PhD Funding: Artistic Re-enactments of Performance Art as Vehicles of Cultural Transfer in Eastern Europe since 1960

PhD Funding: Artistic Re-enactments of Performance Art as Vehicles of Cultural Transfer in Eastern Europe since 1960

Department of Film and Visual Culture, University of Aberdeen

Supervisor: Dr. Amy Bryzgel, Senior Lecturer in Film and Visual Culture, University of Aberdeen (

Application Deadline: March 21, 2017

Applications are invited for PhD research topics that focus on artistic re-enactments of performances from across the former communist and socialist countries of Central, Eastern and South-Eastern Europe in recent artistic practice. There are numerous examples of artistic re-enactments across the region, providing scope for a range of dissertation topics. Projects can include comparative studies, for example, of the relevance of re-enactments in one local tradition versus that of another; or single-country studies of a number of re-enactments being staged in one context. Dissertations will address the following research questions: what are the various functions of artistic re-enactments of performances in Eastern Europe? How do these functions compare with current understandings of re-enactment in the West? How can re-enactments be used to access a lost or inaccessible history (such as performance art in Eastern Europe)? Also welcome are proposals that consider revisiting culturally relevant or historically significant places by artists or within the context of artistic re-enactments.

Selection will be made on the basis of academic merit. Individuals with a strong research background in the field of Eastern European contemporary art and/or performance art, from either an art history or visual culture background, are encouraged to apply. Applicants should have the necessary language skills needed to undertake the proposed research, and should consider funding sources for travel to conduct field research abroad if it is necessary to the proposed project.

The project is funded by a University of Aberdeen Elphinstone Scholarship, which covers the cost of tuition fees only, whether Home, EU or Overseas, and will be awarded through an open competition.

Interested applicants should contact Dr. Amy Bryzgel with a project proposal of no more than 2,000 words, including discussion of Aims and Objectives, Research Questions, Research Context, Methodology and Critical Approach.

Deadline for all applications: 21 March 2017

More information can be found here:

How to apply:

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Conference: Performance Art East, Northeast, West

I am very pleased to announce that registration is now open for a conference on performance that I am organizing in Aberdeen in October.

Performance Art East, Northeast, West will explore the development of performance art in Eastern Europe, North America, and the Northeast of Scotland, highlighting connections between artists that occurred along the way. The conference will feature a roster of researchers who specialize in the performance art, as well as performances by artists from Eastern Europe.

It is free and open to the public, but registration is essential. Book your place here.

More information on the conference is available here.

Speakers and performers include Jana Pisarikova (Czech Republic), Luchezar Boyadjiev (Bulgaria), Catherine Spencer (St. Andrews), Bozidar Jurjevic (Croatia) and Branko Miliskovic (Serbia).

Friday 30 October, 9.00am – 3.00pm, Linklater Rooms

Saturday 31 October, 9.00am – 2.30pm, 7th floor of Sir Duncan Rice Library.

Venue: Linklater Rooms (30th Oct) and Sir Duncan Rice Library (31st Oct), King’s College, University of Aberdeen

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Laibach in North Korea

 Laibach in 1989 Laibach in 1989

Readers of this site will no doubt be aware of the momentous concert that took place in Pyongyang last night, August 19, 2015. Laibach became the first foreign rock group ever to play a gig in North Korea. I’ve written a piece about the significance of Laibach playing in North Korea, of all places, for The Conversation UK. Please check it out:

First foreign band to play North Korea is famed for its ‘fascism’

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Natalia LL: Secretum et Tremor

On April 16, 2015, I was invited to give a talk at the Centre for Contemporary Art Ujazdowski Castle in Warsaw, on the work of Natalia LL. The lecture took place I in conjunction with the closing events for her show: “Natalia LL: Secretum et Tremor.” Although I am not an expert in Natalia LL’s work, I was pleased to receive this invitation to come speak at CSW, because it was about ten years ago that I first arrived there, to access the artist files and library for my PhD dissertation research, which featured a chapter on the work of Katarzyna Kozyra. Since my specialism is in performance art in Central, Eastern and Southern Europe since the 1960s, my interest in Natalia LL’s work is of course in the manner in which she uses performance and the performative in her work, which spans many genres and media: performance, installation, photography, video. Her work can be viewed through various lenses, as well – conceptual art, performance art, and feminism. It also spans both the personal and the rational or logical. Consequently, my talk, Intimate Transfigurations, focused on the manner in which her artwork experiences numerous “transfigurations” depending upon the perspective from which it is viewed. Despite the fact that some of her work falls into the category of conceptual art, which in the North American context leans toward depersonalization, what Natalia LL represents in her work is often very personal and “intimate.” My talk presented her work from a number of these varied viewpoints, by contextualizing the work of Natalia LL both locally and regionally, within the context of late-communist and post-communist Poland and East-Central Europe, as well as internationally, demonstrating the great range and breadth of her work and its continued relevance in contemporary art.

