PATTERNS Lectures

PATTERNS Lectures is a programme to support the development of new university courses in Central and South Eastern Europe. PATTERNS Lectures was initiated by ERSTE Foundation and is being implemented by World University Service (WUS) Austria.

The main objective of the programme is to develop new university courses in the fields of art history, cultural theory and cultural studies that aim to research and understand recent cultural history in Central, Eastern and South Eastern Europe. Furthermore, it encourages international aca­demic exchange by enabling lecturers to go on international study visits and conduct guest lectures.

The lectures are part of the PATTERNS research initiative and ERSTE Foundations’ cultural work in recent years. PATTERNS aims to document, analyse and investigate different aspects of and practices related to the transformation of life and culture in Central and South Eastern Europe, while accounting for the pluralities that characterise the region.

PATTERNS Lectures supports courses that analyse the period from the 1960s to the present day, deal with cultural phenomena including aspects of popular, marginal and counterculture, examine interdisciplinary and cross-cultural history in Central and South Eastern Europe, and involve critical methodology and innovative and interactive teaching practices.

We are particularly interested in courses which:

  • have been recently developed and have not been held before
  • analytically deal with the period starting from the 1960s up to the present day, including the year of transition in 1989
  • deal with cultural phenomena before 1989 until today, including aspects of popular, marginal and counterculture
  • examine interdisciplinary and cross-cultural history in Central and South Eastern Europe
  • involve critical methodology and innovative and interactive teaching practices

We have asked six participating lecturers about their experiences with PATTERNS Lectures:

Cristian Nae
“Politics of Identity in Eastern European Art after 1989″
“George Enescu” Universityof Arts, Iasi, Fine Arts, Decorative Arts and Design, Romania

Based on a classic lecture plus seminar structure, the course aimed to have a double impact. Firstly, it intended to bridge the gap of art historical knowledge which still exists at Romanian art academies by collecting the various fragments of existing information on recent art history in former Eastern Europe after the fall of the Berlin Wall and presenting it systematically in a comparative, thematic and horizontal manner.

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Contrary to my expectations at the beginning, this task proved to be rather demanding given the limited knowledge of the students and the methodological challenges of new historicism in relation to the dominant patterns of formalist and positivist art history still prevalent in the academies.

Secondly, the course aimed to foster critical awareness and skills of critical interpretation with regard to the process of researching and writing recent art history. On a theoretical level, the research focused on the critical representation of post-communist identity in art produced in the region after 1989 and on the difficulties of its reconstruction, approached along the classical lines of gender, nation, ethnicity and geo-political locality as reflected in the mainstream post-colonial discourse. Nevertheless, it also took into account specific problems in the region, such as the issue of cultural memory and strategies of remembrance, the condition of the Eastern European artist and art institutions, the problem of “self-colonisation”, the precarious conditions of immigrant workers or the geo-cultural problem of Europe’s shifting borders and territories, as well as the question of the efficacy and limitations of cultural translation as an interpretive strategy for a regional approach. Among the difficulties encountered at this level, the constant need to use English as a common language when reading texts and the difficulties of accessing important source texts written in national languages proved to be serious impediments when challenging the theoretical status quo. The exercise as a whole revealed a rather orthodox image of critical artistic practice in the region.

Overall, the Patterns Lectures programme helped foster independent research and provided an important starting point for developing future critical research, an endeavour which should certainly be continued.


Kornelia Slavova, Krassimira Daskalova
“Gendering Popular Culture, East and West”
Sofia University St. Kliment Ohridski, Department of Cultural Studies, Bulgaria

The PATTERNS Lectures course, which we taught in English over two consecutive semesters in 2011, was a very rewarding experience for both teachers and students. Popular culture and gender studies – two fields which had been neglected in Bulgaria for years – were placed firmly on the educational map in one fell swoop.

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Furthermore, the course combined comparative perspectives from Eastern and Western Europe from the communist period and the post-communist transition after 1989. This made it suited to the needs of both Bulgarian and foreign students enrolled in the course, which was cross-listed in several MA programmes at Sofia University. In fact, the diverse range of students from so many disciplines, programmes and countries was both a blessing and a curse because of the difficulty in managing and accommodating all of their interests.

