Art, Culture, Conflict: Transformations of Museums and Memory Culture in the Baltic Sea Region after 1989
Karlholm, Dan - Professor
The Foundation for Baltic and East European Studies
This project aims to map, analyze and interpret transformations of exhibitions of culture and art at museum institutions, art spaces and memorials around the Baltic Sea from 1989 until today. Key questions include how discursive narrative structures about the nation, its culture, history and identity were changed ideologically and in terms of communication and mediation. Based on the critical discussion regarding international, transnational, Nordic, Baltic, European and global identities we inquire into the role played by art in historical museums, on cultural sites as well as in art spaces proper. Through a quantitative foundation in the form of a database we hope to discover new structures, connections and patterns within this region that will enable us to proceed to qualitative analysis of a number of the exhibitions covered. The material derives from countries within the former Soviet Union (Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania), the Communist bloc (Poland), and two Western nations (Sweden and Finland).
The “fall” of the Berlin wall in 1989 and the dissolution of the Soviet Union soon thereafter inaugurated a new era for the Baltic countries as well as former Eastern Europe. In addition, all of Europe, with its global relations, was effected. Sweden and Finland became EU-members in 1995 followed by the Baltic States and Poland in 2004. The financial crisis of 2008 had severe impact on the latter countries and many developing projects were slowed down. The ongoing crisis in Ukraine has increased the pressure on the Baltic States but makes it urgent to develop new strategies for the entire Baltic Sea region. Russia’s current political aggression actualizes the democratic breakthrough years around 1989. Museums and memory culture constitute symbolically charged loci of the social changes and renegotiated national identities that took place during this turbulent quarter of a century.
Our theories are drawn from the recently concluded EuNaMus-project (www.ep.liu.se/eunamus), from where we also adopt but modify search variables for our database. The East Art Map and Piotr Piotrowski’s research on the art history of post-communist countries and his proposal of a transnational “horizontal” art history are key departures, as well as narrative discursive strategies developed to study exhibitions derived from Bruce Ferguson, Mieke Bal and others.