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ISSN 1409-6900 | UDK 82+7     Blesok no. 52 | volume X | January-February, 2007



                     Peer-reviewed journal
Blesok no. 52January-February, 2007

An Introductory Exploration of the Concept of Balkan in Art

p. 1
Jessica Gearhart

    The concept and term ‘Balkan’ is well known and oft-used in several academic and political arenas in the modern world. The Balkan region has achieved notoriety in the west in the flurry of books and media coverage on the Yugoslav wars during the 1990s. As a TV-viewing people, we westerners have recently become intimately acquainted with a simplified version of contemporary Balkan history. We, for example, know Slobodan Milošević by face. Within the past several years, the concept of Balkan has also been thoroughly researched and deconstructed by academics like Maria Todorova. The multi-layered understanding of the concept of Balkan as promoted by contemporary academics is becoming more widely used in the arenas in which the Balkans have traditionally been included, such as politics and history, breaking down our stereotypical preconceptions about the region. However, there is one area in which the concept of Balkan has not been thoroughly examined or deconstructed: the mainstream art industry is struggling to free itself from the archaic concept of Balkan that it still employs as a means to classify and identity art and artists from the Balkan peninsula. The art world seems to be rather reluctant to adopt a less sensationalized and simplistic version of what is termed Balkan into its discourse. In fact, little research or literature on the subject of Balkan (as it will be referred to in this essay in order to simplify the use of this term and the characterizatoin it recieves) in the mainstream art world has been produced. Clearly there are questions left to be addressed. Why does Balkan art remain marginal in the art world? What role will it play in the contemporary art world in years to come? Surely these questions are important to the very idea of how the collective Balkan identity is to be perceived by the Western world.
    In a review of a 2002 book titled Primary Documents: A Sourcebook for Eastern and Central European Art since the 1950s, Martina Pachmanová notes that ‘for a long time, art in East Central Europe has been placed on the periphery of interest of most academics in the West’.[1] During the past five years, several art exhibitions have addressed the concept of Balkan, displaying works of art that explore everything from identity to feminism to censorship using sundry mediums. However, rarely has an art show attempted to decipher on a critical level the constructs of Balkan


1. Tomas Pospiszyl, MoMa Symposium ‘East of Art: Transformations in Eastern Europe’ transcript, 23 March 2003 [accessed 3 March 2005]

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