MARK YOU MAKE BELIEVE MY DEAR, YES by JOHN DAVIS (video)
A resurrected Soviet propaganda film from the 1980s animates specters from recent history.
This video was constructed from a decayed Soviet film from the 1980′s acquired while on residency at the KSA:K Center for Contemporary Art in Chisinau, Moldova in 2006. Although shortened, the bulk of the footage is largely unaltered, and what you see are mostly original edits. When I first saw the film, I quickly realized it was nothing short of a detournément of American news media that needed no alteration; it was an expertly made subversive montage satirically portraying imperialist manipulation of world affairs. In the end I left most of the edits as they were, and simply added my own soundtrack, relying on the poor quality of the film to reinforce elements of persistence amidst decay.
During the latter part of the Soviet era, compulsory films like this one toured cinema houses, appearing as supplements to popular entertainment films, promoting Soviet ideology while bolstering nationalism. Focusing on the Pentagon, the film exploited the Zionist leaning, war mongering, and greedy tendencies of the United States, highlighting a history of violence, corruption, and meddling in world affairs. What I find most interesting about the film is its wanton use of archival resources, and its seemingly objective reportage strategy, that when viewed through a contemporary lens, reads more like an artist’s critique.
UNTITLED by JOHN DAVIS (15 digital photographs)
I could see the westward gaze everywhere, and no doubt it must be hard to resist, with neighboring Romania having recently entered the EU, and consumerism raging throughout most of the former USSR. As I witnessed Moldova cautiously ponder its identity on the one hand, and hurtle towards consumerism on the other, I sensed a schism between the two primary cultural factions I perceived, those who identify as Russian, and the other who identify as Romanian. Interestingly, it was the Russian Moldovans who spoke the best English and seemed poised to embrace the Western onslaught, while Romanian Moldovans, typically speaking little or no English, appeared cautious and more committed to coming to terms with what it means to be Moldovan.
Shifting identities are nothing new in the wake of major political and social upheaval, yet Moldova’s is a particularly complex case study. With the fragmenting of its political borders during and after World War II, and the near eradication and attempted re-invention of its identity ala Sovietification [sic], it is nearly impossible to get a cohesive sense of its true cultural legacy. To complicate things, the unforeseen aspect of a burgeoning nostalgia towards Soviet hegemony and Russian culture has emerged, causing deeper rifts that further complicate the question. Perhaps its evolution will beg new questions, transcending the ways in which we understand and define cultural identity. Nevertheless, when the Moldovan economy stabilizes, and the country becomes more politically viable, I can only hope it will stave off the pitfalls of consumer-capitalist mania, and remain grounded in its forging independence.
GPS FOR YOU by VEACESLAV DRUTA (video)
Questioning French and Moldovan citizens in an attempt to survey their understanding of the notion of identity, Druta utilized a GPS device as a symbol of globalization and a navigational aid that appears throughout discussions with participants. The GPS also “talks” in various languages, some of which are unknown to the navigators. As a result, the device creates disorientation and loss of direction.
Le peuple moldave n’a pas connu une vraie indépendance depuis des siècles et il ne la connaît pas encore actuellement. Il est passé presque directement de la domination de l’Empire Ottoman à la domination de l’Empire Russe. Chaque envahisseur apporte ses influences culturelles dans un pays qu’il conquiert et tend à le transformer à sa façon. Les Russes (et probablement ils ne sont pas les seuls à le faire) ont, de plus, l’arrogance de prétendre qu’ils libèrent quand ils occupent. Il s’agit non seulement de dominer physiquement, mais aussi mentalement, car cela assure une domination durable. Un des moyens de cette domination dans l’espace entre la Moldavie et Kamchatka, c’est la russification. Tous les citoyens de l’Union Soviétique, dans toutes les républiques devaient parler le Russe dans un lieu public. Il y avait des exceptions bien sûr, mais si vous vous adressiez à un Russe, vous deviez parler en Russe, peut importe où cela se passait, en Ukraine, Ouzbékistan, Moldavie ou autre République Soviétique. Dans la plupart des républiques ex-soviétiques la situation n’a pas vraiment changé même après 1990 (sauf dans les Pays Baltes). Mais ce qui me semble plus étrange encore c’est de voir des Moldaves qui viennent en France, qui parlent la langue Française, mais qui continuent de regarder des films doublés en Russe, de se servir des appareils électroniques réglés en langue Russe, d’utiliser dans leur vocabulaire de nombreux mots russes. Imaginons les Français devoir s’exprimer en Anglais (en France dans tout espace public) après la Libération de 1945, et respectivement avoir l’Anglais aussi profondément inscrit dans leur vie que le Russe dans la vie des Moldaves. Si cela se passait, l’identité française ne serait probablement plus la même aujourd’hui.
