Soviet Supermen and the Autistic State

16 November 2017, 5.45pm
Balliol Chapel

Dr Alex Popescu will give a lecture entitled ’Soviet Supermen and the Autistic State: Discovering Romanian Art in Tasmania’. Wine will be served beforehand at 5.30pm.

Soviet ideology was obsessed with ‘re-educating’ religious people and re-forming them into proletarian ‘supermen’. Its systems of governance and education were pervaded by autism-like phenomenology expressed through ‘wooden’ language, rigidly regimented behaviour, and mimetic imagination with a restricted range of interests. In this era of mass conformity and unprecedented levels of censorship, spiritual deprivation led to ‘metaphysical autism’. However, over time, an artistic community in Ceausescu’s Romania began to discover an unassumingly dissident style of art, through which they found the freedom to overcome the autistifying dictates of the totalitarian state. From the 1970s onwards, Australian-born economist Geoffrey Tyler made several visits with the IMF to Romania and also befriended and supported many Romanian artists. He built up one of the largest collections of contemporary Romanian art outside the Iron Curtain, now housed at the University of Tasmania. The lecture will use examples from iconography and contemporary art to illustrate how Eastern Orthodox faith survived behind the Iron Curtain.

Dr Alex Popescu is a Senior Research Associate, Balliol College, Oxford, and a Tyler Research Fellow at UTAS. He is the author of Petre Tutea: Between Sacrifice and Suicide and a contributor to The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church and The Cambridge History of Christianity, Eastern Christianity.

Updated 16 January 2018:

Here is a podcast of this talk.