Text by Octavian Esanu
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The creativity camp CarbonArt 1999 has come to its fourth edition. The project was launched in fact in 1996, and it was based on the idea to offer artists the possibility to create in an environment different from the urban one, and more specifically - in the forest. The idea to connect the artists to nature, or rather the dichotomous relationship nature-culture to which many thinkers resorted over the centuries, spurred the activity of the Soros Center for Contemporary Art for four summers. This year CarbonART took place in the city of Chisinau, which gave the whole event a little different outlook from the previous years, when one had to look for a more "isolated" place, usually in devastated pioneer (!) summer camps.
This summer the center of the event was the Rascani forest, hotel Dinamo (in which the participants were lodged). The hotel belongs to the Dinamo sports company, which is under the Moldavian Ministry of the Interior. I think I can call the law enforcing body, the police "partner" to the camp's activity even though our partnership was limited to several arrests performed on some impetuous artists (I will mention no names). The hotel, which offered traditional (Soviet) services was for our Western guests a good opportunity to feel first-hand the peculiarities and romanticism of Eastern communism."
As the curator of the event, I chose a more flexible organizational set-up. The artists didn't have to present projects, as in previous years. Being encouraged by Thierry de Duve's motto "Do whatever!" the participants were given absolute freedom to improvise, which turned out to be not that simple at all. This "do whatever!" was followed by Cristian Sirbu; on the opening evening he destroyed some of his own works he had brought to exhibit/show to the public. The artists called his works "packages," since those were a great variety of things: paper, packaging, things found in the street, and generally everything that could be stapled, since the stapler was the most important tool in the author's work at that stage. I personally find the idea about the stapler an interesting and topical one for our times. Expressing the idea of gathering things, enriching oneself by doing so is (I believe) Cristian's hinting to "packages that contain everything and nothing". Possibly this was the author's reaction to things that indicate to the consumerist attack - first of all, American consumerism - Coca Cola, McDonald's, MTV, etc.
This radical action by Cristian Sirbu wasn't however the only one. Artem Kosoy ("poet, degenerate"), who was the mascot of CarbonArt 1999, came from Odessa. I think there are more things to be said about this character than the "style" of this text permits. "Russian poet from Odessa" was the way Artem usually introduced himself; he was an obvious offspring of the Russian actionalsim/radicalism. This was not difficult to make out for the simple reason that Alexandr Brener's name was much too often mentioned in the works of the poet from Odessa. The thing that made him different was the conceptual framework, a little bit shifted, which he called casual radicalism (bytovoi radikalism). Artem was urgently called to participate in a literary evening, organized by another of our guests, Alexandr Petrelli, who owns the Palito gallery. The public's reaction to the literary evening was not unanimous. There were no people who didn't react one way or the other to Artem Kosoi's poetry. Some just left the room, others followed the "phenomenon" with great interest.
Alexandr Petrelli read from Lev Rubenstein, a representative of the Russian conceptual literature. Since we live in an area influenced by Russian culture, I will say a few words about Petrelli's gallery. The gallery was called Palito, that is "Overcoat". The space for exhibition was a real overcoat, in which the author exhibited works by many artists. At the opening night of the camp the gallery exhibited Sergey Anufriev, one of the three members of the "Medicinal Hermeneutics" group, which is a Moscow-based group of artists. At the closure of the fourth edition of CarbonArt the gallery hosted photographs taken by Bradley Adams. The exhibition ended with an auction!
Mark Verlan, who is a canonical figure on the Chisinau contemporary art scene, did what he wished, as he does every day anyway. I think that in the future a lot will be said about the work of this Artist. From my experience of working with Mark, I can say that this man is the most Undisciplined, the most Unorganized, the most Irresponsible guy I have ever worked with. This however does not prevent him - in fact it helps him - to be one of the most interesting artists one can meet nowadays in Chisinau. Obviously, Mark gave us surprises. He fired a cannon (an old cannon he cast himself), "slept" next to an "alcoholic woman" in the street, dashed onto an archeological expedition to discover the "vestiges" of ancient Moldavians, and "upset" the traffic on Bulgara street when he lay down on a hammock spread right on the road. All these pranks Mark calls with irony "little performances."
Two artistic tandems who had been on the cultural scene of Chisinau for several years - Dragnev&Macari and Tarna&Dorosenko - participated in CarbonART with several new projects. The former couple's project, "Kinovari Imitatsia", I believe was very interesting, and Tarna&Dorosenko created an "untitled" work in the traditional photographic technique.
