What does collectivism look like after state socialism? Drawing on an interdisciplinary combination of art historical, archival, and ethnographic methods, my project propose's to study the ways historical socialist modes of collective organization are taken up, challenged, and even superseded by contemporary "post-socialist" art collectives. The scope of this project is both global and restricted, tracking the cultural logics of "post-socialism" through collective art groups scattered across so-called "post-colonies of communism": Central Asia, Central America, and Central Europe. With CLAS funding, I had hoped to establish the viability of my research project—especially with these archives established relatively recently—by visiting these archives in person to survey the materials available. One such group was TEOR/éTica, an art and thought collective based in San José, Costa Rica. TEOR/éTica is a crucial site for mediating the interrelation of global and local discourses, as the group positions itself as a hub for Central American art more broadly along with being a participant of the global arts network Arts Collaboratory. TEOR/éTica—interconnected by novel institutional bonds, historical memories, and/or political projects—grapple through art and practice with the specificity of contemporary collectivism. My research project itself aims not only to trace the legacies of Cold War empire (i.e. how the US and/or Soviet internationalism established cultural ties between strategically and ideologically important sites in Eastern Europe, Latin America, and Central Asia) but also to interrogate how those matrices of power were and continue to be generative of new possibilities for global interrelation. Due to the travel restrictions I have been significantly changing my research plans, moving all my interviews and archival research with TEOR/éTica online. While the summer has not been conducive to fulfilling my research, I still plan to conduct video interviews with key members of the TEOR/éTica group as well as familiarizing myself with the internet presence and archives they have been building. In fact, this new constraint highlights the challenges TEOR/éTica has already been working through as a small organization that situates itself in an internationally and even globally networked community. This summer of "research" into the depotentiating effects of social isolation has hopefully sharpened my research questions around the urgency for collectivity as an active and deliberate practice.
This research was conducted with support from the Center for Latin American Studies Summer Field Research Grant.