Continuity and Change: Performance Art in Eastern Europe since the 1960s

Amy Bryzgel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


In Eastern Europe, performance art has a rich tradition dating back to the 1960s, yet its history has not yet been written. This article presents a consolidation of my research thus far on the history of performance art practices in Central, Eastern and Southern Europe since 1960, based on original primary source research and in-depth field work in each country in the region, which includes the former Soviet countries of Eastern Europe (Ukraine, Moldova, Belarus, and the Baltics); the Satellite countries of Central Europe (Poland, Czecho slovakia, Hungary, Bulgaria, Romania); Yugoslavia; East Germany, and Albania. Since much of the region was closed off to the West during the Cold War, performance art traditions, namely, action art, body art and happenings, existed in relative isolation. Complete state control over official art (painting and sculpture) meant that performance developed unofficially, within closed circles; it also meant that no critical discourse on the subject was able to develop locally. Furthermore, lack of access by Western scholars meant that these traditions did not enter the discourse on performance art in the West. Despite this gap between scholarship and practice, artists in the region were well connected; some travelled West (Milan Knížák, Tadeusz Kantor, Paul Neagu, to name a few), yet
Western artists also travelled East (Gina Pane, Chris Burden), a fact
that makes the absence of literature on this history even more
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)109-160
Number of pages51
JournalIdea: Arta + Societate
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2014


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