I have to admit I was a bit nervous, as when I arrived in the lecture hall, I was told that Natalia LL would be there in person! It is always disconcerting to speak about a living artist in front of that artist, but the artist was more than gracious. It was in fact a great experience having her there—although I never managed to interview her in person (only via email), the audience that night was able to ask her questions, and the artist certainly had a lot of interesting stories to tell.

“Secretum et Tremor,” curated by Ewa Toniak, is a wonderful retrospective of the artist’s work, for many reasons. What I liked most about the show was its simplicity—it included most of the key works, and a range of media (photography, video, performance, installation), without being overwhelming. Natalia LL’s more recent work is rather quirky, and challenging, but in the context of this exhibition it becomes clear that this kitschy, camp, over the top, strange work makes perfect sense in the context of her oeuvre. What the installation, organization, selection and design of the exhibition really brought out was the theatricality of her work, consistent from the 1960s until today, as well as a sense of play. The overall sense that you get when you leave the exhibition is that her work captures both eroticism and playfulness, humanity and theatricality…all with the red thread of that ever-present banana, both food and phallus—that which sustains life.

 Ewa Toniak and Natalia LL Ewa Toniak and Natalia LL

On Saturday, April 18, Ewa Toniak gave a curator’s tour of the exhibition. It was great to hear about the exhibition from her point of view, her vision, and what her intention was behind the selection and installation of works. The exhibition began in a makeshift “corridor” created by photo images and video images of Natalia LL’s iconic Consumer Art from the 1970s. The wall was painted in a manner reminiscent of the PRL time (socialist Poland), with the lower half of the walls dark grey to prevent them getting dirty, something which was often seen in Eastern European and Soviet apartment buildings with communal corridors. This corridor sets up the context in which the artist was working. Consumer Art, which features products such as bananas and sausages which were often hard to obtain—and thus consume—in socialist Poland, ironizes the idea of consumption in a planned economy. It also turns the tables on the notion of woman as that which is consumed by the male—because in these images it is the woman who is firmly in control of both her sexuality, and the phallus, as the models that the artist used in the series have their way with the sausages, bananas and puddings that they put in their mouths, lick, and let drip from their lips. At times, one could easily question whether one was watching pornography or an artistic video. The line between the two was deliberately made thin by the artist.

After the Consumer Art corridor, one enters Natalia LL’s grand salon – a room with green walls and a plush green velvet settee, emphasizing the theatrical element that runs throughout her work. Wagnerian music, an accompaniment to some of her video works, streams through the exhibition halls. The next room, in which the title of the exhibition is written, in a script composed of photographs by the artists, is bathed in red, and a later room is bright yellow. One room contains a more recent installation—one of the round tower rooms was completely papered over in none other than bananas.

In the video work Brunhilde’s Dream, the artist cuts open that sacred banana, turning the phallic form into a vagina. She penetrates the banana with her knife, splits it open, and lets the juices flow out. She also penetrates her cleavage with a banana, then zooms in and out on the spadix (the phallic part) of a Cala Lily, effectively penetrating it with her gaze. These are the themes that run through her work—the vaginal and phallic forms, which depend on one another, both for their existence, and for procreation, and the life juices that flow from them.

The final room of the exhibition includes two video performances from the 1970s, thus, as Toniak told us, we go through the entire exhibition only to come full circle, back to the beginning, to the themes that the artist in fact never left. In Impressions (1973), a model can be seen jumping up and down, her breasts bouncing, dripping cream on her breasts. In Artifical Reality (1975, 1976), the artist is seen sitting in a chair, posing for the camera, playing with different poses, gazes, views. These two works were what brought the entire exhibition home for me, and created an overriding understanding of her work which, I think, is all about play. Theatricality—yes; sex—yes; but above all, and incorporating those two elements, a delight in playing—with one’s body, with another’s body, with food, with sex, with theatre, with objects, with costumes, with one’s partner—with life in general.

