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Waiting for Better Times

Waiting for Better Times

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Art Guide East, 3 March 2015
Kinga Lendeczki

Waiting for Better Times presented by Zacheta Project Room Warsaw shows a selection of photographs, videos, drawings and objects by young and mid-generation of Moldovan artists as well as projects created in Moldova by Polish artists giving an insight into the current situation and everyday reality of Moldova. We asked Tatiana Fiodorova, the co-curator of the exhibition about the possibilities of Moldovan contemporary artists, influence of historical heritage and present economic and political situation on their work and what the expected better times should bring in the future.

Kinga Lendeczki: You are working as a photographer, multi-media and performance artist. At the same time you are also curating exhibitions, working on different researches and teaching in an art school. Is it common to have multiple roles as an artist in Moldova and how can you manage all these tasks at the same time?

Tatiana Fiodorova: This is the Moldovan reality. The artist has to deal with everything that is connected with the development and growth of contemporary art in Moldova. So far, there is no infrastructure for contemporary art, in the educational institutions students still don’t study contemporary art, that is art history ends somewhere in the 50's of the last century, although they study in detail the history of the ancient world and the Egyptian pyramids. After such an education artists do not have a clue about contemporary art, stages of development and its features. There are no places that have promoted contemporary art and there are almost no contemporary art galleries, museums, or prepared audience, which could perceive contemporary art. There are no critical articles and analyses of contemporary art over the past 25 years. All that we have is the official (conservative) art supported by the Moldovan Union of Artists.

All these complicate the work of artists of contemporary art. Because their art is not claimed, they have no intrinsic motivation to do anything in the country, so they immigrate to wealthier countries like Lucia Macari or Veaceslav Druta, Alexander Tinei et al. Pavel Brăila lives between Chișinău and Berlin. Other artists still live in the country for various reasons. The artist should do something with this vacuum. Thus, the artist becomes a major player in this field, without anyone's support. He becomes a curator, manager, teacher, art critic as man orchestra, which performs all the roles of the artistic process. I am not the only one who does such activity. This is local specificity. For example, the artists Vlad Us or Ștefan Rusu, playwright Nicoleta Esinencu work based on the same principle.

As a consequence, organizations appeared, such as Oberliht or Teatru Spălătorie, that promote contemporary visual arts practice, performance and theater. Organization Art Platforma, the founder of which I am, is also involved in the promotion and development of contemporary art, especially in the development of contemporary photography. Need to mention KSAK, which was opened in the early 90s with the support of the Moldova Soros Foundation and played a major role in the promotion of contemporary art in Moldova.

It's hard to say how I deal with it. It's all interconnected. But I would definitely say that if I had the opportunity to be only an artist and financially exist only on the basis of personal creative projects, I would be pleased to accept this role. The work of the artist at the local level is financially not supported, so the artist is forced to deal with many things at the same time.

KL: In your projects you usually deal with your personal and the historical heritage and memories of the USSR. Why is it important for you to explore this period?

TF: Yes, I cared about this topic in the past four years. I was born and grew up in the Soviet era. As well remembering to my father, who ran into the same time and died when I was 6 years old. Perhaps I have now such a critical age when I began to look back into the past and the past of my family, and to create parallel meanings and intersection with today's life. Understanding the future through the experience of the past, I could determine in this way. Personal stories of a large Soviet past emerged through the stories of my father and my mother in my projects In Research Social Body of the Soviet Artist and Red Star Factory. Now these projects take shape in two books. The first project involves the desire to understand and determine the place of a Soviet artist in society, for example, the creative fate of my father. The second book is about the soviet factory RED STAR, where my mom worked for over 25 years. During the adjustment period it was premature for her to be retired, i.e., when the factory was closed, she was thrown out on the street, like many others everywhere. The book tells about how she had to survive in the new environment and what the fate of this factory was. It is not just a little personal history, but the history of the entire multi-ethnic country, which is in fact gone long ago. I can definitely say that I am a post-Soviet person. I cannot identify myself only as a person belonging to the Republic of Moldova, where I was born, and where I live and work. I see everything much wider. Ukraine is me, Belarus is me, Russia is me, and so on. And I have a lot in common with Romania. But this awareness did not come immediately. I could not understand why I cannot bring myself to outline the contours of Moldova.We all have a common Soviet past, mentality, roots and there is nowhere it does not go. And of course, I am very sensitive to what is happening now in Ukraine.

KL: How strong do you see the presence of Moldova on the platforms of the international art scene?

TF: Unfortunately, the Moldovan art is practically not presented on the international scene. There are some authors who are exhibited abroad, that's all. The state does not fund or support contemporary art, it is mainly supported by Western grants. That's not enough to make the Moldovan contemporary art visible. Even the example of the exhibition Waiting for Better Times, which can be seen now in Warsaw Zacheta Project Room, was fully funded by Gallery Zacheta. And paradoxically, even the Moldovan Ambassador in Poland did not come to the opening of the exhibition, although he was invited. That is the attitude of our state with Moldovan contemporary art.

