Umělec magazine 2009/1 >> At arm’s length List of all editions.
At arm’s length
Umělec magazine
Year 2009, 1
6,50 EUR
Send the printed edition:
Order subscription

At arm’s length

Umělec magazine 2009/1

01.01.2009

Milena Dimitrova | review | en cs de es

Contemporary art that engages with Eastern Europe tends to be viewed from a purely Western perspective. Bulgarian artist Kamen Stoyanov, an artist as an observer, makes no attempt to evade this question. Vienna’s MUMOK in Vienna played host last year to the exhibition “at arms length” by Stoyanov, in connection with the awards ceremony of the Viennafair. This exhibit took as its theme the relations between the post-socialist East and Western Europe regarding cultural translations, questions of identity and cultural phenomena.
The phenomena associated with post-socialism, the art market, the all-encompassing economization of so many areas of life, cultural identity, and the position of the artist—all of these themes are expressed through a variety of media. This tendency could be seen in At Arms’ Length, the series of drawings Brakeshoes, the video Move Your Hands, the installation Tigersteps and the video-work Persona. Persona was the most important work in this exhibition, serving as a thematic summary of all of the works presented under the banner of cultural translation.
In this case, gaps and breaks in cultural and artistic identities are of particular interest. There are moments in which these identity clashes occur, as, for instance, in the Brakeshoes cycle, which treats the possible intercombinations of the A3 paper format and the Bulgarian first-person pronoun, rendered in Cyrillic lettering as A3.  One particularly thorny thematic question of these sketches is posed by the Cyrillic alphabet, itself regarded as a barrier (“Hemmschuh”) from intercultural communication in the widely popular 1944 work on world languages by the Swiss philologist Frederick Bodmer.* Of particular note is one passage from the book on the inability of Russia to reach out to the much-desired cultural treasures from abroad:
“(...) The Serbs and Bulgarians also drag this cultural burden along with themselves, but not the Poles and Czechoslovaks. When their forefathers were adopted by the Roman Catholic faith, the Latin alphabet came as a gift from Rome.”
This quotation serves as the point of departure for these sketches, introducing a thematic framework for the conflicts of culture and identity in modernity within their differing contexts and external forms, and allowing them to be represented visually. Hence, this work takes up more broadly the customary idea of the artist as a skilled draughtsman, as well as the preference among gallery owners for the medium of drawing, one that can be sold more easily than other, less traditional media.
The charm of these drawings lies in their logic of similarities and transformations, in which thematic or formal qualities are transferred from picture to picture. For instance, a “perfect circle” drawn by one artist appears on one sheet, while on the next, a bite has been taken out of it. Even the way in which the drawings are stacked, in a careless heap, could be seen as simulating a pile of money.
Along with the theme of identity, this formal principle is carried further in the video installation Persona. This work displays a woman performing a simultaneous interpretation of Ingmar Bergman’s film of the same name during a screening at the Odeon cinema in Sofia. It is hardly an accident that Bergman’s “Persona” is the film selected: a work in which the central theme is that of identity and the problems that grow out of it between two women. In the film, one of the women is speaking in the name of the other, and the interpreter in Stoyanov’s video assumes a similar role, even through her own external similarity to the actress re-inscribing the process. Much as in the drawings, what transpires in the video is a highly ambiguous, multi-layered process of identity-shifting.  In Persona, Kamen Stoyanov took inspiration directly from Walter Benjamin’s text “The Task of the Translator,” in which the central idea, put simply, is that translation is always an extension and transformation of the original, making the original more comprehensible, and that breaks, imprecisions and fissures in the process of translation, which paradoxically arise through literal faithfulness to the original, lead straight to the actual, hidden meaning of the text itself.
A literal translation proves to be an error on the part of the translator, and a quality that unexpectedly lends transparency to the original—an idea that applies not merely to linguistic translation, but even to that of cultural, economic and social phenomena. One example of the idea of an all-too-literal translation appears in another of Stoyanov’s works, the Tigersteps installation.
A stuffed tiger, almost life-size, relates the life-story of the Siberian tiger Shakti, who spent four months as an attraction in the hip (yet short-lived) Tiger Steps cafe in the Sofia’s massive Tzum shopping center, surrounded with all possible comforts from flat-screen TV to air-conditioning. Photographs and tiger-shaped accessories from the place where it all transpired serve as evidence of the verity of this story.
Following the stated logic of translation, the expression and appearances of capitalist economics reveal themselves in essence once translated into the formerly socialist East. Their implantation, often absolutely literal and presented in pure form, allows this economic system to emerge in its most radical, most pure manifestation. This work does not criticize a deliberately imprecise translation or incorrect interpretation of the market economy, but instead finds concealed in its “mutation” and “misunderstanding” the potential for enlightenment as well as disturbance.
With a stuffed animal that repeats (through a cassette tape, in overly affirmative tones) the views of its owner and advertising slogans for the cafe, Tigersteps is, though, simultaneously the most “talkative” work in the exhibition. With notable ambiguity, the installation is located between the floors, in the museum’s transition space, in “transit” to that point where the East is to be localized. A place that creates the necessarily troubling ground for any “self-colonization.” If the exhibition makes a statement that should be interpreted, it is only to create from the critical potential of translation..


