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19 Mar 2010

Drifting Identity Station at Centre International d'Accueil et d'Echanges des Recollets, Paris

Drifting Identity Station
Centre International d'Accueil et d'Echanges des Recollets


Period: 16th-26th of March Location: Centre International d'Accueil et d'Echanges des Récollets, Paris Open daily from 10:00 am – 12:30 pm
and 2:30 – 6:00 pm

Stefan Rusu
+33 6 18 86 58 48
+33 1 53 26 21 83

Centre International d'Accueil et d'Echanges des Recollets
150-154 rue du Faubourg St Martin
75010 Paris

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Participating researchers:

John Davis/media artist, Veceslav Druta/visual artist, Octavian Esanu/artist, art historian, Tilmann Meyer-Faje/visual artist, Petru Negura/sociologist, Ilya Rabinovich/visual artist, Mark Verlan/visual artist.

Designed and curated by Stefan Rusu, Drifting Identity Station was developed over the course of residency at Centre des Récollets and was supported by the City of Paris and the French Foreign Affairs Office.

The Station is modeled after former Soviet polar stations, which were used the 1950s to explore the arctic environment in extreme cold. Drifting Identity Station operates in the harsh climate associated with neo-liberal winter, while researchers interested in the socio-political environment use various devices and methodologies to collect and monitor the identity data relevant in the given context. While exploring the frozen landscape, researchers analyze old trajectories for the formation of identity and attempt to determinate the intensity and temperature of the recent political debates, which have polarized the issue of the identity of the state and its inhabitants. Within the context of Moldova, the urgency behind this exploratory stance toward the discourse of identity has become all the more relevant after the protests following recent parliamentary elections on April 7, 2009. The subsequent new elections in July 2009 produced an important shift in the political spectrum from the extreme left to the neoliberal right. This has precipitated important changes in the political orientation of the country: it has initiated the process of an associate EU partnership, restarted negotiations for NATO membership, and has contradicting the policy of Moldovan 'neutrality' which has historically been dictated by Russian geopolitical interests in the region.

In the video 'Gomenidan is alive' by Mark Verlan we found the artist himself exiled in an individual research unit, which is, buried underground. Located in the woods next to his studio right in the middle of Chisinau, the unit is where he concentrated daily on analyzing the data received from outside world.

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.

Tilman Meyer-Faje explored a series of elements typical of the former Soviet structure in the Republic of Moldova. He chooses to remix images that have been made by someone else in an attempt to find a specifically Moldovan pattern.

Veaceslav Druta presents a film titled 'GPS for you' in which he questions French and Moldovan citizens in an attempt to survey their knowledge of Moldovan identity. A GPS device, a symbol of globalization and a navigational aid, appears throughout discussions. The GPS also 'talks' in various languages, some of which are unknown to the navigators. As a result, the device creates disorientation and causes a loss of destination.

Octavian Esanu 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.

Using polarity as a departure point in his film 'Mark You Make Believe My Dear, Yes' media artist John Davis resurrected Soviet propaganda films from the 1980s as a means of animating specters from recent history. Commenting on the nature of Moldovan identity, Davis states that shifting identities are nothing new in the wake of major political and social upheaval, yet Moldova is a particularly complex case study.

In his text Petru Negura analyze the position and role of writers under the Stalinist regime, who operated on the one hand as social engineers of a faked 'Moldavian' identity, who preserved and defined its characteristics over the extended period of socialist modernization. On the other hand, these writers also developed a very professional tool, i.e. the Romanian language, which is perceived today as an achievement and an important mark of Romanian identity, an outcome that transcended the process itself.

The data gathered and presented by researchers within the framework of the Drifting Station represent an attempt to visualize the current state of different Moldavian identities, starting with the identity imposed by Soviet propaganda and social engineering campaigns between 1940-1992 in a territory widely known as the Republic of Moldova (formerly the 16th Republic of USSR). The ideologists of the Soviet Union embarked on a campaign to fundamentally alter the behavior and ideals of Soviet citizens, to replace old social frameworks of a previously existing culture with a Soviet model, and to create the New Man.

With the new course taken by history after dismantling of socialist system there was a lack of a clear identity parole, and the 1990s evinced a pervasive shift and drift in identity. In the last decade the former Soviet concept of Moldovan identity was resurrected by new political players ranging from the extreme left (CPRM - Communist Party or Republic of Moldova) to the extreme right (PPCD – Popular Christian Democrat Party) of political spectrum. Following external and internal political agendas, political and social leaders, i.e. 'engineers,' used the issue of identity as a political weapon against the threat of 'Romanization' but also against integration into the EU community—with the purpose of preserving the 'neutrality' of Moldova. What we have today, a result of speculations and past political games, is a society trapped between the Russian military influence in the region and the EU expansion process, situated between Romanian nationalism and the nostalgia for a mixture of communist regime and socialist utopia, between the expansive development of the open market and the aggressiveness of neo-liberal establishment.

Drifting Identity Station was initiated to monitor and preserve the data related to the evolving state of identity in a given context, here the context of Moldova. Visual art projects and written contributions that are on display in the Station comment on the evolution of the social engineering project and 'Moldavian' identity at its current state. At the same time the artists assume the posture of researchers that collect the samples from the field in order to preserve the residual traces that rearticulate the post-socialist condition in Moldovan society now 20 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall and the dissolution of Eastern Block.