Contemporary art dreams packed in raffia bags

What hides behind the non-existence of contemporary Moldovan Art?

How can you interpret an art without interpretation concepts or settings? How can you meet an artist without contextualizing his work in time, place and paradigms? In fact, for this material I dropped out these scholastic questions, opening my mind for a different approach regarding art. From affective memory to extreme behavior, heading to the margins of Europe and the territorial and conceptual commencement of something new, something old, something borrowed and something blue: Moldovan contemporary art.

Self-portrait

A chat with Tatiana Fiodorova about the unspoken and the over obvious in Eastern European artistic practices. PS: Full descriptions of Tatiana Fiodorova’s projects contained!

The National Moldovan Pavilion at the Biennale d’Arte di Venezia – is this the reason for opening Pandora ’s Box in the Moldovan artistic community?

Yes, we can say that magical Pandora's Box has opened and the current Moldovan art came out of hiding. Moreover, the artistic community can now fight against corruption and policies of the Ministry of Culture, in response to the nontransparent and incomprehensible process of selection of the participants for the under mentioned pavilion.

For the first time, Moldova was represented at a large-scale project of contemporary art as the Venice Biennale is. Participation in this biennale is always very prestigious. But Moldova, as a state, can’t afford to build or rent a pavilion for the Moldavian art. As a result, this year there were business-lady-artists who, having the permission of the Ministry of Culture, presented their artworks in Venice, believing that their projects will have a greater visibility after the participation in such an event. 

All the submitted works are far from contemporary art, being very traditional in content and form. As a result, the artistic community was outraged by the situation. In fact, in Moldova there are artists who really could provide valuable projects that can be successfully presented in the agenda of an international event.

As an artist, I expressed my protest associated with the Moldovan pavilion, developing aT-shirt containing the logo Artist without Pavilion. The idea was presented in the framework of the GHOST PAVILION campaign, and was presented in Venice at the exhibition ATLANTIS ’11, at the same time with the Venice Biennale.

Artist without Pavilion just tells the story of this unresolved situation, when the Moldovan artist was left without Pavilion, and the Pavilion was left without Art.

Through which projects do you implicate in Moldovan contemporary art? Who do you call on for financing?

Contemporary art in Moldova is mainly supported by the two institutions Chisinau Center for Contemporary Art KSAK and the Oberliht organization, which are supported mainly by Western grants. I am very often involved in projects that are developed by the Centre of Contemporary Art KSAK. For example, I was implicated in the curatorial projects of Stefan Rusu CHISINAU-Art, Research in the Public Sphere and The RO-MD/Moldova in Two Scenarios. I also cooperated with Oberliht and Vlad Us. This is all about cooperation.

Currently, I freely develop and implement projects. These projects are not linked to some curatorial ideas and creativity, but they concern the features of a personal research. In the recent times, I am more likely to exhibit in other countries than in Moldova, as we haplessly have a narrow public who is interested to observe and understand what is the contemporary art is about.

For example, the Garden project is been shown in Iasi, Romania, as well as in Bialystok, Poland, but has not yet been shown in Chisinau, though the subject addressed in this project talks about my past and the past of my country. Garden is dedicated to my father, who passed away when I was six years old, and refers to my mind and my memories.

Garden

Garden

Garden

This project is growing and eventually is moving to a new form. Originally this project consisted in a video work called Autumn in my garden, which was presented in an exhibition in Amsterdam, one year ago. The work is a documentary video about the gathering of wilting autumn leaves under the windows of a five-story house where I live. This is a memorable place for me, as I associate with it some different stories of my childhood. After this exhibition, I decided to make this project deeper and to invest it with further layers. At the exhibition in Iasi, curated by Catalin Gheorghe, I presented a multimedia installation consisting of a video of Autumn in my garden, augmented objects and art objects taken from the family archive.

My father was an artist, designer and photographer, and we were born the same day. He left a lot of interesting things, in addition to photographs, paintings, drawings: a homemade box of Cyrillic Russian letters, a book- a photocopy of Soviet publications on medicinal plants, stencils, sketches for the Soviet-era propaganda posters, and more. Moreover, he was an archivist and collector, gathering postcards and stamps, purely for pragmatic purposes, as he worked as a designer and decorator.

My father always considered himself an amateur photographer, the photo representing for him only one of the instruments used by an artist, which eventually allowed him to develop a painting. Despite this, it hit me that the pictures of his documentary projects were clearly constructed by the rules of composition. His great regret in life was the fact of not being recognized, and not being admitted in the Union of Artists of Moldova, situation that led to several frustrations.

His works were never shown to the public until the exhibition time.

