Presentism, Public History and Contemporary Russian Art


The article examines typical features of images and themes of the past as they appear in contemporary Russian art, within the context of the presentist regime of historicism and as a part of public history. This research focuses on the works by Mikhail Pavlyukevich and Olga Subbotina, as well as Chaim Sokol, all of them the artists for whom image of the present is determined by the experience of the past as an incomplete process. The analysis focuses on the factors that ground this important place that the past occupies within the space of contemporary art practices. The article explores intersections between history in public space and contemporary art. The author argues that the development of public history rooted in participatory culture, as well as de-monopolisation of expert knowledge and non-academic languages constituting the discourse on the past, shares similarities with many characteristics of contemporary art practices. In these practices the public actively participates in the artistic processes, an artist loses their status as a demiurge, while site-specific character of artistic projects necessarily rests upon the exlporation of the history of place and the immersion in memory. A palimpsest, in which inseparable interpenetrating layers of the past appear through one another, becomes a metaphor both of public history and of one of the trends in contemporary art.

Keywords: presentism, public history, contemporary art, Mikhail Pavlyukevich, Olga Subbotina, Chaim Sokol

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