Is There an East European Identity?

Kunsthalle Bratislava is opening an international exhibition entitled Orient2, curated by Michal Novotný, director of the Collection of Modern and Contemporary Art at the National Gallery in Prague. Orient2 is a collective exhibition, a more extensive continuation of the Orient project, made to measure for the first-floor spaces of Kunsthalle Bratislava. Elsewhere in Europe visitors were able to see it in several cultural centres during 2018, e.g. in Kim? Contemporary Art Centre in Riga, BOZAR Centre for Fine Arts in Brussels and Bunkier Sztuki Gallery in Krakow. The launch of the exhibition will be held on July 11, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.


Orient2 is a meditation on the existence of an East European identity. Novotný finds the unifying aspect of this indefinite region in its contradictory and yet mutually complementary feelings of low self-esteem and arrogance, as the two defining registers of its wounded identity. Here he points to a suppressed inferiority complex, which may be a reason for the current growth of nationalism and undemocratic tendencies in Eastern Europe. The exhibition thus poses a question, whether the fact that the region has failed to create and assert an East European identity cannot be changed into a positive success.

The name of the exhibition evokes Edward Said’s Orientalism and thus emphasises the existence of Eastern Europe as a series of projections, connected with an insufficiency of information and the ignorance of individuals and institutions. Orient2 is at the same time a chronology of unsuccessful liberation and of the history of illusory feelings after the 1980s, that freedom had come at last.

The project also draws attention to the infrastructure and accumulation of capital.  It takes a materialistic standpoint towards the proclaimed autonomy of art. The context is dependent on what we regard as good or bad art, and it is possible to buy it. An insufficiency of infrastructure is regarded as insufficiency of quality, and capital is at the same time the language of international art.

On the formal side the exhibition takes the viewer through five genre scenes (Waiting Room, Everyone’s All Dressed Up and Nowhere to Go, Carpathian Digital Meadows, The Devil in the Machine, Shadows of Past Futures) of inglorious history, along the tracks of the historical dialectics of the region’s development over the past thirty years. On this journey visitors have an opportunity to acquaint themselves with over thirty two artists from over ten European countries. The genre enables the curator to be serious and ironic at the same time. And that is something very East European.


Michal Novotný is director of the Collection of Modern and Contemporary Art in the National Gallery in Prague. During the years 2011-18 he led the Futura Centre for Contemporary Art in Prague; from 2016 to 2018 he was external curator in the Plato Gallery in Ostrava. He teaches at the Academy of Arts, Architecture and Design in Prague, where he has been Assistant Professor since 2016. Currently he is one of the most highly regarded curators of the younger generation in the European scene.




Exhibiting artists: Argišt Alaverdyan, Rada Boukova, Zuzanna Czebatul, Marek Delong & Anna Slama, Anna Daučíková, Wojtek Doroszuk, Anders Grønlien, Kaspars Grošhevs, Martin Horák, Baptiste Charneux, Šimon Kadlčák, Shifra Kazhdan, Alina Kleytman, Lenka Klodová, Ádám Kokesch, Martin Kohout, Ieva Kraule, Marlena Kudlicka, KwieKulik, Marek Meduna, Daria Melnikova, Vlad Nancă, Deimantas Narkevičius, Richard Nikl, Jan Pfeiffer, Jaakko Pallasvuo & Anni Puolakka, Lucia Elena, Průša, Jan Šerých, Jiří Thýn, Ondřej Vicena

Curator: Michal Novotný

Opening: Thursday July 11, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Duration: July 12 – October 6, 2019

Place: 1st floor, Kunsthalle Bratislava