The Sweet 60s
Istanbul, Vienna, Yerevan, Zagreb
Curators: Georg Schöllhammer, Ruben Arevshatyan
Project coordinator: Mirjam Paninski
The Sweet 60s is a long-term, experimental and scientific research, education and curatorial project that focuses on the revolution peripheral areas of the world experienced in the 60s from a contemporary art and theoretical perspective and forms a broad international network with the collaboration of involved persons and institutions.
The Sweet 60s project carries out a comparative analysis and positions the historical developments in the arts, cultures and societies of the 60s and 70s in order to investigate their influence on current socio-political and cultural situations. Its curatorial and artistic focus is “post-ideological societies” (post-Soviet, post-socialist countries, countries in Eastern Europe, the Middle East, Western and Central Asia and North Africa, and for the second part of the project, China and Latin America).
In addition to the change that dominated global culture in the 60s, which has not been completely examined yet; and the impact of this change on countries that are often neglected in historical research on this revolutionary period, and situations that developed beyond the “Prague Line” form the central focus of this project. In general perception, the 60s are still associated with Western culture, and that what we encounter in the “periphery” or in “secluded” areas of the world is formal and fragmentary copies of processes in the West.
Despite the difference in geopolitical and socio-cultural contexts, the political, social and cultural processes that have continued since the mid-60s in Western Asia, the Middle East, Southern Caucasia and North Africa (including the Arab World) are closely related and played a significant role in the shaping of subsequent developments both from a regional and global point of view. It is possible to trace even today the approach that forms the foundation of political, social and cultural paradigms and fictions constructed during the aforementioned period and its influence. Today, we also witness the culturization and aestheticization of this period that overflowed with “the excitement of revolt”.
The project comparatively analyzes the significant symbols, expressions and developments (from a contemporary art perspective and by applying critical approaches) in social, cultural, political and economic fields (like social/political movements and pioneering works and trends in architecture, literature, the visual arts, cinema, popular culture, mass culture and subcultures) in order to examine differences and similarities in countries involved during this turbulent period.
In the early 60s, the spirit of a hopeful modernism had reached many art circles and workshops in areas regarded as the periphery or the outback. Along with existential fears increasing during the Stalinist dictatorship of realism, reactionary movements began to appear in the region known as the Soviet Bloc as early as 1956, and extreme subjectivity began to burgeon as an outcome. In addition to Western and Central Asia, new groups and viewpoints emerging in the art circles of the totalitarian and colonialist environments of Northern and Central Africa joined in the universalist artistic spirit of international late-modernism, and managed to regard themselves once again as part of an international canon with their kinetic objects, light installations and structural-geometric abstractions. During the second decade after the war, a generation of neo-constructivist artists from both sides of the Iron Curtain and the old colonies had formed a kind of international union.
In the aforementioned period, the relaxation of the oppressive atmosphere liberated artistic expression, and opened a path for a new approach for aesthetic work. Neo-constructivist modernism and new abstraction did not only signify the closure of a period, but also served as a pressure mechanism: New modernism was reparation for the mistakes and faults of Fordism, socialism and their social modernization models; it criticized mass culture and the routine objects of culture, transported artistic exploration to an abstract platform based on form and became the meeting point of the world during the Cold War period. However, today it is still the neo-avant-gardes of the center that form the canon.
In contrast to dominant narratives and historical canons accepted today, the project does not regard the processes of the 60s as the dispersion of a singular explosion across other parts of the world; and prefers to view it as a general socio-cultural, political and economic condition that led to parallel modernities forming across all corners of the world in relation to the development of different radical socio-political and cultural processes experienced on a global scale.