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2009 | 12 | 38-43

Article title

THE MARXIST LEGACY AND THE INTERPRETATION OF ART: BETWEEN AESTHETIC VALUE AND SOCIAL SYMPTOM (Marksisma mantojums un makslas interpretacija: Starp estetisku vertibu un socialu simptomu)


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The basic premises of Marxism in respect to art are well known - art is a social phenomenon impossible to explain outside the economic structures of the society in which and for which it is made. Although primitive, deterministic versions of Marxism are largely of historical interest only, seeing art processes as a field of interaction of social, ethnic, gender, race and other contextual factors has not only been recognised but also became a dominant set of interpretational strategies. If feminism, gender studies or the post-colonial discourse are relatively new on Latvian soil, Marxist ideas have circulated in the local intellectual milieu since the late 19th century. In line with the dominant Soviet ideology, they have been comparatively well documented. In the interwar period Marxist ideas developed from more radical, expressionist-style echoes of proletarian culture to gradual restoration of order. Art as the indicator of the class struggle also sometimes left room for the concept of artist-genius, his gift consisting precisely in an ability to sense the social change first, as described by art historian Kristaps Eliass. The writer Andrejs Kurcijs who attempted to introduce the trend of Activism, a term coined in the melting pot of European Avant-garde trends, also voiced a compromise between the understanding of form and sociological assessment, each illuminating the other. Though politically unacceptable, leftist views emphasising serious content instead of the bourgeois formalism were selectively institutionalised as 'progressive' in the following period of Soviet domination.


  • Stella Pelse, Institute of Art History of the Latvian Academy of Art, Akademijas laukums 1-160, Riga LV-1050, Latvia


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