Vol. 3 No. 2 (2023): Space

Beyond the Grey Zone: The Production of Space in Eastern European Neo-Avantgarde

Mădălina Brașoveanu
University of Oradea

Published 2024-01-24


  • Eastern European neo-avantgarde,
  • grey zone,
  • heterotopy,
  • socialist space,
  • boundary,
  • uncertain territories
  • ...More

How to Cite

Beyond the Grey Zone: The Production of Space in Eastern European Neo-Avantgarde. (2024). Papers in Arts and Humanities, 3(2), 1-17. https://doi.org/10.52885/pah.v3i2.146


The spatial metaphor that dominates the historical overviews dedicated to neo-avantgarde art of Eastern Europe from the last decades of state socialism is the “grey zone”—a metaphor deeply rooted in the dichotomies of Cold War discourses, which understood the “socialist space” as being roughly split between an “official” and an “unofficial”/underground/hidden space of dissent. However, the grey zone metaphor fails to account for the diverse, complex, and nuanced ways in which unconventional art practices from the region engaged with a wide range of spaces, from the institutional (and official) ones to spaces of everyday life, delocalized spaces of a likeminded artistic community, and to the space of the image understood outside of the confined territory of traditional practices. By engaging a theoretical perspective drawn from the so-called “spatial turn” in the post-colonial discourse, I will try to argue that the “species of spaces” (Kemp-Welch) defining the neo-avantgarde art practices in the region were not conquering but were producing cultural and socially relevant spaces while blurring/widening the conventional boundaries of art’s territory, and that this complexity cannot be understood by relying on the binary terminology of the geopolitical discourses of the Cold War.


  1. Bal, M., & Hernández-Navarro, M. Á. (2011). Introduction. In M. Bal, & M. Á. Hernández-Navarro (Eds.), Art and visibility in migratory culture: Conflict, resistance, and agency (p. 11). Editions Rodopi B. V.
  2. Boer, I. E. (2006). Uncertain territories. Boundaries in cultural analysis (M. Bal, B. van Eekelen, & P. Spyer, Eds.). Editions Rodopi B. V.
  3. Brenner, N., & Elden, S. (Eds.). (2009). State, space, world. Selected essays. University of Minnesota Press.
  4. Bryzgel, A. (2017). Performance Art in Eastern Europe since 1960. Manchester University Press.
  5. Canclini, N. G. (2011). Migrants: Workers of metaphors. In M. Bal, & M. Á. Hernández-Navarro (Eds.), Art and visibility in migratory culture: Conflict, resistance, and agency (pp. 23–35). Editions Rodopi B. V.
  6. Cârneci, M. (1996). Arta anilor ’80: Texte despre Postmodernism [Art of the 1980s in Eastern Europe. Texts on Postmodernism]. Editura Litera.
  7. Cârneci, M. (2000). Artele plastice în România 1945–1989 [Visual Arts in Romania 1945−1989]. Editura Meridiane.
  8. Fehérváry, K. (2013). Politics in color and concrete: Socialist materialities and the middle class in Hungary. Indiana University Press.
  9. Guță, A. (2001). Texte despre generația ’80 [Texts about the ’80s generation]. Editura Paralela 45.
  10. Guță, A. (2008). Generația ’80 în artele vizuale [The ’80s generation in the visual arts]. Editura Paralela 45.
  11. Haraszti, M. (1978). A worker in a worker’s state. Universe Books.
  12. Hooks, B. (1990). Yearning: Race, gender, and cultural politics. South End Press.
  13. Kemp-Welch, K. (2015). Species of spaces in Eastern European and Latin American Experimental Art. MOMA. https://www.moma.org/d/pdfs/W1siZiIsIjIwMTUvMTIvMDgvNmE5enJmNXlmMF9tcDAxOTA2M19ra3dfZmluYWxfMi5wZGYiXV0/mp019063_kkw_final_2.pdf?sha=e9b1b4d750988e5a
  14. Knudsen, I.H., & Frederiksen, M. D (Eds.). (2015). Ethnographies of Grey Zones in Eastern Europe: Relations, borders and invisibilities. Anthem Press.
  15. Lefebvre, H. (1992). The production of space. Blackwell.
  16. Massey, D., Allen, J., & Sarre, P. (1999). Rethinking space and place: Introduction. In D. Massey, J. Allen, & P. Sarre (Eds.), Human Geography today (pp. 243–247). Polity Press.
  17. Pintilie, I. (2000). Acționismul în România în timpul comunismului [Actionism in Romania during the Communist era]. Idea Design & Print.
  18. Piotrowski, P. (1999). The Grey Zone of Europe. In B. Pejic and D. Elliott (Eds.), After the wall: Art and Post-Communist Europe (pp. 37–41). Moderna Museet.
  19. Piotrowski, P. (2009). In the shadow of Yalta: Art and the Avant-garde in Eastern Europe 1945–1989. Reaktion Books.
  20. Preda, C. (2017). Art and politics under modern dictatorships: A comparison of Chile and Romania. Springer International Publishing.
  21. Predescu, M. (2016). Expoziția Medium–Moment de sinteză a neoavangardelor sub semnul postconceptualismului [Exhibition Medium-Moment of synthesis of neo avant-gardes under the sign of post-conceptualism]. In C. Dan, I. Király, A. Oroveanu, & M. Radu (Eds.), Arta în România între anii 1945–2000. O analiză din perspectiva prezentului [Art in Romania between 1945–2000. An analysis and a reassessment from a present-day] (pp. 130–142). Fundația Noua Europă / Colegiul Noua Europă, Editura UNArte, MNAC.
  22. Siegelbaum, L. H. (Eds.). Borders of socialism: Private spheres of Soviet Russia. Palgrave Macmillan.
  23. Šiklová, J., Poláčková-Henley, K., & Turner, G. (1990). The “Gray Zone” and the future of dissent in Czechoslovakia. Social Research, 57(2), 347–363. http://www.jstor.org/stable/40970592
  24. Soja, E. W. (1996). Thirdspace. Journeys to Los Angeles and other real-and-imagined places. Blackwell Publishers.
  25. Soja, E. W. (1999). Thirdspace: Expanding the scope of the geographical imagination. In D. Massey, J. Allen, & P. Sarre (Eds.), Human geography today (pp. 260–278). Polity Press.
  26. Teverson, A., & Upstone, S. (Eds.). (2011). Postcolonial spaces: The politics of space in contemporary culture. Palgrave Macmillan.
  27. Warf, B., & Arias, S. (Eds.). (2009). The spatial turn: Interdisciplinary perspectives. Routledge.
  28. Withers, C. W. J. (2009). Place and the «spatial turn» in geography and in history. Journal of the History of Ideas, 70(4), 637–658.
  29. Yurchak, A. (2005). Everything was forever, until it was no more. The last Soviet generation. Princeton University Press.