Il parait qu’actuellement la Moldavie se trouve entre deux choix : continuer d’être une sorte d’avant-poste Russe aux frontières de l’Union Européenne ou devenir un des pays membres de l’Union Européenne. Respectivement, il parait que son identité culturelle se trouve entre deux « dangers » : soit elle continue à être dominée par la culture russe, soit elle risque de se noyer dans l’océan de la culture globale, elle-même difficile à définir. Ce serait bien si les Moldaves avaient ce choix, mais malheureusement ce sont les Grands Pouvoirs qui décident dans quel camp doit se trouver la Moldavie. Il ne faut pas beaucoup d’observations pour voir que ce pays est encore dans une zone d’influence Russe.
Dans cette situation, la question de l’identité culturelle Moldave devient une question politique, malheureusement manipulée et vulgarisée par des hommes politiques. Peut être que normalement, l’individu ne devrait pas se poser des questions sur son identité culturelle. Peut être que cette identité doit évoluer sans décisions prises par des dirigeants. Mais existe-t-il des conditions « normales », « naturelles » d’évolution d’une identité culturelle?
Comme cela me paraît relatif, il serait peut être intéressant de comparer les conditions de l’évolution de l’identité française avec celles de l’identité moldave. Laquelle de ces identités serait plus facile à définir, laquelle a gardé des traits qui permettent de la définir plus clairement? Quels seraient alors les traits d’une identité et d’une autre ? A quel moment ces questions peuvent être perçues comme absurdes ?
Dans le film que je veux réaliser, je parle avec quelques Français et Moldaves à ce sujet. Un objet qui est utilisé pour trouver un lieu donné lors d’un déplacement mais qui également symbolise la globalisation, un GPS, apparaît à l’image à travers nos discussions. Il « parle » en plusieurs langues, par fois inconnues aux « navigateurs » et ainsi crée des situations dans lesquelles il est difficile de trouver le lieu de destination.
STRASHILIKI by OCTAVIAN ESANU (artist’s book)
Excavated “Strashilki” (“sadistic little poems,” or simply “little horror poems”) from the Soviet past. This is a children’s literary genre that emerged anonymously in the Soviet Union during the 1970s. For his artist book he translated, interpreted, and wrote original couplets following the poetic style of this literary form little known in the West. He also designed and illustrated the book, which aims to provide two perspectives on the socialist-capitalist polarity, which the author considers to have shaped his worldview.
As a Moldovan who has lived within Soviet and later within Western and specifically American worlds, I often find myself caught in a “before & after” state of mind – a state in which I constantly seek similarities and differences between the two socio-political systems: the socialist and the capitalist, the Soviet and the American. My perspective on life, or my identity if one wishes, has no doubt been shaped by these two opposing cultural milieux, as well as by this constant and even involuntary process of comparison. In order to express this process of constant drifting and to invent for myself a position of enunciation – like that drifting station which the organizer of this exhibition has chosen as the guiding metaphor for this event, a hybrid form between the nomadic and the anchored – I have resorted to a genre of Soviet folk poetry for which horror is the main motif. Why would this be?
For more than two decades the citizens of Moldova have been caught in between two worlds: between the Soviet socialist and the post-Soviet capitalist worlds. Many things have changed since “Moldovan identity” was set adrift: new political, economic and cultural values, new forms of relations among its citizens, new and exciting products and services, and so forth. The rest, however, has remained the same, and what these little horror poems want to suggest is that this “rest” – horror and humor, misery and joy, life and death – has remained despite all these changes, and it cannot be otherwise, for these are the powerful currents that carry us in search of who we are.
This book, which at the present stage is still a work in progress, may be regarded as my attempt to communicate this experience by resorting to a genre little known outside the former Soviet region. Strashilki or sometimes sadistskie strashilki (“sadistic little poems,” or simply “little horror poems”), is a children’s folk literary genre which emerged anonymously in the Soviet Union during the 1970s. The book aims at introducing this genre to the English-speaking reader, by using it to construct two perspectives on the socialist-capitalist polarity.