But I can say that Western audiences have a strong interest to get acquainted with contemporary Moldovan art because it is little known and studied. At the opening of the exhibition there were a lot of people and we got positive reviews of the local art community and curators.

KL: What do you see as strength and peculiarity of the Moldovan contemporary art in the CEE region?

TF: It is difficult to determine the specificity and peculiarities of the Moldovan contemporary art. But contemporary art of the countries of Eastern Europe is often concerned with political and social issues. This is evidently connected with the dramatic changes that have resulted from the paradigm shift of the transition from socialism to a market economy. The process of the formation of capitalism in Eastern Europe is full with difficult moments and contradictions. This is, of course, reflected in the works of a large amount of artists from the Eastern bloc. Contemporary art in Moldova presents and analyses questions of national identity, contrasts the legacy of the past with today's problems, and emphasizes unresolved economic, social and political problems.

KL: Recently there was the opening of the exhibition Waiting for Better Times, in which you contributed as a curator as well as an artist. The title of the exhibition is very expressive and suggestive. What should these better times bring and when will they come?

TF: This aspect in anticipation of a better life concerns two provisions. The first expectation is improving the social and economic development of the country after a long period of transition; the second aspect is waiting for better conditions for the development of contemporary art.

Moldova is a former territory of the Soviet Union, lying between Ukraine and Romania. During the 25 years that have passed since the collapse of the Soviet geopolitical space and the emergence of new independent countries, Moldova, as an independent state, has been through complicated political, social and economic changes and upheavals. The democratization of political life in Moldova, and the development and stabilization of market mechanisms has been accompanied by the transformation and privatization of state property, the collapse of the economy and the destruction and degradation of industry, a lowering of living standards and, in the final account, the impoverishment of the country. Because of low salaries and unemployment, citizens of the Republic of Moldova have been forced, either legally or illegally, to emigrate and seek work beyond the borders of the country in search of a better level of life.

Moldova, since it is located on the border of zones of geopolitical influence of such global players as Russia, the European Union and the USA, is also subject to active influence from outside. Over recent years Moldova has maintained an official course towards European integration and the modernization of the country, but within the country one can also witness a rise of internal tensions and the influence of pro-Russian forces.

Speaking about contemporary art in Moldova, it has developed and develops very slowly and in waves. While discussing the overall transformations, we should bear in mind that Moldova currently still lacks a proper artistic infrastructure of galleries and museums: moreover, there is not a single higher education institution providing an education in this field or where one could train for a career as an artist, curator or art critic. Contemporary art is not supported by the state. In Moldova there has never been art market and this is still true today: the demand for contemporary art is close to non-existent.

After 20 years, Moldovan contemporary art still remains a marginal phenomenon, little known not only to viewers from the West, but also to Moldovan society. However, despite the difficulties, the organizations mentioned still make considerable efforts aiming at bringing about changes in the process of artistic education in Moldova.

In the light of the absence of continuously active locations with the required technical facilities, new spaces are occupied, such as Zpatiu in the Ziemstvo Museum, the KIOSK - public platform for participation, the occasional magazine Revista la PLIC, and the already mentioned Teatru Spălătorie, whose initiator and driving force is Nicoleta Esiniencu which carries out unusually meaningful activities.

KL: The exhibition presents three waves of Moldovan contemporary artists including some of those who left Moldova and based partly or entirely in other countries. How strong is the connection among the generations?

TF: In fact there is almost no connection. Facebook allows you the only space to monitor the activities of individual artists and to share their experiences and projects. That is a more virtual link. But not all of the artists like Facebook.

Sometimes artists come home and we can meet, but this happens rarely. Joint group exhibitions also provide somehow an opportunity for artists of different generations to meet with each other and to see each other’s artworks. For example, when artist Veaceslav Druta was in Chișinău, we had the opportunity to talk and to introduce him to the young generation.

KL: How much are the works and achievements of emigrated artists visible in the home country?

TF: Not only the activities of those artists, who are away from the country, have no visible presence, but also those who live and work in Moldova, lack it. Paradoxically, whether you live or do not live in the country, no one will notice your absence. As I said, this is due to the lack of demand for contemporary art in Moldova, lack of infrastructure of contemporary art galleries, prepared audience. An artist has no intrinsic motivation to work in the country and therefore his work can be seen more often outside the country. That is the works are inspired by and created in the country, and consumed abroad.

* Featured Image: Waiting for Better Times, exhibition view, Zachęta – National Gallery of Art, Warsawa 2015, photo Marek Krzyżanek.

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