Identification as Alarm
The performance pieces of the Moldovan Tatiana Fiodorova act as a metaphor for the transition of the USSR and its people to the new European realities and standards.
Within the European Union itself, the disparities between Western and Eastern European citizens’ ways of life are still huge. Lower income and lack of consistent social security and persisting prejudices from the West are the daily regimen of most Easterners. Beyond this dichotomy, some even less affluent geographies, which are far from becoming EU members are referred to as ”real time capsules”, like Belarus or Moldova, remain marginalized, lost somewhere in between their vivid Soviet past and their possible European present.
Tatiana Fiodorova is a Moldovan artist. Her artistic practice questions her own identity as a citizen of the Republic of Moldova, and addresses her status as well as the place of her country in the world. Her performance pieces first and foremost act as a metaphor for the transition of the USSR and its people to the new European realities and standards. In addition to this they also unveil a marginalized country and art scene we barely know anything about. Her modus operandi is similar to the way a photographic developer functions; she converts the latent local panorama, that usually remains hidden to most of us, into an image visible to us all. The works she develops are inspired by events affecting her personally, from intimate family memories – the photographic archive her father left behind, or clothing and fabric inherited from her mother, which are linked to her childhood – to administrative issues, for example resulting from the visa restrictions she faced when trying to travel abroad, or just go generally about what her status as a Moldovan citizen is, and what that means today.
Artist Without Pavilion, 2011 performance, Venice Braila-Raeder, Probably Moldova doesn’t exist, 2002
The most pertinent and obvious example of how Tatiana Fiodorova’s modus operandi relates to the concept of identification is her piece entitled I Go, which came as a reaction to the unmotivated rejection of her application for a visa to travel to the United Kingdom in 2009. The artist’s answer to this unsuccessful procedure and the denial of her right for explanation took the form of a performance in which she painted her own body black, representing herself as a slave, a person without rights, treated as citizen of third category by the authorities of a European Union member country because of her geographical provenience. She performed this piece in the streets of Chisinau, carrying a blue plastic shopping bag with European stars on it. The juxtaposition of the plastic bag and the stars of the European flag, the former which is usually identified with poorer people or migrants, and the latter which evokes wealth and prosperity, reveals the deep contradictions she confronts in her daily life that she experiences in her own skin.
Focusing more specifically on the place and presence – or rather the absence – of Moldovan art in the contemporary discourses and events, Tatiana Fiodorova also reacted to the misrepresentation of Moldova at the Venice Biennale. Not only did her performance reveal the regional symptom of many Eastern European countries struggling to be present at this pivotal international event. She also reacted concretely against a professionally and ethically problematic situation generated by a group of wealthy amateur traditional artists who, claiming to represent the contemporary art scene of their country, privately financed a Moldovan Pavilion at the 54th Venice Biennale. As part of a larger art campaign initiated by Stefan Rusu titled Ghost Pavilion of the Republic of Moldova, her intervention consisted of designing and printing a series of t-shirts with the inscription Artist without Pavilion, both as a reference to a specifically regional – Moldovan, Bulgarian, Albanian – situation, but also to Pavel Braila and Manuel Raeder’s poster from 2002. The latter featured a map made for Manifesta 4 that omitted Moldova from its geography, or more precisely presented it as a blank spot between Romania and Ukraine, and on which the artists applied the ironic inscription « Probably Moldova Doesn’t Exist », as an alarm for the marginalization of the country and its struggle for visibility. Each of Tatiana Fiodorova’s enactments are those of a watchwoman, ringing the alarm bell of her own existence and that of her own country in the ears of the world.