*The Loom of Language, Frederik Bodmer, London, 1944. A guide to foreign languages for the home student.




01.01.2009

Comments

There are currently no comments.

Add new comment

Recommended articles

Contents 2016/1 Contents 2016/1
Contents of the new issue.
Tunelling Culture II Tunelling Culture II
Wicked / Interview with Jim Hollands Wicked / Interview with Jim Hollands
“A person must shake someone’s hand three times while gazing intently into their eyes. That’s the key to memorizing their name with certainty. It is in this way that I’ve remembered the names of 5,000 people who have been to the Horse Hospital,” Jim Hollands told me. Hollands is an experimental filmmaker, musician and curator. In his childhood, he suffered through tough social situations and…
Magda Tóthová Magda Tóthová
Borrowing heavily from fairy tales, fables and science fiction, the art of Magda Tóthová revolves around modern utopias and social models and their failures. Her works address personal and social issues, both the private and the political. The stylistic device of personification is central to the social criticism emblematic of her work and to the negotiation of concepts used to construct norms.…
ArtLeaks
27.07.2014 19:39
Where to go next?
out - archeology
S.d.Ch, Solitaires and Periphery Culture (a generation born around 1970)
S.d.Ch, Solitaires and Periphery Culture (a generation born around 1970)
Josef Jindrák
Who is S.d.Ch? A person of many interests, active in various fields—literature, theater—known for his comics and collages in the art field. A poet and playwright foremost. A loner by nature and determination, his work doesn’t meet the current trends. He always puts forth personal enunciation, although its inner structure can get very complicated. It’s pleasant that he is a normal person and a…
Read more...
out - poetry
THC Review and the Condemned Past
THC Review and the Condemned Past
Ivan Mečl
We are the fifth global party! Pítr Dragota and Viki Shock, Fragmenty geniality / Fragments of Charisma, May and June 1997. When Viki came to visit, it was only to show me some drawings and collages. It was only as an afterthought that he showed me the Czech samizdat publication from the late 1990s, THC Review. When he saw how it fascinated me, he panicked and insisted that THAT creation is…
Read more...
prize
To hen kai pán (Jindřich Chalupecký Prize Laureate 1998 Jiří Černický)
To hen kai pán (Jindřich Chalupecký Prize Laureate 1998 Jiří Černický)
Read more...
birthing pains
Who’s Afraid of Motherhood?
Who’s Afraid of Motherhood?
Zuzana Štefková
Expanding the definition of “mother” is also a space for reducing pressure and for potential liberation.1 Carol Stabile The year was 2003, and in the deep forests of Lapák in the Kladno area, a woman in the later phase of pregnancy stopped along the path. As part of the “Artists in the Woods” exhibit, passers-by could catch a glimpse of her round belly, which she exposed especially for them in…
Read more...
Books, video, editions and artworks that might interest you Go to e-shop
S.d.Ch.: Varlén behind the grave with W.A.M., 2006, 70 x 100 cm, collage and drawing
More info...
900 EUR
From series of rare photographs never released before year 2012. Signed and numbered Edition. Photography on 1cm high white...
More info...
220 EUR
print on durable film, 250 x 139 cm, 2011 / signed by artist and numbered from edition of ten
More info...
799,20 EUR
More info...
10 EUR

Studio

Divus and its services

Studio Divus designs and develops your ideas for projects, presentations or entire PR packages using all sorts of visual means and media. We offer our clients complete solutions as well as all the individual steps along the way. In our work we bring together the most up-to-date and classic technologies, enabling us to produce a wide range of products. But we do more than just prints and digital projects, ad materials, posters, catalogues, books, the production of screen and space presentations in interiors or exteriors, digital work and image publication on the internet; we also produce digital films—including the editing, sound and 3-D effects—and we use this technology for web pages and for company presentations. We specialize in ...
 

Citation of the day. Publisher is not liable for any mental and physical states which may arise after reading the quote.

Enlightenment is always late.
CONTACTS AND VISITOR INFORMATION The entire editorial staff contacts

DIVUS LONDON 
Arch 8, Resolution Way, Deptford
London SE8 4NT, United Kingdom

Open Wednesday to Saturday 12 - 6 pm

 

Office: +44 (0) 20 8692 5157
 

Ivan Mečl
ivan@divus.org.uk, +44 (0) 7526 902 082

 

Shop
shop@divus.org.uk, +44 (0) 20 8692 5157

DIVUS PERLA
Former papermill area, Nádražní 101
252 46 Vrané nad Vltavou, Czech Republic
ivan@divus.cz, +420 602 269 888

Open from Wednesday to Sunday between 11am to 6pm. From 15.12. to 15.1. only on appointment.

 

DIVUS BERLIN
at ZWITSCHERMASCHINE
Potsdamer Str. 161, 10783 Berlin, Germany

berlin@divus.cz, +49 (0) 1512 9088 150
Open Wednesday to Saturday 2 - 7 pm

 

DIVUS WIEN
wien@divus.cz
DIVUS MEXICO CITY
mexico@divus.cz
DIVUS BARCELONA
barcelona@divus.cz
DIVUS MOSCOW & MINSK
alena@divus.cz

DIVUS NEWSLETTER SUBSCRIPTION
Divus New book by I.M.Jirous in English at our online bookshop.