The Canon, the Particular, the Political: East European Dilemmas
Independent scholar, Paris, France
At the 2008 CIHA meeting, Piotr Piotrowski proposed a transnational reading of art history as a solution for integrating different narratives meant to expand - and thus alienate - the mainstream discourse. This horizontal reading, opposed to the customary vertical one, challenged the perspective of the canon as the major criterion in writing art/ architectural history, replacing it with the multiplication of its territories. While responding to the needs of globalization, the proposal aimed (specifically) to restore a place for Eastern Europe within the discourse of art/ architectural history.
If pertinent, the horizontal reading is however only partially effective. The difficulty in integrating the Eastern European narrative(s) pertains to their ‘legibility' in the context. How to connect Eastern Europe (as a study area) to a larger context? How extensive could be this context (at a time when globalization turned marginality into a relative issue) in order not to affect the meaning of the subject? And, moreover, how to make it understandable without using the instruments and criteria of the mainstream discourse?
I argue that the multiplication of territories of architectural history equals a multiplication of fields, engendering specific tools of analysis. This leads to a ‘clusterization' of the historiographical discourse, whose mechanics is regulated by methodology. Hence, a meaningful reading of Eastern European architecture(s) requires complementary approaches which are more or less conditioned by the remains of the mainstream thinking: the relation to the canon/ the (necessary) particularity as related to peripherality/ the determinant role of politics. The paper will look at historiographical case studies of the twentieth century architecture in order to define these approaches. While they reflect the predicaments of articulating the narrative of Eastern European architecture (compared to other ‘marginal' territories) into a coherent ‘global' discourse, they are relevant for the rise of new methodologies.