I was honored to be interviewed for a documentary that Polish cultural television is producing on Natalia LL. I was asked by the producers if I could contextualize Natalia LL.’s work both regionally and globally, and my thoughts on her attitude toward sex. As for what my answers were, you can wait for the video…

 Natalia LL with Malgorzata ludwisiak, director of csw Natalia LL with Malgorzata ludwisiak, director of csw

After Ewa’s tour, we all gathered for a public interview with Natalia LL, and…an official birthday celebration. We had cake, champagne,… and I presented her with a few bananas.

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New Project: SCOT//EAST


An exhibition and events programme exploring gender identity and migration

Researchers affiliated with the University of Aberdeen, Scottish Art Blog and Performing the East are collaborating on an exhibition and concurrent events programme that aim to examine the impact of migration on individuals, specifically with regard to gender identity. This project will take place in March 2016 in Aberdeen to coincide with International Women’s Day.

The project will be centred around an exhibition held at NeWave Gallery, Aberdeen. It will provide a platform on which to showcase artistic production from both local and migrant communities in Scotland, through the lens of gender and gender identity.

The project is called Scot//East as it reflects our intention to welcome artists from European communities ‘East of Scotland’ to contribute.

Scotland and Central and Eastern Europe have strong historic ties. Migration dates back centuries. In 2015, Scotland boasts large migrant communities of Poles, Russians and citizens of the Baltic States (Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia), yet the unique and individual cultures of these countries are less understood.

We want to change this… We want to learn more…

We invite artists of both regional backgrounds, whose work deals specifically with gender and sexual identity, to connect with us to learn more about our project. The treatment of these topics is not only highly relevant to current discussions of civil rights, but can also provide insight into the way that different communities negotiate such categories, based on individual local experiences and traditions.

If you feel that your work lends itself to our exhibition, please email us to say hello:

We will add you to our mailing list which will keep you updated on progress and provide you with our official ‘artist’s call’.

Amy Bryzgel, Fern Insh and Jasmina Zaloznik

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Miervaldis Polis

I am pleased to announce the publication of my monograph on the Latvian painter, performance artist and theorist, Miervaldis Polis (b. 1948) by the Latvian publisher, Neputns. This is the first monograph to appear on the artist, and it attempts to contextualise the various strands of his work, from his early paintings, to his performances in the 1980s, and his return to painting and formal portraiture in the post-Soviet period. It received support of the Latvian Culture Capital Fund and the Association for the Advancement of Baltic Studies. I finished writing the monograph in 2012, after which it was translated into Latvian by Stella Pelse. Over the course of the last several years, Neputns has worked tirelessly to amass the most complete collection of the artists paintings, performances, and photographs of his everyday life.

Click here to read more about the book and purchase it through Neputns.

 Miervaldis Polis, by Amy Bryzgel (Eimija Brizgela, in Latvian) Miervaldis Polis, by Amy Bryzgel (Eimija Brizgela, in Latvian)

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Follow me on Facebook and Twitter!

Did you know that you can follow me on Facebook and Twitter?

You’ll find more frequent updates there!

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The Art of Performance #MayFestPerform at University of Aberdeen May Festival

On May 30, 2015, Amy Bryzgel (Lecturer in History of Art, University of Aberdeen), Adrienne Janus (Lecturer in English, UoA), and Suk-Jun Kim (Lecturer in Music, UoA) organized “The Art of Performance” at the University of Aberdeen May Festival, in the Linklater Rooms, King’s College, University of Aberdeen. The aim of the annual Festival is to give the general public the opportunity to get to know the research that the academics at the university are working on, and for the researchers to have the chance to engage with and share their work with the wider community. In the “Art of Performance,” Amy, Adrienne and Jun wanted to create an event that would explore notions of performance, performativity, and participation, by creating events that encouraged the attendees to participate, and also by demonstrating performance and giving the audience a chance to ask questions and discuss what they experienced.

 marta Barche performs misplaced women? marta Barche performs misplaced women?

There were three performances presented at The Art of Performance. The first was Tanja Ostojic’s delegated performance Misplaced Women?, which was performed by Amy Bryzgel, Marta Barche and Lisa Collinson, all of whom had attended Ostojic’s workshop at the University of Aberdeen on April 1, 2015, and they were also joined by Adrienne Janus. During the course of the performance another attendee of the workshop, whom the organizers didn’t know would be attending, also joined in and unpacked her bag. Next, Suk-Jun Kim and three of his students, Bea Dawkins, Mark James Dunmore and Simon Hellewell did a live-coding performance (Untitled, 2015), where they used the following four phrases as material which they then manipulated in their piece: “Where did you come from? What did you do today? What will you do today? How did you get here?” Finally, after a group discussion on the role of performance art and participatory art in Aberdeen, the audience experienced a Situationist International-inspired dérive, led by Adrienne and Marta, on the Elphinstone Lawn of the University of Aberdeen campus.