As part of the project we were able to invite four first-rate scholars from different backgrounds and different academic institutions in Europe: Dina Iordanova from St. Andrews University in Scotland (a specialist in East European and Balkan film), Betty Kaklamanidou from Aristotle University of Thessaloniki (a specialist in the Hollywood entertainment industry), Ludmilla Jordanova from King’s College, London (an art historian) and Marika Moisseeff from College de France (a cultural anthropologist). Their diverse approaches and perspectives have provided us with inspiration for teaching the humanities – especially in terms of cross-cultural interdisciplinary methodology, visualisation and presentation techniques and innovative educational and evaluation models. We have benefited enormously from working together closely with our guest lecturers, who have not only generously shared their knowledge with us, but have also made teaching the courses a much more inspirational and enjoyable experience and have helped shape our future research interests.

Having completed our project, we established that some of the key values behind the educational agenda of “PATTERNS” were: perfection, analytical thinking, exceptional teaching, team spirit, inspiration, revision, innovation and skills.


Lena Prents, Aliona Gloukhova
“What the Party didn’t Teach: Unofficial Internal and International Art Practices in Belarus from the Thaw until Perestroika”
European Humanities University, Theory and Practices of Contemporary Art, Belarus/Lithuania

Today’s art scene in the million-strong city of Minsk consists of several interconnected microcosms. The teaching activities at the European Humanities University in Minsk, which were brought to a standstill for political reasons and offered sanctuary in neighbouring Lithuania, have had a significant impact on the cultural sphere in Belarus.

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Our course contributed to prompting various circles to undertake intensive research into nonconformist movements in Belorussian art from the Soviet period up until the early 1990s and present them to the public.

The course opened up a rewarding field of research to students and young scientists. In addition to generating new findings, it continuously raised new questions and required researchers to broaden their horizons. Meeting and working with the guest lecturers was a particularly motivating and inspiring experience for both the course participants and the invited experts. Lectures involved resurrecting names that had been long forgotten, reconstructing artistic events and also identifying examples of mythmaking and confusion regarding definitions. And it did not go unnoticed that the unofficial art scene, which considered itself progressive and avant-garde, had essentially been organised as a “boy’s club”. Against the backdrop of the neo-avant-garde figures of Eastern Europe – barely discussed today and little-noticed back then – and the “other art scene” in the Soviet Union, debates also focused on where to position the Belorussian art scene between the centre and the periphery.

The course will result in a collection of papers to aid further research into this subject. The publication will be a joint project involving EHU lecturers, students and invited authors and is aimed at all those whose curiosity for Belorussian and Eastern European art from the 1960s to the 1990s was sparked by the various interactions between different microcosms.


Vjeran Pavlaković
“Comparative History of the Culture of Memory”
University of Rijeka, Department of Cultural Studies, Croatia

PATTERNS Lectures was a unique opportunity not only for me as a lecturer, but also for the students on the course and the administrative staff at the University of Rijeka. I believe the implementation of the course, The Comparative History of the Culture of Memory, was successful for all parties involved as it introduced new material into the curriculum and demonstrated a new way of using international funding.

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The grant allowed me to prepare a class I had been thinking about for several years that was based upon my own research and had also generated considerable interest among the students. By receiving funding from PATTERNS Lectures, I was able to convince my department and the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences in Rijeka to include my class in an academic programme, a process that could have taken much longer without the additional impetus from PATTERNS. Being able to take study trips and purchase key literature was important, but I think the most beneficial aspect of the fellowship was inviting guest lecturers to give the students new perspectives on the subject material. My department also benefited from networking with scholars from abroad. I was very grateful for the flexibility regarding the use of funding, as I was able to take my students on a study trip to the nearby city of Trieste to visit key sites of memory connected to the coursework. This was a unique experience for many Croatian students with limited funding opportunities.

The main challenges I faced were administrative, not because of a lack of support (the dean and chair of my department were very enthusiastic about the project), but because of the inexperience of the university in handling these kinds of funds. However, I think overcoming these challenges was also a positive experience for the administration and I hope this is the beginning of a period of greater internationalisation for the university as Croatia enters the EU and will be eligible for new projects.

In conclusion, I have only positive things to say about my experience with this project. The administrators did an excellent job and had full confidence in the professors and their ideas, and the two workshops organised in conjunction with the project were very useful for generating a network of scholars (I am in close contact with several colleagues I met at the workshops) in the region.