Late Period of State Socialism
When discussing the relation between postmodernism and late socialism or postsocialism and the issues arising in the Soviet art world in general, one faces complex questions of narrative, politics, and art. There are various theoretical discourses on postmodern art and on late state-socialist societies, for example, the narrative of Sovietology and, a few decades later, of transitology. There are classical and traditional theoretical fields such as history and art history. Other approaches, like cultural studies and the cultural anthropology of state-socialist societies, were developed only later. Every theoretical discourse has its own classification, expectations, and demands. Every tradition has its own system of language games, allusions, and linguistic horizons.
In this investigation of marginal and politicized art in Hungary during its transition from Soviet-style socialism to postsocialism, the methods and approaches I have mentioned above are intermingled. 1 The confluence of categories such as postmodernism and deconstruction, as well as those of the cultural logic of late capitalism and of late socialism, both promotes and frustrates our discussion. On the one hand, it appears promising to combine different theoretical traditions, but on the other, this may also give rise to a mutual misunderstanding, for there is no single ruling discourse in this field.
To avoid possible misunderstandings, double meanings, and confusions, I wish to offer a few introductory explanations and clarifications. To begin with, we need to remember that Socialist Realism is the common inheritance of Soviet art and of the former Soviet world. The essence of this common tradition is its totality: 2 Stalinism became the greatest and, from the Western point of view, an almost unimaginable “avant-gardist” artistic, social, and political practice. The historical practice of totalitarianism and the Wagnerian idea of Gesamtkunstwerk have been a common state practice in