Movement was the key concept that linked all three performance: movement, migration, how we move through space, how we occupy space, how we make space our own. To begin with, audience members were asked to move through the space of the Linklater Rooms and explore on their own, unguided and undirected. They were given questions on posterboards and asked to respond to them by writing on the posters, on post-its, and on a tablecloth on a table in the room. They could also Tweet under the hashtag #MayFestPerform. And they were invited to “consume” a work of art – from the piles of candy dotting the room, after Felix Gonzales-Torres’s candy installations. Suddenly, Adrienne, Amy, Lisa Collinson and Marta Barche started performing Tanja Ostojic’s delegated performance Misplaced Women?, which involves an individual unpacking her bag in a public place, in reference to the refugees, migrants and detainees who are often forced to live out of their bags in the public space, and are denied their own private space. The piece raises questions not only about movement and migration, but also about where one’s private space ends and public space begins. At The Art of Performance, this performance of the piece took place suddenly, unannounced, while the audience members were circulating the room, answering questions and eating candy. After the bags were unpacked, the live-coding performance began, and we followed these two performance with a discussion on the role of performance art in Aberdeen.

 The audience is invited to circulate the room, before the performance begin The audience is invited to circulate the room, before the performance begin

In many ways, the May Festival is about performance, about researchers performing their research to the general public. We wanted to create a participatory event, one in which all the attendees could come together and create something – be it an atmosphere, a performative work, or a discussion in which ideas are exchanged and new knowledge and connections produced. After the discussion, the audience followed Adrienne and Marta out onto Elphinstone Lawn for dérive, and I collected all of the posters, post-its, tablecloth and balloons that were written on, took them home, and make a word cloud – a collaborative work that we all made together.

  Suk-Jun Kim, Bea Dawkins, Mark James Dunmore and Simon Hellewell live-coding  Suk-Jun Kim, Bea Dawkins, Mark James Dunmore and Simon Hellewell live-coding

During the discussion, one attendee said that she had actually wanted to join in the Misplaced Women? performance, but wasn’t sure if she could or should, and didn’t know if she had “permission.” In many ways, Misplaced Women? itself is about permission, and the role that permission plays in one’s ability to cross borders – who has permission to go where, and why. But The Art of Performance also raised questions about permission – who gives permission to create, who feels they have permission to create, what does it mean to have permission to do something?

About 35 people attended the Art of Performance, and all were thoroughly engaged and enthusiastic about witnessing and discussing performance, and even trying a bit of it themselves. We hope that this will not be the last of the performative events that we organise, and we were excited and encouraged by the good turnout and positive response from this first endeavor!

To view the live-tweets of the event, see #MayFestPerform on Twitter

 adrienne janus leads the art of performance audience outside to derive adrienne janus leads the art of performance audience outside to derive  The art of performance word cloud - created by all of us. The art of performance word cloud – created by all of us.

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Contemporancient at Aberdeen Art Gallery After Hours

On Friday, March 27, 2015, together with friends and colleagues from the University of Aberdeen, we presented “Contemporancient”: a series of short performances that aimed to bring Ancient Scandinavian texts to life through the contemporary genre of performance art (a project created and initiated by Lisa Collinson, from the University of Aberdeen). Together, we performed four short performances based on Ancient Scandinavian texts at Aberdeen Art Gallery’s “After Hours: Extreme Makeover” event, which marked the closing of the art gallery for several years for renovations. The walls were empty, and we filled the art gallery with interactive and performative art. Together with Lisa and myself, we were also joined by Suk-Jun Kim, Irene García Losquiño, Blake Middleton, and Declan Taggart; Jasmina Zaloznik also assisted with choreography.

 There were lines out the door to get into Aberdeen art gallery's after hours: extreme makeover, where we were performing There were lines out the door to get into Aberdeen art gallery’s after hours: extreme makeover, where we were performing

None of us are performance artists. We are all researchers in various disciplines – music, Scandinavian studies, History of Art – who have an interest in presenting our research to non-academic audiences in a interesting and digestible ways, and also an interest in performance. We all attended a two-day workshop in Glasgow at the Centre for Contemporary Art, organised by Lisa Collinson, a researcher in Scandinavian studies, and performance artist Ruth Baker. After two days, we had created some interesting (performances), and later performed them at the CCA in Glasgow and 17 Belmont Street in Aberdeen. We were so excited to share these performances further that some of us re-worked them for the particular space we were assigned in the Aberdeen Art Gallery (the pink gift shop), and did the performances there.

