Subversive Practices

Iris Dressler & Hans D. Christ - Intermedia Department of the Hungarian University of Fine Arts, Budapest, 12 February 2010

The exhibition “Subversive Practices” at the Württembergischer Kunstverein in Stuttgart - parts of it being presented now at the Trafo Gallery - devoted itself to experimental and conceptual art practices that had established between the nineteen-sixties and eighties in Europe and South America under the influence of military dictatorships and communist regimes. The exhibition has been developed by a team of thirteen international curators in close collaboration over a two-year process. In Stuttgart the exhibition comprised more than 300 works by around eighty artists

The exhibition’s nine sections focused on various contexts and strategies of artistic production along with their positioning vis-ŕ-vis political and cultural repression in the GDR, Hungary, Romania, the Soviet Union, Spain, Chile, Brazil, Argentina, and Peru. Of equal concern here were both the particularities of and the relations between the different temporal and local environments.

The network behind the project traces back to the research project “Vivid (radical) Memory“ (2007), carried out by the University of Barcelona, the Württembergischer Kunstverein and C3 Center for Culture and Communication Foundation in Budapest. As a “follow-up“of this research project, “Subversive Practices” was organized by the Württembergischer Kunstverein in collaboration with the C3 Center for Culture and Communication Foundation in Budapest and the Arteleku center of culture in San Sebastian.

The exhibition understood itself as a snapshot of an ongoing research, based on a network of curators, artists, art historians and theorists in Europe and South America. It undertook the experiment of a shifted cartography and an extended understanding of conceptual art, which has become established well beyond the Anglo-American canon. In this respect, the related interdisciplinary, collaborative, and sociopolitical potentials were particularly emphasized - that is, the paradigm shifts between visual arts, politics, society, sciences, architecture, design, mass media, literature, dance, theater, activism, and so forth, which have been educed by these potentials.

Furthermore, the focus has been on artistic practices that not only radically question the conventional concept of art, the institutions, and the relationship between art and public, but that have, at the same time, subversively thwarted structures of censorship and opposed the existing systems of power. Here, body, language, and public space represent the pivotal instruments, of resistance, symbolic and performative in equal measure. The appropriation of media and distribution channels - especially the postal service - has in turn played a distinctive role in the establishment of the widely ramified networks between (Eastern) Europe and Latin America.

In lieu of conceptualizing a comprehensive and homogenized discourse, the exhibition reflected specific questions and problems. The curators each developed individual presentational models for their respective exhibition section. In different ways they approach to the problem in presenting ephemeral, time- and location-specific art forms. Thus, the exhibition could be experienced also on a formal level as a polyphonic parcours, a multidimensional cartography.


Hans D. Christ and Iris Dressler are directing the Württembergischer Kunstverein in Stuttgart since 2005. In 1996, they founded the Hartware MedienKunstverein in Dortmund, which they directed until 2004.