Saturday, 16 September 2017

Solo expo review, artist Liliana Basarab, Borderline Space, Iasi (17 June - 29 July, 2016) curated by Cătălin Gheorghe

Solo exhibition: artist Liliana Basarab
Borderline Space, Iași (17 June - 29 July, 2016)
Curator: Cătălin Gheorghe; performers: Petronela Grigorescu and Bogdan Pălie; project designer: Costel Chirilă

Text by Mihaela Varzari
Published with Revista ARTA, issue 30/8, print version, 2018

This three fold project of the visual artist Liliana Basarab (b. 1979) traverses into the area of installation bordering self-curated art works. The video, featuring two performers sitting round a table, is the documentation of the performance during the opening. When browsing on-line data available on a computer in a corner, it becomes apparent that the script is based on short and concise excerpts from international artists, activists and politicians’ public discourses, forming a live archive organized by key words in both English and Romanian. This constitutes the research part of the project, which is still gathering information even now, one year after its initiation, a reflection on how meaning is formed in our live-streaming era (accessible on

(The Grasshopper and the Ant) 2016, ceramic sculpture. Courtesy the artist
Basarab’s work doesn’t suffer from the incomprehensible or the irrational attributed to the classical Western artist responsible for the maintenance of such myths as the autonomy of art. Following from her interest in working with the medium of ceramic based sculpture, two representations of the grasshopper and the ant, plus a dialogue bubbles are mounted on a wall. Aesop’s famous characters appear here half human, half animal following from children’s books and animation. This ludic quality runs through her previous work, also prompted by her constant engagement with children through workshops, which sometimes become art projects in themselves, like in Imagine Beauty! Postcard project, (2003-2004)[1].  For this  project, Basarab worked with a group of 8 to 12 years old girls from a schools in Tătărași district in Iași and was hosted by the local Post Office.

The paradox proposed by the title together with the subtitle, TALENT IS NOT DEMOCRATIC, ART IS NOT A LUXURY (The Grasshopper and the Ant) is prepared to give a lot away and it could be rewritten as a dialogue between two interlocutors: the first is a conservative and essentialist European high culture nostalgic while the second follows the path laid out by Joseph Beuys interested in the social function of art. Who is the lazy, irresponsible hedonist and who is the goody-goody, hard working ant? No answer would be satisfying enough but I sympathize with the grasshopper not because he doesn’t receive any help from the ant but because I see him having to perform the role of the rebel, he who just plays his guitar in the summer and starves in the winter to the point of self-destruction. When did we become subject to the injunction to rebel? 

(The Grasshopper and the Ant) 2016
Exhibition view features performers Petronela Grigorescu and Bogdan Pălie. 

Courtesy the artist
Revisiting classical themes of Western art like beauty or truth has been taken up by Basarab in the past. I distinctively remember seeing the documentation of her performance titled, Truth/s (Adevăr/Adevăruri) (2004–2005)[2] where an artist friend is asked to perform truth in a 15 min video. Graduated in 2002 from the media specific training, at G. Enescu Arts University where such categories like truth and beauty were still believed to be solid, universal pillars, Basarab revisited them when she started developing her own career. The morale of the fable is rescued is seems from a political populist discourse of simple black and white choices and subdued to art’s vocabulary. Basarab’s work is grounded on the current reality and the fragments composing the script make reference to the relevance of art and its incestuous relationship to the market questioning the presumptuous autonomy of art. This is also reflected in the presentation of this project, where the documentation is incorporated into the art project itself. 

[1] This project took place in other places like Chisinau, Helsinki, Amsterdam amounting to a total on 500 post cards and it involved adults as well.
[2] Evening of performances curated by Alex Moldovan, hosted by ICR London, 2007.


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