Regarding his approach to photography, it is interesting to know that this job served as archive for fixing and Soviet reality, as it was as well a method of earning extra money. Since the income of our family was not adequate to bypass the authorities, he began traveling to Moldovan villages and shoot peasants. In the Soviet times, as I recall, there were no possibilities of receiving extra work to do, so we had to be content with the salary gained through the official job. Subsequently, many photos weren’t sold because he didn’t have the time to do this. Presented at the exhibition, you can see portraits of these people. Also, a year before his death, my father searched for work anywhere.

He decided to do business, which in Soviet times was not a welcomed activity. He began to go through the villages take orders for several design works. By the way, the income increased significantly. The exhibition features sketches for these works. Also on display are his paintings and drawings. More than 25 years, all these things lay on the dusty shelves of my balcony. Generally, we can say that all the artifacts left behind by my father help me to better understand and feel how it was to be an unknown and unrecognized artist in the Soviet era, which I only get acquainted during my school years. No nostalgia for past time remained, only questions and issues.

Can a Moldovan artist live through his work, living in his country? What about working and living abroad?

Moldovan artists do not have the chance to survive only by the financial means provided from selling their works. Basically, in Moldova the artist creates and implements an artistic project free of charge. Sometimes, we are invited to participate in international exhibitions that sometime pay an artist honorarium. But it is certainly not enough to survive. The artist has always to look for extra work, for example, I used to work as coordinator in KSAK.

Now I am teaching at the art school of Sciusev, but I there I also receive a very low remuneration. Fortunately, I still have a post-graduate scholarship. In my opinion, Moldova is almost in the same situation as the most part of the countries from the former Soviet space, not including perhaps Russia (namely in Moscow): lack of an infrastructure for contemporary art, no art galleries, museums, no quality art schooling, no institutions to educate valuable artists, curators, and critics of contemporary art.

Our national museum is also not interested in purchasing contemporary art, as the state does not show any initiative to support the contemporary practices, pretending to have no idea of their existence. On the other hand, in contrast to Belarus for example, the State does not interfere with talking to artists, which is not bad. Also in contrast to Russia and Ukraine, where the art has an acute commercial character because of the private sector involved in it, in Moldova, there is no art market and there is no demand for contemporary art. This fact can be considered as a positive feature, since it is not commercialized and art exists in its pure form.

However, for Moldavian artist it is very difficult to live and create in spite of this whole system. After 20 years, the Moldovan contemporary art is still marginal, and the Moldovan society hase few acquaintance of its existance. The artistes found themselves in the absence of the art scene, so they started talking about themselves in the West than at home, and also other artists moved to the West because of economic instability in the our country. Despite the fact that today the artist finds it hard to survive in such conditions, the Moldavian contemporary art exists. That I can say for sure.

You’re part of an influx consisting of young cultural actors who are reacting to the events, observe and strike an attitude, succeeding to create behavior models for the society. How do you appear in Moldova? Who are you “fighting” with?

As I said, contemporary art is not popular in Moldova, so the contemporary artist are not so well known . Also, many Moldovan artists immigrated to other countries. As a result, two years ago, the ARTPLOSHADKA artistic project appeared – consisting of a virtual portal for art and culture (www.artploshadka.wordpress.com). The activities of the ARTPLOSHADKA are aimed to create an online community of the cultural sector in Moldova with a view for consolidating the Moldovan cultural resources, having also the aim to generate and expand a single cultural space, covering a variety of subjects in arts and culture.

The appearance of Artploshadka is associated with the desire to create a virtual platform for artistic practices and for anyone who cares about Moldovan culture. The need for this step is due to the lack of on-line cultural networks, magazines, which would have covered the scope of modern culture in various aspects, such as literature, art, cinema, music. Today Artploschadka exists as a necessity and is not funded.

This is a young and rapidly growing internet portal on culture and art, whose activities are aimed not only for archiving of electronic information from the Moldovan and international press and television, illuminating the scope of contemporary culture, but also to produce our own news, interviews and texts. Moldovan contemporary art is located in the marginal zone. Therefore, one of the tasks of Artploschadka is the promotion of contemporary art.

Because today there is an enormous gap between traditional art and the art of contemporary relevance, a task of Artploschadka is to build a bridge between past and present and try to see the whole picture of the cultural space of Moldova. Also, thanks to Artploschadka I met many creative teams and interesting people. As a result, the Moldovan land project was born, involving several Moldovan creative teams. This project was realized in the framework of the European Art Live Festival Exchange Radical Moments on 11.11.2011.

You have projects in multiple areas of contemporary art, but how about self-defining yourself? What comes in your mind first?

Of course, I can stand for being a visual artist. In all my work whether it is a photo installation, video art or performance, the most important role is played by the visual imagery. In the past, I graduated the university as a graphic designer and it certainly helps me build up the visual side of my work. But the concept of the work still occupies the first place. If I have an idea, I think and employ my personal features in order to develop the project using my own resources. An example of self-defining myself as artist and also as woman is contained in the multimedia installation European Clothing which was shown in Kalmar Museum in Sweden and also in Chisinau.

