Synchronicity: Contemporary Europe as a Temporal Project

  • Abstract:

    My proposed paper explores the function of exhibitionary and visual culture in constructing Central European identity. Considering Central Europe not as a defined geographic space but rather what historian Ole Bouman’s calls “a synchronized experience in time,” this paper broadly divides the history of the region into four periods following the end of World War II in order to understand how the region has—and continues to—relate to the West, to the globe and to itself. Using moments of historical rupture—1989, 1999, 2004, and 2013—it is possible to use work by individual artists to visualize the historic construct of Central Europe as a fluid, ever-evolving mode of thinking and identity-constructing that works both in and out of time with the European Union. Emphasizing the era from 1989 to the present, this paper considers the current period, here called “Europe as Agora: 2013-2025?” through the framework of the agora, a central public space for gathering, exchange, and producing exclusion. This framework is literalized in the recent exhibition “Hello World” (2018) at Berlin’s Hamburger Bahnhof, which presents a revision of the museum’s permanent collection, asking how a collection predominately committed to the art of the West can broaden its scope through non-Western artistic tendencies and a transcultural approach. The historic hall of the museum—transformed in both name and function into an agora—contained a number of works which gesture towards the political function of the space and hint at the parallels between the theoretical notion of the agora and the very real space of the European Union. Through a careful consideration of three of these works—made by Central European artists in different periods of Central Europe– this paper views “Hello World” as the producer of a temporal agora, a space for a new European synchronicity.