The book is divided into two sections: “Terminal,” corresponding to the Soviet or socialist experience, and “Post-Mortem,” which plays upon situations from the post-Soviet or capitalist era. For the “Terminal” or Soviet section I translated but more often interpreted couplets from the A.P. Iarosea and A.I. Naumova anthology Mal’cik v ovrage nashel pulemet [The Little Boy Found a Machine Gun in a Ravine]. The frequent decision to modify instead of translate was inspired by the difficulty of rendering certain concepts or situations without lengthy footnotes and explanations, inappropriate outside of a more scholarly examination of this genre. I have, however, provided a short bibliographical list of the main publications in which those interested in this genre can find primary sources. Most of the strashilki in the second “Post-Mortem” section are of my own invention, as well as the illustration and design of the book.
“NY ALESUND POLE O” by VALERY GRANCHER (photo documentation/video performance)
Through a picture of a meteo station and a video performance called “Where is our mind” Valéry Grancher is questioning the perception of our environment at our world limit though rationalism and subjectivism. “Where is our mind?” is a sentence written on the paper by watercolor mixed with 30 000 years old glacier water. The message was attached to a meteo balloon which was sent to stratosphere of 35 000 meters altitude, where the balloon exploded and fail on to the ground. Through his video Valery Grancher is questioning the status of scientist approach ‘Does Science deal with Icarus myth ?
I’m interested in the polar territories for over a decade (since the beginning of the world wild web) specially by focusing the globalization consequences on extreme territories statutes in the collective unconscious. I thought from 2005 to produce projects questioning our planet extrems:
The opportunity was offered to me by a call to a residence by the french Polar Institute Paul Emile Victor (IPEV) for one month at the Arctic or Antarctica. This call was organized through the International Polar Year (March 2007 – March 2008) and organized by the IPEV, Le Palais deTokyo, Arts aux Pôles and le Plateau (FRAC Ile de France). I chosed North Pole and more precisely the Rabot base at Ny Alesund in Spitzbergen because it is loaded with a rich history (as the starting point of Amundsen Zeppelin expedition to North Pole from Ny Alesund) and the large number of nations involved in the scientific community.
Ny Alesund is the Hyper – West, because of strategic issues, energy, economic, and political will are present … Ny Alesund is located at 79 ° N 12 ° E is 1 ° north of 80 ° representing area of the North Pole (80 N to 90 N). I performed this residence during on one month on May 2007, and I was part of the scientist team for summer campaign on 2007. That brought to me a great opportunity to apply scientitific methodology in the way I am producing my art. Scientist and artists have on fact in common that they’re dealing with the way they’re looking the world subject:
- Scientist are doing it on objective way
- Artists are doing that on subjective way
That’s giving a new way to produce art not on a planified and scheduled way as we use to do during our productions, but on an opportunistic way by following scientists in their works to get new focus to deal with…
I can say that’s this new way to produce art has brought me to think about how to define art ecology outside artworld and studios:
By experiencing the scientific methodologies and technology we are impacting the world subject we’re focusing on… In fact by using for example a meteo balloon sent to 35 000 meter upon the meter, I was able to question the science statut through a performance “Where is our mind ?”: Science is always closed to a kind of reality by never getting it, So can science be defined as a kind of Icarus Myth ? (The ballon after reaching the upper atmosphere is crashing to the ground…) I mean that in this case we are dealing through a process and a way to mean something, and we are not falling to a topographic descriptions of any kind of fact or realities….
By challenging science practice in polar context (often under the power of their states and governement and dedicated to geostrategical appreciations, and politic challenges…) we are getting a wild angle about what we are focusing…
For Drifting Identity Station I decided to show two typical elements of a polar station:
- A meteo station, the last one before North Pole in Svalbard which is our last eyes on this territory at the border of our world
- A video performance where a meteo balloon is sent to 35000 meters upon the ground with a paper where it’s written (with glacier water old more than 30 000 years) “Where is our mind ?
The point is to mean what is identity on our world limit, “How national indentity of polar base mau be defined? What is politic in Far North ?
STRUCTURE/THE AFTERIMAGES OF MY VISIT IN MOLDOVA, 2010 by TILMANN MEYER-FAJE (wall intervention)
Structure is a fundamental and sometimes intangible notion covering the recognition, observation, nature, and stability of patterns and relationships of entities.
In nature we discover that any formation might repeat in any scale. If we look for example on a small part of a sandy beach we can see exactly the same structure as we see a whole desert from a satellite. The whole Milky Way in cosmos might be equal to a nano image through a microscope. Typical structures does not only belonging to a certain material, they could stand for processes as well like growing, flowing, maturing ore freezing. In human society we find certain recognisable patterns as well. If we see waves we direct could recognize the structure of the sea, but we are not able to draw ore describe the exact pattern of the waves. I was looking for textures that are typical for the territory of the former Soviet Union where Moldova belonged to.