This installation presented a metaphor for a complex and controversial transformation, from being a Soviet girl to becoming an European woman through applying the European standards. The installation consists of clothes that I was surrounded by in my childhood. My mom worked at the Moldovan factory Red Star. This factory was very popular in USSR. The wardrobe of my family in the Soviet era consisted of items produced by this factory. The under mentioned video has also a part in which you can see a performance with soviet underwear which worn by both boys and girls in Soviet Time.

The performance enacted and recorded in summer 2010 in the streets and at the market of Chisinau, Moldova, concerns the problems of the influence of west-European culture on the East European life-style-often only superficially perceived. I go through the streets of an East European town to buy some western clothes on the market. This is the place where usually the most part of the town inhabitants supplies themselves with cheap clothes, carried from the West Europe, or with their simulations from the third countries. I just manage financially to buy myself a skirt and a T-shirt, maybe also a pair of shoes, but for the underwear there are no money left. So the population of the East European countries uses the old Soviet style underwear, even if it tries to adapt itself externally to the western clothes style. I associate this issue to the whole influence of the western culture to my country.

Why did you stay in Moldova?

Our country is in chaos right now and during two years we live without a president. And I do not know if it's good or bad. Nothing changes for the better for our people. All survive as they can. This is a difficult and painful issue for me, but I still live with my family in Chisinau.

What do you believe that defines the Moldovan identity in contemporary arts?

Firstly, the contemporary art in Moldova outlines and analyzes the post-Soviet space, the legacy of our past compared to nowadays’ problems, putting more emphasis on unsolved economic, social and political problems.

What about the Eastern European character?

I think that the art of the Eastern European area is more about the political and social issues. This is of course connected with the dramatic changes that have resulted from a Paradigm shift and order, the transition from socialism to the market economy. The formation of capitalism in Eastern Europe stands for difficulties and contradictions. This issue is of course, reflected in the works of a large amount of artists from the Eastern bloc.

Which are your current/ future projects?

The content of my works tends to reflect the contemporary world in response to current issues: social, political and aesthetic. In recent time, my designs are associated with social interaction, aimed to creating spaces of intercultural dialogue. A few days ago my current project Moldavian Land has been realized, which was a continuation of the construction of intercultural dialogue within the country.

This project involved various art groups such as Studio Theatre Improvisation, Dance modern Group Voices with International guests, the choir Rhapsody with the director Natalia Barabanschikova , students of the City Theatre Lyceum and the Art School Sciusev, MediArt Dialog Center and also some interesting people as the circus artist Anatolie Jornea and the master of martial arts Anatolie Burucenko.

The main topic of the project is to overcome borders and barriers with which our citizens meet in their life: can’t move freely around Europe, have social and economic difficulties, political crisis, all these struggles being defined as a transition period in Moldova.

The people animals

The people animals

Moldavian Land

Moldavian Land

Moldavian Land

It’s not a coincidence that for the performance were selected places such as the bus and bus stop, train station, subways, trolleys, maxi taxis, pedestrian crossings and the airport. The creative teams did their actions in locations where people are leaving the country. The collective performance “Moldavian land” that took place in Chisinau with the help of art, theater, dance and acrobatic performance improvisation became a metaphor for liberation from the barriers and boundaries that people face in their daily lives.

This six hour performance was part of a wide European Live Art Festival EXCHANGE RADICAL MOMENTS, and was attended by 11 European cities such as Liverpool, London, Paris, Berlin, Linz, Riga, Stockholm, Prague, Slabfurt, Bitola, as well as Chisinau. At 11.11.2011 approximately sixty European artists simultaneously tried to stop time in an attempt to counter the routine of everyday life. In 11/11/11, the official festival website http://11moments.org/ was live broadcasted from all 11 participating countries. A live stream from Chisinau could be viewed and is currently available accessing: http://11moments.org/location/chisinau/ Prehistory The “Moldavan Land” is a continuation of my previous projects: “If I am a simulation or I have a right” , “Three Colors”, “I go”. The “Three Colors” project from 2008 aimed to identify the transition state of Moldova in the former Soviet Union through the use of the three colors the Moldovan flag.

The project I go is an attempt to understand the country in which I live, and to identify oneself as a citizen of Moldova. Sometimes I feel vulnerable and powerless in my own country, and these actions and performances find my place within modern society. Often, the leitmotif of my creative projects is a checked bag functioning as a symbol of the former Soviet Union. The bag is a symbol of transition, and mobility, while on the other hand, it represents a symbolic wall between East and West. As a symbol of the barriers, boundaries, and limits, this wall has become an obstacle in the implementation of my dreams to be in London.

       

I want to London

Interview by Silvia Pintilie

 

You may also be interested in the following topics:

International weekend: Tatiana Fiodorova

Comments are closed.