Tatiana Fiodorova, Vasile Ernu, Vasilii Lefter - Tatiana Fiodorova. When a book becomes a message, 27. 01. 2016
Tatiana Fiodorova. When a book becomes a message
Tatiana Fiodorova is a Moldavian artist, curator and educator working with current political and social themes, often evaluated in contextual relation to the history of the Soviet Union. Certain areas of her practice are also deeply engaged with the artworks of her prematurely deceased father, Vasilii Lefter,* who left Tatiana a large archive of sketchbooks, diaries, drawings, manuals, poster designs and documentary photographs; and at the intersection of these two.
This exhibition is the first solo presentation of Tatiana Fiodorova in Bucharest. Taking the form of a retrospective, in which she presents her artist’s books, which are one of her most prevalent means of expression. For Fiodorova, the artist’s book is a medium that allows for the presentation of different artistic practices. The show includes her publications IN search of the social body of Soviet artist, Soviet Passport, and Factory Steaua Rosie; accompanied by a guide book to healing herbs,** a book about the organisation and remuneration of the soviet artists and an archive of poster designs, which are one-off publications by Vasilii Lefter). Two new publications, Bessarabia and Inhabitants and Toilet Paper Map Bucharest have been made especially for this solo show.
Fiodorova’s IN search of the social body of the Soviet artist (2012)*** addresses the role of contemporary art through the work of Vasilii Lefter. The publication introduces several research topics, for example past theoretical discourse;**** current perspectives on past artistic practices; past ideas of social engagement; and the visual works of Vasilii Lefter. The book is a meta-discourse (or grand narrative) of Soviet ideology, which can be loosely associated with the contemporary policies of European society. Indeed, themes and ideas about the ‘representation’ of European society are created and recommended by a system of commissions. To obtain financial funding for community-based projects implies developing projects which support the new geographical borders.*****
In the photographic book Soviet passport (2014) Fiodorova introduces a series of portraits of people with their Soviet passports, miscellaneous objects and photographs from the Soviet era as well as preserved children’s toys which were found in houses of those portrayed. The book is concerned with two research fields: Republic of Moldova and Transnistria. Until March 2014, there was no law forbidding the use of these documents in Republic of Moldova. At that time however, the government of Moldova approved a draft law that stated that by September 1, 2014, Soviet passports must be exchanged for Moldovan ones. In Transnistria, however, Soviet passport are still valid now. As Transnistria, often called a mafia enclave, is officially unrecognised as an independent state, these people are in fact inhabitants of what is currently a blank space on the map. The fact that they held passports from the time of the Soviet Union shows the paradox of talking about the Soviet Union as if it were the distant past. To an extent, this anomaly began around 1988–1990 with the threat of the annexation of the Moldavian Soviet Socialist Republic by Romania. Moldavian was the only official language permitted in this multi-ethnic area. As a response, the Moldavian Soviet Socialist Republic was established as a Soviet republic of the USSR. Even though Michail Gorbachev had not recognised this new Soviet republic, when the USSR fell apart the Soviet Army (later transformed into the Army of the Russian Federation) supported the status quo in this area. The separatist state was not officially recognised by anyone but it existed for twenty years, backed by international egalitarian Soviet ideology and the new oligarchic elites that emerged in this period. Ordinary people were drawn into the trap, almost like hostages, and at the same time intentionally maintained in an ideological lethargy. It may be quite difficult for such people to part with their Soviet passports, because for them these documents represent a memory of the past; of a utopian state, where they spent their youths and lives.
The book Steaua Rosie (Red Star), 2013–2014 is based on memories of the Soviet Moldavian textile factory, Steaua Rosie, in which the artist’s mother worked for more than 25 years. Through the personal story of her mother, the artist reinterprets and analyses the role of women and labour in the Soviet and post-Soviet context. The communist enterprise Steaua Rosie was the flagship of the Moldovan light industry in the Soviet era. In Soviet times, the factory had eighteen departments, 240 brigades and 3855 workers. It was closed in 1999 due to its huge debts and was declared bankrupt by the Economic Court.
The latest in a series of notebooks, in addition to Toilet Paper Map Prague (2012) and Toilet Paper Map Vienna (2015), a new notebook, Toilet Paper Map Bucharest (2016), has been conceived for this exhibition. The project is a comparative collection of toilet paper from different art institutions, museums and public spaces for the purpose of analysing it together with entry costs and customer service. The toilet paper is then positioned as an important data carrier for the given institution, the paper’s quality loosely reflecting the attitude of the institution to its audience.
