theorizing on decoloniality and art hits the mark as an invigorated way to interpret the achievements of recent 'activist art' in and around the Russian Federation and important multi-media work from the former Soviet empire’s periphery … The results are diverse and illuminating. What will eventually emerge from 'the Soviet empire’s ruins'? Tlostanova does not prognosticate, rather she sets the stage for asking such questions in cogent, original, and revealing terms.” — Matthew Jesse Jackson, Slavic Review

"More than anything else, What Does it Mean to be Post-Soviet? ultimately reads as an invitation to artists and thinkers from the post-socialist space to use their voice and inspire a more inclusive public sphere. In showing that regained critical awareness of heritage and affirming individual agency by giving a voice to imagination and affect are necessary conditions for countering narratives of oppression, Madina Tlostanova weaves what may become a model for critical theory of the 21st century." — Toma Peiu, Anthropology of Eastern Europe Review

“In this provocative and poignant book Madina Tlostanova expands her examination of the melancholia of postsocialist peoples as ‘problem people’ facing the ‘void’ of where to go when material conditions have collapsed amid the intensity of lived experience, of sensing, feeling the, in a word, aesthesis of scarred temporality. The paradox of imagination, embodied in fiction and art, is the proverbial leap, without preordained outcomes, into the openness of decolonial responsibility and the possibility of belonging to a genuinely global future whose boomerang effect could be a transformed understanding of the present. Read this book and think. Read this book and imagine. Read this book and be inspired to create and, despite proverbial fear and trembling, act!” — Lewis Gordon, Honorary President of the Global Center for Advanced Studies

“What do most postcommunist countries—which almost thirty years after the end of the Soviet Bloc still deal with antagonizing feelings of loss, nostalgia, trauma, and never-ending transition, as well as with neocolonial domination of today's neoliberal world—all have in common? In her outstanding book, Madina Tlostanova defines these common experiences as a futureless ontology that reveals the social disorientation of post-Soviet identitarian collectivities. In so doing, she suggests that post-Soviet politically engaged art practices known as artivism offer a possible solution to this futureless ontology.” — Jelena Petrovic, Academy of Fine Arts, Vienna


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Madina Tlostanova is Professor of Postcolonial Feminisms at Linköping University, Sweden, and the author of several books, most recently, Postcolonialism and Postsocialism in Fiction and Art: Resistance and Re-existence.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Acknowledgments  vii
Introduction. A Futureless Ontology?  1
1. The Decolonial Sublime   25
2. Decolonial Aesthesis and Post-Soviet Art  33
3. A Woman Who Has Many Selves and Takes Over Many Spaces: A Conversation with Liina Siib   65
4. Beyond Dependencies: A Talk with Vyacheslav Akhunov, the Lonely Ranger of Uzbeck Contemporary Art  84
5. Reflecting on Time, Space, and Memory with Afanassy Mamedov  106
Conclusion. People Are Silent . . .  119
Notes  129
References  135
Index  141
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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-7127-4 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-7134-2
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