Political Art Concept In The Czech-Slovak Environment


Establishment of the political art concept is an uncompleted process in the Czech and Slovak art theory scene. Comparing to the Euro-American environment, the situation is additionally complicated by the different position of art in society during the previous regime and takeover period. While in the years 1948 to 1989, the official art in Czechoslovakia had a political role in accordance with state policy and was immediately linked to politics. After1989 a radical turn takes places towards the declared artistic freedom. Although the general public often sees the term political art as an art of totalitarian past, this concept did not exist in artistic theory in the Czech Republic and Slovakia previously. In the past to describe the art in accordance with the communist state policy terms like socialist realism and engaged art were used. Whilst Western art of the 20th century shows distinctive lines of freely motivated social criticism, in environment of real socialism, the oppositional manifestations of art were based on other conditions, and were made in a different context.

I am focusing on a parallel examination of Czech and Slovak art. Although they are countries with different social developments, in the field of art I am targeting the common features which prevail over the distinctive ones. Many artists know each other and their works, exhibitions and art programs, many Slovak artists are also active in the Czech Republic. Particularly in the field of contemporary political art Czech-Slovak artistic contacts are mutually widespread. Distribution of individual projects under the National Key would be problematic in many cases, therefore I talk about both areas in parallel whilst also highlighting the specifics, as the proximity of the Czech and Slovak context creates a platform for comparison.

My intention is to contribute to the review of existing, but not yet written history of contemporary political art in the Czech and Slovak environment. I focus on a term of two decades, which is framed by the radical change in the political situation in 1989. After intensive research, I observed that in the artistic and theoretical scene in the Czech Republic and Slovakia there are no terms associated with the words political art. It appears in other several names such as engaged art, critical art, socio-critical art and many more, yet they are used more intuitively without precise definition.