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Octavian G. Esanu
Last Ten Years

The last ten years in the history of Republic of Moldova has been marked by dynamic succesions of dramatic and exciting events. It was, as a matter of fact, a compressed cycle which has been concentrated and resumed throughout the whole history of this land, like playing an old phonograph vinyl record at 78 speed. As it usually works, losing the content and retaining only an impression. The famous Perestroika started with street marches and gathering in crowds calling for democracy and national independence. It ripened into new democratic elections, a national language, a new flag, new symbols, and war’s rages, all leading up to the present-day political and economical chaos, corruption, huge social disparities and total disappointment commonly called the transition period.

Visual arts’ perestroika followed almost the same scheme: first were scandalous exhibitions, then artists started a process of splintering into groups and producing events. The last ten years of local visual arts were played at the same 78 speed as the whole society. Inheriting a traditional for this closed-area historical conservatism, due largely to inheriting the “traditions” of the Soviet Socialist Republic of Moldova, the local artistic community has tested during last decade almost all contemporary artistic tools, from performance to new media and the Internet.

The first artistic ‘disorders’ broke out in 1988-89. Even so, I have to mention a previous important artistic development in local visual arts called Bariera Sculeni, after the place where it started in 1985. During those times there appeared a series of iron constructions “which can be catalogued as ‘assemblage’ or ‘interventions’”* made by a sculptur Valeriu Mascov and an architect Nikolae Iskimji. The ensemble of works, exhibited under the title Rust & Co. and signifying society’s erosion were made out of metal refuse brought from a scrap metal graveyard. Later on, many other artists joined the initiators, outlining an artistic movement.
New artistic initiatives intensified in 1989 and synchronized with the major changes which had succeeded in the social-political medium. Search 89, an exhibit launched by the association of the youth branch of artists within the Union of Artists, the open air Sculpture Biennial, exhibits and actions of the group Phantom, and the works of Iurie Horovski and Andrei Sirbu molded altogether the first antipode of official - socialist art. Seemingly in order to achieve a better effect and following the ‘revolutionary dynamics of the time’ they gathered in coalitions. Groups like Ten, Phantom, and Bariera Sculeni compiled all the ‘rebels’ in one stream.

After the first thaw that took place in 1989-91, followed a period marked by the activation of a new generation of visual artists. The last ones emerged suddenly and took the places of those who started the melt in 1985-89. The last ones, for many reasons i.e. national, economical, political, moved to their historical motherlands or immigrated to new promised lands. During this time, we essentially “lost” an entire generation of artists, particularly those who were born in the 60's. The missing link in the chain of our artistic community became very obvious. This evident break between the generations of the 40's, 50's and 70's and those of this “lost generation” have had a great impact on Moldovan visual arts.

The years 1992 till 1995 and up to the present are marked by a more individual artistic approaches, complying with the new social ‘dynamic’. Marc Verlan, one of the most representative contemporary artists who is also called “Marioca, Son of Rain,” belongs to this new generation. He appeared on Chisinau’s artistic scene at the beginning of the 90’s. His Exhibition of Illusions, in 1992, the exhibitions and actions of the group Phantom, works of Violeta Zabulica, Igor Scerbina, experiments of some lecturers and students from the Institute of Arts who tried to assert themselves through diverse ways of alternative expression started a new cycle in visual arts. In the fall of 1995, a group of artists and theatrical actors helped Marioca Son of Rain to bury a Barbie doll in an action called Exodus. Barbie’s Funeral started a new period in local visual arts, and namely one which integrates a new type of institution, i.e. NGOs. In this case it was Open World House, a new institution which appeared at that time in Chisinau with the help of the Soros Foundation.

The democratization of the artistic message became broader with the establishment of the Soros Center for Contemporary Art, Chisinau in 1996. This fact gave birth to the third cycle which started in 1996 and continues up to today. As a preamble to the 6th Kilometer, the first contemporary art exhibition organized by SCCA in Chisinau, occurred the art camp carbonART in the summer of 1996. Then followed a series of events curated and organized by the center, Multiple Home, Pune Ochiul, CarbonART 97, Mesaje de la Tzara, Reflectii in RE, Tzara Rerum Novara Video Marathon, etc. All these events outlined a new assembly of artists and critics. Pavel Braila, Vasile Rata and Stefan Rusu, couple Dragnev/Macari, Alexandru Tinei, Iurie Cibotari, Igor Scerbina, Veaceslav Druta, and others have composed a group of young individuals who are producing regularly contemporary art works and events. The theoretical aspect, another weak zone, has been undertaken mostly by critics and art historians i.e. Vladimir Bulat Constantin Ciobanu and Alexandru Schiopu.

The boundaries of the state’s cultural policies are exclusive of contemporary visual art and limited mostly to organizing seasonal, traditional musical festivals, music being the ‘vital necessity’ of the Moldovan people. The infrastructure of local visual arts’ cultural institutions keep the same structure as those acquired during socialism. The main state fine arts museum and the exhibition hall for the various Unions (i.e. Union of Artists, Union of Designers and Architects) endure the consequences of the transitional economy. Regularly succeeding governments during the last decade have not paid and do not now pay much attention to the main museums and their collections.
Meanwhile the contemporary art sector has not turned into a structure with private galleries and curators producing events due to the lack of an art market and a permanent engaged audience. At the time the Soros Center for Contemporary Art is the single structure which carries out contemporary art activities i.e. documentation, grant allocations, sponsoring events and publications.

A periodical publication which would reflect contemporary visual arts has never existed in Moldova. Those cultural magazines regularly issued until about a decade ago and which compounded visual art sections share the same fate as the whole of that society. The first and single periodical at the moment is the one financed and published by SCCA - Art hoc bulletin, which is dedicated entirely to contemporary arts.

*Leo Gherasim, Art Hoc # 6, 1998

Received on 2003-01-03


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