On internet I started an image research and discovered that we still find a lot of similarities right although the countries are not connected to each other anymore. Somehow the former system succeeded to implement their citizens something no reversible in their genes. How does it come that people still have the same rituals like doing their wedding photos on a war monument? Why does older woman earn their money in the same way on the street? Why they still keep upright soviet rituals for example how the soldiers does marching? And why are even the new things so similar like the architecture and paint of houses? I collected all this similarities from all former Soviet countries in order to design a portrait of Moldova without using any image from there.
I concluded that the main city of Moldova looked exactly the same as many other cities in the former Soviet empire. The inhabitants might miss a feeling of local identity. The Soviets invented a solution for that. They stamped folkloristic patterns on the prefabricated concrete buildings they placed everywhere. In Moldova we can find embroidery cross patterns on the concrete balconies. I printed these folkloristic patterns on a huge amount of self-adhesive labels in order to stick them everywhere in the same way like the Soviets did. On the one hand the pasted patterns create guidelines that remember the spectator to the Moldovan culture wherever they are looking to. Due to the massive amount it becomes senseless. They interfere the present objects and create their own esthetical beauty in the same time.
For this show I choose to remix images that are already made by someone else and replacing them in a format that represents their content. Within the image flood we are living in (via internet and political propaganda) I try organize the material that other people posted and help to interpret them.
A LESSON IN MOLDOVAN IDENTITY AND PAINTED LANDSCAPES by ILYA RABINOVICH (photographic slide projections)
While meditating on the symbolic function of the museums in various contexts Ilya Rabinovich confronted a society that is constantly rewriting its history by gradually rejecting elements of its recent past. In this context he decided to investigate the representation of dichotomous structures: he visually juxtaposes idyllic paintings from the Ethnography Museum in Chisinau, which depict Moldovan landscapes as existing since the genesis of science and myth—a potential Garden of Eden— with images of the apocalypse, i.e. photographs and material proof of the Soviet catastrophe. He thus makes a clear statement about the timeline of modern and recent Moldovan history, about the dream and its disastrous realization.
Visiting The Ethnography Museum in Chisinau, left me with overwhelming impressions. Studying the pictorial landscapes seen almost in each and every hall made me wonder upon the roles and symbolism that those masterpieces are designated to convey upon the visitor. While meditating on the symbolical functioning of the museum a Tchernichovsky’s expression ‘Man is nothing but the shape of his native Landscape’ kept re emerging in my mind.
The painted landscapes are divided to four main groups:
- A naive symbolic painted room describes the creation of Moldova from a religious perspective from Genesis- as a Garden of Eden till the apocalypse.
-Exhibitions that consists of taxidermies wildlife animals a monumental scale landscape paintings. The hyper realistic style mythologizing the uniqueness and the sublimity of the Moldovan landscape, thus contributing to the creation of the national myth. It represents Moldova as the vanishing paradise untamed by humans.
-The symbolic style depicting a landscape and the life of ethnic minorities in combination with costumes belonging to that group.
In all three cases, the function of the imagined landscape is to create an emotional relation with the viewer. In an opposition the consequences of life under Soviet era are described via photographs and material evidences. This dichotomy makes a clear statement about the Moldovan timeline, upon the dream and it’s disaster. But this conceptual dichotomy suffers from some drawbacks, namely the inability to position Moldova in relation to other landscapes and nations. Searching for maps or other representations of Moldova’s borders and territory reveals a disturbing situation, namely Moldova is always depicted as a torn out of the glob territory surrounded by metal frame, the kind of a products from the Soviet era.
Thus the painted landscapes and the maps serve as a metaphor for the Moldova’s strive to redefine their own new national identity. They reject their recent past and ignore their unmentionable neighbors, at the price of recreating themselves as if existing in an empty void.
GOMENIDAN IS ALIVE by MARK VERLAN (video)
A short, one minute, film, almost one shoot, from one common summer day, lived by Marioka Son of the Rain. The earth house – an author art object with a discrete interior with objects “of strict necessity”: a bed, a shelf (with a pot, a glass, a chess set), an apparatus for listening of silence and the personage/author itself in the main role, reading a book, and after all getting out on the “surface”. The “house” is located, on a first view, on a forest, which de facto, is on a huge abandoned park, from the center of (Chisinau) city, plentiful populated by bizarre, new appeared constructions/buildings.
The zone itself (which belongs to this park), appropriated/squatted by Mark Verlan, is nothing else than a pioneer camp from 50’s also abandoned, long time ago…