Anti-kitsch, or how to make a socialist doily. The politics of amateur art in communist Czechoslovakia

makovicky image

Scholars often observe that communist states In Easter Europe appropriated the ‘folk’ traditions in support of their own ideological legitimacy, presenting appropriation primarily as a process of cultural dispossession. In this talk, I seek to problematize this approach by throwing light on a different set of mechanisms and discourses through which these regimes transformed and popularized vernacular culture. Focusing on the promotion of vernacular textile crafts in post-1968 Czechoslovakia, I show how the authorities successfully promoted traditional needlecrafts as a popular kind of amateur arts, exploring their attempts to create a moral and aesthetic synthesis between the material culture of the peasantry and modern, socialist domesticity. Along the way, I use the material to interrogate a number of concepts and categories in the study of material culture, most importantly the notion of kitsch. 

VMMA-Pitt Rivers Museum Lunchtime Lectures Michaelmas 2019

Pitt Rivers Museum Lecture Theatre (off Robinson Close)

Fridays at 1pm (Weeks 1-8)

Convened by Clare Harris and Marcus Banks