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A project by IRWIN (Miran Mohar, Andrej Savski, Borut Vogelnik), Ljubljana
The art project "East Art Map" is seeking to plot and make accessible previously unknown areas of postwar art in eastern Europe. The goal is to create an orientation aid that plots connections extending beyond national borders and enables comparative analysis. After "EAM I" invited curators, critics, and artists to present important art projects from their respective countries, since November 2004 "EAM II," a map of these artistic activities, is accessible on the internet. The visitors to the site are able to contribute to the map by changing its topography.

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For eastern Europe – also known as the former Communist bloc, eastern and central Europe or the "new" Europe – the rule holds that there are no transparent structures in which events, works, and artists relevant to art history can be set in a reference system that would also find acceptance and be respected outside the borders of an individual country. Instead, we encounter systems which are valid only within national borders. The justification of these reference systems is often based on local needs. Comparisons with contemporary art and artists from the west are seldom drawn. Such a disjointed system hinders, above all, an overall deeper understanding of the art created in the epoch of Socialism. Secondly, this system presents the artists with a problem, for they lack not only adequate support for their work, but for the same reason they are forced to move back and forth between the regional and the international art scene. And thirdly, it blocks communication between artists, critics, and theoreticians from these countries. EAM is to serve as an orientation aid for opening up still unknown areas of art in the east, an orientation aid that is no longer necessary for "west art." If someone views a work by Joseph Beuys, for example, they will, insofar as they are in some way familiar with artistic production, quickly perceive its relationship to an entire complex of other artworks and artists. Almost everybody has, at least in basic contours, a map of the art mainly produced in the west in their mind’s eye. For art produced in the East, however, the exact opposite applies: in most cases viewers are left helpless whenever they try to place any work in a context. Instead of a transparent reference system that would allow comparisons on an international level, in our region we are dealing with historical representations set in local myths which defy translation into an internationally comprehensible art language. Responsible for the resolute persistence of this form is the fear of a shake-up of the entire value system. This is precisely why experts from one country do not normally intervene in the interpretations of art taking place in another country. This tendency can only be overcome when the intervention of foreign experts is not only desired, but, indeed, organized. One goal of EAM is to transgress, within the scope of our possibilities, the borders of these art principalities concretely and on different levels.
"East Art Map I" – Art in Eastern Europe 1945 – 2000 As a first step (2001-2002), "East Art Map" wanted to present the art of the whole of eastern Europe, to detach individual artists from their national context and to bring them into a unified scheme that could serve as a clear and userfriendly map of eastern European art from 1945 to 2000. We invited twenty-four well-known art critics, museum directors, and artists to present ten important art projects of the last fifty years from their respective countries. No restrictions were placed on the artworks, the artists, or the happenings those invited might plan. The various selections were compiled into a whole, forming a map that answered such fundamental questions as "who? where? when?" The results were published in September 2002 in the 20th issue of the New Moment magazine. An "East Art Map" was also produced on CD-Rom and presented for the first time in June 2002 at the "Museutopia" exhibition held in the Karl Ernst Osthaus Museum in Hagen, Germany.
"East Art Map II" – Objectification and Democratization While EAM I was slowly taking shape, a series of features became apparently characteristic of how the art system functioned in the countries of the so-called East. We would like to emphasize two of these features because they are connected to one another and are of special significance for the further development of the project. Although we expressly asked the invited experts to base their selection of the artists and their works on their specific contribution to regional and international art production, only a few followed this request. As a result, the artists were selected according to varied criteria. We had actually expected this, but at the same time had hoped that the selection criteria would at least be more clearly defined. Only in a few cases was the art production of the east reflected on with reference to contemporary production in the West. This holds true, when for different reasons, not only the regional experts from the east, but also for the western experts, who as a rule restricted themselves to comparisons with western artists. Part II of EAM, currently in the process of being implemented, is for these reasons focused on reviewing and objectifying the results of EAM I. The project plans to build a website, to incorporate research and critical judgments by experts on the relationship between eastern and western art production, and to conduct research studies in cooperation with universities. We have asked experts from East and West to send us texts of between ten to fifteen pages which compare art from both regions using concrete examples. We allotted topics on the basis of our knowledge of the authors and their specialist areas. We do not expect that these texts will close the existing gaps in this area, but rather view them as role models for possible future research topics. We hope that this and our cooperation with universities will stimulate new research and further scholarly analysis. The "East Art Map" is also accessible on the internet as of September 2004. On the site, we have requested further information from the public which may possibly change the topography of the map. This approach will, firstly, accelerate the collection of data and democratize its processing; secondly, it will enable everyone to take part in shaping history as it gestates before our eyes and ensure that other artists and artworks are added; and thirdly, it will create the space and conditions for easier communication between theoreticians, critics, and other interested persons from the whole of eastern Europe. A multiplication of topics and discussions through this extended opening will hopefully bring EAM to a broader public and accelerate the setting up of a reference system for comparative studies of eastern European art.