Cultural Landscapes of Late-Soviet Monumental-decorative Art
Cultural Landscapes in Central and Eastern Europe after World War II and the Collapse of
Communism at Academia Europaea, Wrocław, Poland, 19-21 September 2018.
In this paper, I will present the last chapter on the afterlife of late-Soviet monumental- decorative art from my doctoral thesis project Socialist or Nationalist Spaces? Monumental- decorative Art in Late-Soviet Baltic States. Monumental-decorative art, i.e. mural paintings, frescos, mosaics etc. was an ever-present genre and an important political tool in the Soviet Union. Although people tend to associate it with propaganda, only a handful of late-Soviet monumental-decorative artworks could be considered outright propaganda. On the contrary, most of them focused on the aesthetic and architectural details, plenty of them had a direct connection to the somewhat transgressive contemporary art scene and numerous mural paintings managed to convey critical messages about the Soviet rule. After the collapse of the communist rule these artworks were forgotten – neither destroyed (as for example statues of Lenin's) nor domesticated (as some of the Modernist memorials). However, since the 2010s the memory of this genre has come back to life. In Estonia this process was initiated by contemporary artist Tõnis Saadoja, who in 2012 completed a monumental ceiling painting in the foyer of the Theatre NO99. Not only was the year-long painting process a possibility to decelerate for the artist, but it offered the cultural circles a fresh opportunity to reflect on the culture of the late-Soviet period. By drawing on Saadoja's work and other examples from art history and contemporary art I will present how monumental painting has been regarded as a specific socialist landscape and what does this notion hold for the post- Socialist context.