I have mentioned above Slavic Druta's beautiful initiative. On the camp's opening night the artist pleasantly surprised the public with a performance he called "Brezhnev's Portrait". This portrait was a folk song, usually played at traditional Moldavian weddings; the song was played on a Russian accordion. Slavic had been interested in Portrait as genre for a longer time. The face of the famous "Kremlin leader," during whose times life resembled the end of a Moldavian wedding when musicians no longer have control over important musical skills such as beat, harmony, tempo, is part of a larger series of portraits. For instance, four landscapes exhibited on the same night were nothing else than portraits of the artist's grandparents.
An impressive instance of "confusion" was triggered by Marin Turea's film "The Moment of 'Noroc'(Luck), 1966-1974". Why confusion? Because the public in Chisinau has acquired a certainty that contemporary art is nothing but pranks, or, if you will, experiments. Perhaps such an understanding was also the result of the effort the Center for Contemporary Art had been making, which had emphasized in the four years of its existence non-conforming forms of artistic expression. I think that the qualifier [contemporary] next to [art] in the institution's acronym (SCCA) has nothing to do with style, that is form, but rather has to do with time, that is the present. Marin Turea's film, which was shown to a larger audience for the first time at CarbonART, attempted to challenge this viewpoint and suggested that an investigation into the history of a culture by pushing through one's own angle - just what the author's intention was in this film - was connected to the mentality of the present. The film offered to viewers the opportunity to see once again (or maybe rediscover, or even discover) several glorious pages from the history of our culture by telling the story of the Noroc music band, who started their artistic career in Chisinau in the mid-70s. The band is considered by a number of connoisseurs to be one of the pioneers of the rock movement in the Soviet Union. According to Marin Turea his goal was to break the silence that had enshrouded the band for more than 30 years.
Vasile Rata's project was called "Hello - I'm here". A more detailed explanation of the project you will find on the respective page. The only thing I want to mention here is that the - let's say - "technical" part of the project was to paste in places throughout the city, meant for advertisements (that is everywhere), posters with Vasile's face on them and an inscription below reading "Hello - I'm here." The posters meant to point to the "mugs" of politicians, pop singers, magicians and many other "saviors," printed on glossy paper and covering the walls, fences, and electricity poles in the city. In August 1999 the artist's portrait appeared next to the portrait of Julio Iglesias, who was our Mayor's "honorable guest." Vasile Rata was not the first artist to use the city space as project carrier. Igor Scerbina [Fazya] started his project, called Faces, in 1996 during the first SCCA exhibition,"6th Kilometer". Fazya exhibited his self-portraits in the streets of Chisinau four years ago. This summer a more complex version of that project was presented during CarbonArt.
Walter Bartelings, a Dutch sculptor, was invited to the camp to make one of his works. For several years this artist has limited the choice for his projects to just one kind of material; Walter collects Secondhand Wood - which is wood already used and thrown away-in the narrow streets of Amsterdam, which he then uses for his sculptures and objects. Walter came to Chisinau in order to set up some future cooperation with sculptors from Moldova. I think this has occured, since the artists accepted to participate in a sculpture summer camp to be organized next year in Ribnita; the person who came up with the idea was Stefan Rusu. Ron Sluik, who had also come from Amsterdam to teach a photography workshop, contributed a photograph to the museum's permanent collection [acquisitions 99]. The photograph was a shot taken by one of the participants in Ron's workshop several years ago in Sofia, Bulgaria. The face on the photograph was a self-portrait that represented the reaction of a workshop participant to a street accident.
Colita [Nicolas Menet], who was invited to teach a video workshop [DV-com], managed to produce several small films. In our exhibition you have the possibility to watch a dialogue between Mark Verlan and Nicolas Menet, both of which are talking in their mother tongue. It is only thanks to the subtitles that the viewer can "understand the subject" of this discussion.
Two other guests who attended the events of this summer were Luan Nel and Ilya Robinovich. They are both studying in Amsterdam, but their origin is from lands far more remote. Ilya was born in Chisinau, and when he was seven he moved to Tel-Aviv; Luan flew a longer distance-he came from Johannesburg, South Africa. Being in Moldova on a project-a film in which they will try to establish/find a relationship between three cities different, first of all, in their geographical location, that is between Chisinau, Johannesburg and Tel-Aviv-they had the opportunity to meet with their colleagues from the Republic of Moldova.
Contemporary Art Virtual Museum - Chisinau - Republic of Moldova
Supported & operated by SCCA Chisinau