A Talk on the New Woman of Social Realism. Video Recording

A Talk on the New Woman of Social Realism. Video Recording
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“The New Woman of Social Realism: Women Artists and Images of Women”, a talk by the American art historian Christina Kiaer will be held on the 12th of June within the “Riga 2014” Programme project “Waiting for… (Archaeology of an Idea)”, hosted by the “kim?” contemporary art centre. The talk, which celebrates the critically-acclaimed Riga-born Soviet sculptor Vera Mukhina, will be aired live on the “Riga 2014” culture portal.

The talk will be held in the Conference Room of the “Riga Bourse” Art Museum, Doma Square 6, starting at 6 p.m.

The event will be in Latvian, Russian and English.


Please note that no simultaneous interpretation will be available for Alise Tīfentāle’s speech – for the English translation, see below.

The talk will be preceded by a commentary from art historian Alise Tīfentāle, whereas Christina Kiaer’s talk will demonstrate how images of women fit within the methodological categories that Kiaer has developed in her study of Socialist Realism.

While some research has been done on the structural difficulties faced by Soviet women artists in  the 1930s, especially in the work of art historian Susan Reid, so far there has been much less  analysis of the function of images of women within Socialist Realism, whether made by women or  men. Most images of women are read either as signs of regression to conventional bourgeois femininity, reflecting the “Great Retreat” of the mid-1930s, or as signs of the persistence of the mythic “New Woman” personified by tractor drivers, athletes, Mukhina’s “kolkhoznitsa”, etc.

What is needed is a less binary account of the function of images of women, and of how that function shifted almost year by year in the 1930s.

It is also necessary to arrive at a more informed perspective on the function of the category “khudozhnitsa” (woman artist) within the system of Socialist Realism.

To this end, Christina Kiaer will examine the critical language with which women artists were discussed and how it differed from the discussion of male artists. She will also talk about the presentations and actions by these women artists as they are recorded in the archive of the Central Artists’ Union in Moscow (MOSSKh).

The lecture will not have a heavy focus on the Soviet sculptor Vera Mukhina (1889-1953), but it will certainly touch on her work. In line with the lecture’s title and phrases used in its description  (“women as image-makers and images of women”), Vera Mukhina and her career will be discussed  form the perspective of gender studies.

How did this woman artist navigate within the institutional structures of Soviet art? How did she create the image of the “Soviet woman”? And was it the “image of the Soviet woman”, after all?

In her introductory speech, art historian Alise Tīfentāle will give a summary of Mukhina’s biography, including her childhood in Riga and studies in Paris. At the end of the presentation, Alise Tīfentāle will turn to the analysis of Mukhina’s work in the context of contemporary art problems.

The series of public talks “Waiting for… (Archaeology of an Idea)” is part of the “Riga 2014” Programme’s thematic line “Thirst for the Ocean”.

The project brings to Riga professionals from various disciplines – curators, philosophers, authors, artists and musicians – whose mission is to research, inspire, and interact with the local cultural environment. These thinkers’ visits to Riga may take different forms: visits associated with art research, presentations of specific theoretical principles, performances, exhibitions and others.



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