Unconventional Art

Unconventional Art: The Emergence of New Photographic art in the Post-Stalin Soviet Union.” Paper presented at the SECAC (South Eastern College Art) annual conference Collisions: Where Past Meets Present, Durham, NC, Meredith College, October 17–20, 2012.

In this paper I explore photography as a new and unconventional art emerging in the Soviet Union after Stalin’s death in 1953, during the period often called the Khrushchev’s Thaw. I discuss the paradox that this art appears surprisingly apolitical, seemingly socially passive, and escapist, but at the same time this passivity in some cases functioned as an active political position, or at least as a statement of a certain level of artistic freedom in the given political circumstances.

I also introduce some major difficulties of analysis and interpretation of this art from the perspective of western canon of art history and photography, which can easily accommodate the Soviet avant-garde photography of the 1920s and early 1930s, but which has no place for later, postwar developments that do not follow the historical narrative of advanced practice of photography in the western culture.