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2018 | 9 "Memory, Melancholy and Nostalgia" | 145-156

Article title

Faces of nostalgia. Restorative and reflective nostalgia in the fine arts



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4th International Interdisciplinary Memory Conference “Memory, Melancholy and Nostalgia” (17-18 Semptember, 2015 in Gdansk)

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In the present article I use the terminology introduced by Svetlana Boym of restorative nostalgia and reflective nostalgia regarding works of contemporary fine art. Restorative nostalgia implies an effort to revive the past – but without acknowledging that the desired and idealized past never existed, therefore it cannot be restored, either. I illustrate the application of this concept through the “new-academic” direction in today’s contemporary Hungarian fine arts. The reflective nostalgia is aware of the idealizing momentum of the desired past, it reflects critically upon its own desires, and it highlights possibilities in the past regarding the present – often playfully or with irony. I illustrate the latter through the works of the Chinese Ai Wei Wei and the Romanian Mircea Cantor. I argue that reflective nostalgia is not a fruitless burial into the past, but a resource for processing the passing of time in a creative manner.


  • Partium Christian University in Oradea (Romania), Department of Arts


  • Boym Svetlana. 2001. The Future of Nostalgia. New York: Basic Books.
  • Boym Svetlana. 2007. “Nostalgia and Its Discontents.” The Hedgehog Review (Summer): 7-18.
  • Hermeziu Cristina. 2012. “Mircea Cantor ridică o casă maramureşană în Paris.” Online: http://adevarul.ro/cultura/arte/mircea-cantor-ridica-casa-maramuresana-paris-1_50a1048d564fa8e2961ae5d6/index.html. Accessed: June 19, 2015.
  • Hutcheon Linda. 2000. “Irony, Nostalgia, and the Postmodern.” Methods for the Study of Literature as Cultural Memory , Studies in Comparative Literature 30: 189-207.
  • McLuhan Marshall. 1962. The Gutenberg galaxy: The making of typographic man. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.
  • Lyotard Jean-François. 1984. The Postmodern Condition. Manchester: Manchester University Press
  • Nelson Cat. 2015. “Interview: Ai Weiwei.” Online: http://www.timeoutbeijing.com/features/Art/143404/Interview-Ai-Weiwei.html. Accessed: Accessed: June 18, 2015.
  • Parkányi Ráab Péter. 2014. “Magyar művészeti maffia.” Online: http://magyarhirlap.hu/cikk/4224/Magyar_muveszeti_maffia. Accessed: June 17, 2015.
  • Pavel Ioana. 2013. “Mircea Cantor în dialog cu Ioana Pavel.” Online : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=teaXBiwurpk. Accessed: June 21, 2015.
  • Qin Amy. 2015. “Ai Weiwei Trades Politics for Subtlety in First Solo Exhibition in China.” Online: http://sinosphere.blogs.nytimes.com/2015/06/08/ai-weiwei-solo-exhibition-china-beijing/?_r=0. Accessed: June 18, 2015.
  • Ulmeanu Ioana. 2015. “Mircea Cantor şi lucrurile care ne leagă.” ELLE Iunie: 101-103.
  • Wilson Janelle L. 2005. Nostalgia: Sanctuary of Meaning. Lewisburg: Bucknell University Press.

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