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Sugar, regime change, Eastern Europe | Ilona Németh’s book is out now

Even though the intricate story of the sugar factory in Dunajská Streda is already quite fascinating in itself, the prosperity of the Slovak sugar industry and its subsequent decay reaches beyond local specificities: the fate of the factory is also a bit about what Central Eastern Europe had to face after the regime change. This is what artist Ilona Németh set out to explore, and her project has now been published in the form of a book.

Ilona Németh’s book entitled Eastern Sugar, presenting the story of the decay of the Slovak sugar industry as well as its social and economic context, has been published. The richly illustrated, 300-page-long English book has been published by the Slovak National Gallery and Sternberg Press and is part of a large-scale visual art project.

Ilona Németh presented her research-art project entitled Eastern Sugar focusing on the story of the former sugar factory in her hometown, Dunajská Streda, in the Kunsthalle Bratislava in 2018. The once flourishing Slovak sugar industry started its decay following the regime change: the factory in Dunajská Streda was acquired by foreign companies, then the facility was shut down after the introduction of the sugar quota. Taking the story of the factory in Dunajská Streda as a starting point, the exhibition examines social and economic-infrastructural changes occurring in Central Eastern Europe at the time as well as postcolonialism, and poses the question of whether neoliberal marketization was the only viable exit strategy from state socialism.

“The originally local or perhaps regional research has become a global research of sugar production. Experts claim that it was sugar, as the first capitalist commodity, that over the recent centuries significantly affected the development of several continents and caused many human and environmental disasters. On the one hand, in Eastern Sugar we strive, through the contributions by foreign experts, to pay attention to the broader social, economic, and environmental challenges associated with the sugar industry while, on the other, with our own contributions, visual essays and artistic interventions we hope to facilitate the incorporation of the rich and instructive story of the Central European sugar industry in the global map of the story of sugar,” explained Ilona Németh.

The English version of the book encompassing both research and creative work can be ordered via the website of the Slovak National Gallery, while the Slovak edition is planned to be released in August.

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