The project Bessarabia and Inhabitants continues Fiodorova’s research into the Bessarabian-Soviet past via the photo archive created by Vasilii Lefter. The book is based on archival materials and images of the villagers; Fiodorova analyses, in an artistic way, and reinterprets the role of the peasants in the Soviet and post-Soviet context. The peasants are shown in the background of nature from their infancy to adulthood. On the one hand this cycle is infinite – on the other hand, and from time to time, there are failures, errors and losses. In the context of the present day, the traditional concept of the peasant is blurred now; the majority of those who were peasants have become city dwellers or migrant workers. According to the latest report by the Centre for State Information Resources, 50 villages in Moldova have effectively disappeared, left with fewer than 40 inhabitants. Villages in Moldova are dying in this way due to lack of employment and migration to the cities and abroad.
The exhibition is supported by The Future Museum, a newly established platform based on a system of open call commissions. All artists and curators based in Romania and Moldova are invited to submit project proposals which will be selected by an international board. The ethos of the museum is a belief in unexplored concepts, uncharted intentions, unknown phenomena, undiscovered schemes and unprecedented theories.
* Vasilii Lefter (1942–1982) trained at the Construction School N3, Chisinau. He developed a serious interest in art by attending courses at the studio for youth in the Art School for Children during the evening. In 1961 Lefter was drafted into the Soviet army, where he attended drawing courses at the studio near the House of Culture in Saratov City on Sundays. In 1964 he enrolled in the National University of the Arts, N. C. Krupskaya in Moscow, doing part-time studies, and graduated in 1970. Then he worked for the Orgstroy department of the Ministry for Building as a designer, while simultaneously documenting ordinary Moldavian life as an art practice.
** Vasilii Lefter created a booklet by making photocopies of the herbarium which was reduced in dimension. Photocopies were glued into book-pages. The booklet was made intentionally for practical reasons. As an object it has a unique aesthetic quality; it also documents and explains difficulties in the Soviet Union.
*** Fiodorova, Tatiana, IN search of the social body of the Soviet artist (ed. Dana Andrew), «Unknown Artist» Publishing House, Chisinau, 2012.
**** Obviously, the main characteristic of socialist realist art has always been and will remain focused on the working man, the representative of the working class – a contemplative artistic personality. Essays on art, P. A. Pavlov, Soviet Union Institute for Research of the Ministry of Culture of the USSR, Soviet painter, Moscow, 1980, p.10.
***** It is more than obvious that artists are tools of power at any given moment. In the Soviet Union and nowadays artists have longed for a kind of recognition and success which might be called universality; i.e., the ability to situate one’s own work in the international context, and consequently as a tool of globalisation and connected economies.
Tatiana Fiodorova (1976) was born, and is based, in Chisinau, Republic of Moldova. She works with installation, live performance, public art, video and artists’ books. The subject matter of her practice tends to reflect the contemporary world in response to current social, political and aesthetic issues. Fiodorova’s work has been shown at The Delhi Photo Festival; the parallel programme of the Moscow Biennale of Contemporary Art (2015); Salonul de proiecte at Viennafair (2013); 7th Berlin Biennale (2012); Moscow Biennale of Contemporary Art (2011); Periferic 8: The Romanian Biennial for Contemporary Art (2008); and also at museums such as MNAC Bucharest, freiraum Q21 International, MuseumsQuartier in Vienna, Kalmar Art Museum, MOCAK Krakow, Neues Museum Weimar, Docks on the Seine Paris, Museum of Ethnography and Natural History in Chisinau, and in galleries such as Karlín Studios in Prague, Zacheta Project Room in Warsaw, Anzenberger Gallery in Vienna, Constitution Hill in Johannesburg, Gallery apARTe in Iasi, Alert Studio in Bucharest, Arsenal Gallery in Białystok, National Cultural-Art and Museum Complex “Mystetskyi Arsenal” in Kiev, Visual Culture Research Center and Political Critique in Kiev, «ЦЭХ» in Minsk, Welch School Galleries in Atlanta (USA), Garage Center for Contemporary Culture in Moscow, Short Cuts Gallery in Namur, WG KUNST in Amsterdam, M’ARS Centre for Contemporary Art in Moscow and NCCA National Centre for Contemporary Arts in Moscow, Donau-Universität inKrems, Emil Filla Gallery in Ústí nad Labem, Zpatiu Gallery in Chisinau etc.
Event organized by the Czech Centre in Bucharest.
Media partners: Revista Arta & The Re:Art.
Event supported by Staropramen.