Peripheralising Patriarchy Gender and Identity in Post Soviet Art. A View from the West
The exhibition catalogue, After the Wall (Stockholm-Berlin1999) asserted that body-based art has been a major means for representing the identity crises invoked in central and Eastern Europe by the geo-political changes since 1989.1 The assertion finds endorsement from other recent presentations of art discourse from the former East – for example the special internet edition of Moscow Art Magazine, no.22, 1998, the catalogues for Body and the East (Ljubljana 1998) and Private Views (Tallinn/London 1998-9), and numerous articles in n.paradoxa since 1997. This paper looks at some practices from the ex-Soviet bloc which seem to relate to the impact of the centre-periphery model of economic and power relations on ideological constructs of gendered identity. The overall intention, is to consider, from a Western viewpoint, the problematic nature of gender issues within a nascent, East European post-colonial discourse, that may be argued to be partly exemplified by these works and the critical theory which supports them. The central theme is an alleged ‘collapse of patriarchy’, identified in two very different, and to some extent mutually contradictory arguments, deriving from different contexts, but both targeted on Western audiences in the late 1990s. One of these arguments, put forward by Russian writers Olesya Turkina and Viktor Mazin in After the Wall, locates this collapse of patriarchy, via Freudo-Marxist and Lacanian constructs, at the level of male psychological identity. The other argument, mounted by the Spanish-born but American-based sociologist, Manuel Castells in volume two of his study, The Information Age, claims a disintegration of patriarchal structures at socio-economic levels.