Politicized, Neutral or Engaged? Approaches to Soviet Art in Lithuanian Art History

Linara Dovydaitytė (Vytautas Magnus University)

In recent years, the dominant approaches to Soviet art have become objects of criticism in Lithuanian academic texts. Two main problematic aspects are usually pointed out: 1) the fact that the Soviet era is generally analysed in the context of two differing modes of behaviour – conformism and resistance; 2) the fact that the discussion of Lithuanian artists’ relationship with the Soviet regime is based on value judgement. In the field of art history these approaches are mostly criticised for being too politicized. As a way from political evaluation of Soviet art a more “neutral” analysis is proposed by critically minded art historians. However there is a doubt that writing the history of art, just as the artistic practice, can be a politically and ideologically neutral activity in principle. This paper is dedicated to discuss a “third” possible approach to Soviet art, i.e. application of politically engaged analysis, such as post-colonial theory.

The application of postcolonial theory to post-Soviet art historical writing is quite problematic. On the one hand there is a fundamental question whether the occupation by the socialist USSR is equivalent to the capitalist colonization and can be analysed from the same theoretical perspective. On the other hand one encounters methodological difficulties as post-colonialism focuses mostly on literature, often leaving aside visual arts. With focus on existing (mis)uses of post-colonial theory in art historical analyses of the late Soviet art, I examine different concepts of post-colonial theory and various (dis)advantages of their application to writing the history of Soviet art.

Keyword: Dovydaite

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