Amy Bryzgel (left), Lisa Collinson (right), and Claire Organ (background) perform “Bureaucracy”

For example, my performance, “Bureaucracy” compared the text of Ancient Scandinavian Laws with UK migration law. By juxtaposing the two texts, one notices striking similarities in the way that laws are and have been written and constructed. In the performance, I read the laws written by the Home Office, and Lisa Collinson read the Ancient Scandinavian laws. Claire Organ stood behind us as the nameless, faceless bureaucrat behind the rules.

We had great feedback from the attendees. While viewers may have not understood exactly what we were intending to communicate with our performances, they still found them compelling, and, as I told the audience in my introduction, the most important thing was to hopefully grasp a bit of the sentiment or feeling behind the performance, rather than a literal understanding of what it might have meant.

As a researcher, it was strange to present my work through performance, but I have to admit it was quite fun and exciting – especially when working with such a great and supportive collaborative team – and I hope to do more performing quite soon!

  Suk-Jun Kim and   Irene García Losquiñ  o performing  Suk-Jun Kim and  Irene García Losquiñ o performing  blake middleton performing (accompanied by declan taggart) blake middleton performing (accompanied by declan taggart)

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My AHRC and Leverhulme Years

This year I was fortunate enough to be awarded an Arts and Humanities Research Council Early Career Fellowship for the continuation of my project, “Performance Art in Eastern Europe,” which I am currently transforming into a book. Although I poured blood, sweat and tears into the application, this was still a (nice) surprise, as it came on the heels of a year-long Leverhulme Research Fellowship, which I held in 2014. I think it is pretty rare to get back-to-back Fellowships, and I am truly grateful not only for the financial support that they offered, but more so for the time they allowed me to truly delve into my research project.

The Leverhulme Fellowship provided support for significant in-depth field research. I spent several months traveling through Eastern Europe, and recently calculated that I met nearly 250 individuals in the region – artists, art historians, art critics and arts practitioners – most of whom appear on this site. While the Leverhulme supported the research and writing of the manuscript, the AHRC supports the finalizing of the book for publication, and public engagement and dissemination projects. It also provides the opportunity for leadership training, so that I can develop the skills to become a leader in my field and manage even larger research projects. I think this aspect of the Fellowship is crucial – most lecturers are good researchers (they wouldn’t have their positions if they weren’t), but not all are leaders, nor do all researcher have the necessary skills to communicate their research with non-academic audiences. These are the skills that the AHRC Early Career Fellowship helps you to develop.

I had to create a rigorous programme that involved not only my research, but leadership training courses and public engagement activities. I attended the Leadership Foundation of Higher Education’s Aurora programme, a women-only leadership training programme for women in higher education. This was a phenomenal programme packed with successful women leaders sharing their stories, networking with other women in higher education from across the UK, and practical reading assignments and activities to help us develop as leaders. For the public engagement element of my AHRC program, one of the activities I am planning is a conference on performance art that will coincide with TIPA – This is Performance Art – which is taking place in Aberdeen in October, and being organised by Peacock Visual Arts. The conference will run from October 30-31, and involve papers and performances, discussions and interactive events.

Although sometimes it can be difficult to pack research, public engagement and leadership development into one fellowship application, I feel that all of these activities combined make for a great program. As I finalize my research and book manuscript, I am able to reflect on it further as I attempt to share it with those outside of the academy. As I organize public engagement events, I implement skills learned on my leadership training courses. The great thing about the AHRC Fellowship is that if you are successful with the grant, you have already done half of the work – the application process forces you to create a rigorous but manageable programme, and if you are awarded the fellowship then you just have to, well, do what you said you were going to do. It’s all laid out for you already, and you just have to stick with your original plan.

As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, what I am most grateful for, above anything, is the time to let all of my ideas gestate and percolate. Most lecturers know all too well how difficult it is to focus on one project, and have to develop skills to ‘fit research in’ among one’s other responsibilities, namely, teaching and service. To have 2.5 uninterrupted years to think only about my project has been a real gift, and I only hope that the finished products (both the book and the public engagement activities) will show evidence of the intense attention devoted to it.

You can read more about my project in the University of Aberdeen News.

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