Visiting art curator Susanne Altmann’s take on transgressive art from Eastern Europe
Susanne Altmann visited Dhaka as part her curatorial project to liaise with artist-performers for her upcoming project which spans the region from Iran to Bangladesh. Goethe-Institut Bangladesh facilitated her visit and also staged a talk in collaboration with Depart on February 8th, at the Berlin Hall at the institute premises in Dhanmondi. The internationally mobile art historian, critic and curator from Germany coursed the audience through her past curatorial projects focusing on the women artists from what was once known as the Eastern Europe. Altmann's interest in the experimental works which the former communist regimes officially despised brought into view several obscure figures from the region into international attention.
Commissioned by the Goethe-Institut to conduct research and give lectures in Sri Lanka, India, Bangladesh, Nepal and Iran in preparation for a regional video art project on the theme of 'Gender and Identity', for 2014 and 2015, Altmann's visit came as a breath of fresh air at a time when Dhaka was convulsively reeling under what then appeared as a blight of interminable political violence.
Entitled, 'Curating Transformation: On gender, Memory and Community,' Altmann's survey of the works from the former GDR and Soviet Union examined how identity politics, social concern and experiential mediums were synthesized into critical art forms. She unveiled the regional effusion of art on the margins, in the sense that the erstwhile Eastern Block still appear in the imaginary of Bangladesh cognoscenti as sporadic blank spots where both life and art seem impossible. Her survey of the art of political resistance and feminist identity provided necessary stimuli to demystify the attending audience. She also gave an overview about her community-based and public art projects with a renewed emphasis on the importance of creative strategies launched and nurtured from outside of institutional ambit.
Her exhibition 'Discovered! Rebellious women from the late GDR' at the Mannheim Kunsthalle, in 2011, introduced a hitherto largely unknown women artists inclined to prduce critical art mainly working through the 1980s in the then communist Eastern Germany. By investigating how the fall of the Iron Curtain in 1989 affected artistic production in the countries of Eastern Europe, Susanne Altmann has also conceptualized and presented a series of video art between 2008 and 2014.
Susanne Altmann lives and works in her native city of Dresden. From 1991 to 1997 she studied art history and philosophy in Dresden and at the New School for Social Research in New York City. In 1998/99 she worked at the Dia Center for the Arts in NYC; in 2004 she received a research grant at the University of Oxford. There she carried out ‘Art in Transition - A study investigating economic conditions for contemporary art in former communist countries of Europe’ (Green College, Reuters Foundation Programme). Altmann publishes extensively on art in the post-Communist countries, public art, and contemporary feminist art; her published work includes a large number of essays and monographic catalogue contributions, for example on Nancy Spero, Magdalena Jetelova, Franka Hörnschemeyer and others. Since 2010 she has served as artistic director of the International Summer Academy for Visual Arts in Dresden.