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The Green Bloc

Neo-avant-garde Art and Ecology under Socialism

Expanding the horizon of established accounts of Central European art under socialism, this book uncovers the neglected history of artistic engagement with the natural environment in the Eastern Bloc.

The turbulent legacy of 1968, which saw the confluence of political upheaval, spread of counterculture, rise of ecological consciousness, and emergence of global conceptual art, provides the setting for Maja Fowkes's innovative reassessment of the environmental practice of the Central European neo-avant-garde. Focussing on artists and artist groups whose ecological dimension has rarely been considered, including the Pécs Workshop from Hungary, OHO in Slovenia, TOK in Croatia, Rudolf Sikora in Slovakia, and the Czech artist Petr Štembera,

'The Green Bloc: Neo-avant-garde Art and Ecology under Socialism' brings to light an array of distinctive approaches to nature, from attempts to raise environmental awareness among socialist citizens to the exploration of non-anthropocentric positions and the quest for cosmological existence in the midst of red ideology. Embedding artistic production in social, political, and environmental histories of the region, this book reveals the Central European artists' sophisticated relationship to nature, at the precise moment when ecological crisis was first apprehended on a planetary scale.

About the Author

Dr. Maja Fowkes is Co-Director of the Translocal Institute for Contemporary Art, Budapest. She is the author of several books, including River Ecologies: Contemporary Art and Environmental Humanities on the Danube (2015) and Loophole to Happiness (2011).


"At the end of the book, Fowkes writes that the attitudes and approaches to the environment of the young generation of Central European artists were on the one hand synchronous with other artistic impulses from around the globe which voiced unprecedented awareness of the looming ecological crisis, while on the other hand the specific circumstances in which the many filters of the Iron Curtain acutely influenced the flow of information and exchange resulted in exceptional contributions to the convergence of art and ecology. This book is a rare example of research on the history of environmental concerns at the cross-section of art and politics from the 'other side' of the Iron Curtain. It is a welcome addition to the growing body of Anthropocene studies, as well as the history of East and Central European art."—AM Journal of Art and Media Studies

"As Fowkes notes, the book is 'intended as a contribution to the environmental history of art' and it 'considers the intricate artistic practices formulated as responses to perceived transformations in the environment as a result of ecological crisis, which in the early 1970s was for the first time felt to exceed national borders and span the globe'. This book is a rare example of research on the history of environmental concerns at the cross-section of art and politics from the 'other side' of the Iron Curtain. It is a welcome addition to the growing body of Anthropocene studies, as well as the history of East and Central European art."—H-Net Reviews


Measuring progress in tons of wheat or coal, the communist authorities in Eastern Europe treated the natural environment as little more than a resource to be ruthlessly exploited. But, as Maja Fowkes shows in her pioneering book, environmentally minded artists in Hungary, Czechoslovakia, and Yugoslavia in the 1970s found highly creative ways of testing official indifference to the effects of industrial modernity. Most of their artworks and actions were ephemeral, leaving few traces either in the landscape or in art history. The Green Bloc is a deeply researched and vividly written act of rediscovery.—Professor David Crowley

The Green Bloc has it all: original research on an uncommon subject, a new approach uniting ecology with conceptual art analysis, as well as a language able to carry the reader all through the text while discovering the particular ways art and nature built up a new social landscape. Using as a ground the socialist environment of Central Europe, the book is concerned with ways of introducing new questions into the narrative of art history, furthering our understanding of how artists managed to expand state ideas of the social and performed the emergence of a discourse on co-evolution that is extremely important today.—Professor Chus Martinez
Central European University Press


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