Our own Morgan Meis in The Smart Set:
Was there something good about communism? Was there something decent about the form of life that existed behind the Iron Curtain? As a political question, this can be answered definitively in the negative. Soviet-style communism was a failure by definition. It couldn't sustain itself. It was also a system that relied — in its Stalinist period — on outright terror. Its totalitarian tendencies continued past the Stalinist days. Even in the relatively benign incarnation of the ’70s and ’80s, the world of the Soviet Empire was a world of political repression and the stifling of civil society. We are all aware of these facts. Indeed, they are so comfortable that we never seem to tire of repeating them. That is also why an art show such as “Ostalgia” hides behind imprecise language and an ambivalence of purpose. It is a show that doesn't want to be caught taking the wrong political line. We are assured — in the explanations of artwork, in the press releases, in the catalogue, and in much of the work chosen — that this is a show that will do its job in critiquing the evils of communism.
But that is not what drove the curators at the New Museum to put up a show called “Ostalgia.” No one is interested in a show that condemns the politics of a civilization that no longer exists. In fact, the core impulse of “Ostalgia” is to explore a feeling that has nothing directly to do with politics at all. What art can show us about the society of the former Soviet Bloc is something that discussions of politics and society don't have immediate access to. Art can show us the immediacy of life as it was felt and experienced in that time, in that place.
What we find in “Ostalgia” is surprising. We find a great deal of ease. I'm not talking about material comfort or an “easy life.” I am talking about human ease, to coin a term.
More here. [Photo shows Morgan in Moscow last week.]