On September 7, 2023, The Institute of the Present opens PERFORMING 89. STATES OF DISILLUSION, an exhibition that weaves together some of the intricate storylines of the nineties which emerged in the light of political and social turns occurring after 1989. Engaging with the decade’s legacy and geographically circumscribing its research to the otherwise contrasted historical paths followed by countries like Romania, Hungary and Serbia, PERFORMING 89 traces the intersecting lines of these diverse realities which experienced euphoria and defiance, loss and transformation, war and demystification.
One can say for certain that the political events of the 1990s provoked a renegotiation of localities and a reviewing of narratives embedded in the social realm, unveiling as such unspoken conflicting attitudes that contributed in the epoch towards the rise of ethno-nationalism and populism and sustained a slow and traumatic step into the long-awaited normalisation period.
The shocking waves of the transition policies that followed the implosion of the old political order in the Eastern Bloc, the visible paradoxical situations generated by economic instability, the state resistance to reforms, and the civil society protests that punctured the 1990s called for an immediate appropriation of those estranged and polyphonic realities in the artistic practices of the decade.
PERFORMING 89 looks at the complex interactions and connections between art and society during the 1990s, at the poignant stories of recent transformation brought into discussion by artists, featuring a diverse range of medium-based artworks that, retrospectively, lie between documentary and subjective artistic investigation. At the centre of the exhibition is the thoughtful concern of artists for the circumstances of their time and their proximity to the public space. It reflects upon the fundamental new condition of art as a response towards the changes in society, and as a way of thinking and acting in solidarity.
The discussions and reflections on the ideological tensions unleashed during the nineties brought artists closer to the social climate and to a series of issues that were absent before and that are nowadays constituent of newly shaped realities. Hence, the works exhibited engage the viewers with stories that speak about the material conditions of vulnerable individuals during the swap to a market economy, and about the dysfunctions appearing in the cracks in society during the process of building a democracy mirroring the political implications and social expectations prevailing during this decade.
On this basis, the connection with the present reveals a modus operandi where poetics becomes associated with critical thinking, self-organisation with resource sharing, and participation with social engagement.
PERFORMING 89. STATES OF DISILLUSION proposes to create a dialogue between works that have been subjected to the unprecedented shifts of the 1990s, recollecting the atmosphere and the dynamic of the times, however, neither being revisionist nor nostalgic, but trying to understand the sense of what was missed or lost during those years. Of what was forgotten.