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Identity games

Come play with politics in a globe-trotting multi media showcase at the Unicredit Pavilion. Review by Michael Bird

February 2011 - From the Print Edition

4 Photos
Nations in the Balkans and Caucasus are versed in suffering from identity crises - with a history of seeing their borders ripped apart or stuck back together and their status reinstated or reconfigured in a wider region.
To reflect this geographic bad luck at being at the mercy of the caprices of larger empires, Bucharest’s Unicredit Pavilion is offering visitors the chance to create a bespoke national symbol of these countries from the fragments of others, such as sliding the green of Hungary over the yellow of Romania or slipping a cross of Georgia next to the crest of Croatia.
Here giant plaster cubes show 18 flags from east Europe, available to dissemble and rearrange, in a work produced by Georgian Lado Darakhvelidze on the structure of Hungarian sculptor Erno Rubik’s multicoloured toy.
Visitors can build a new image or bury every piece of one flag inside the cube, in a cynical piece of fun critiquing the chequered history of the region. The entire family can also join in, as the exhibit gives kids the chance to play at being Stalin or an Ottoman Sultan without the worry of accusations of genocide.
Joining this simple and stunning piece of political play is a hit-and-miss showcase of multimedia, which reveals the deconstruction of national identities and ideology, including Vietnamese American Hong-An Truong’s photos of French Catholic churches in North Vietnam and Philippine Kristoffer Ardena’s recreations of his country’s islands in plates, olives and a smashed Virgin Mary statue.
Most effective is a video where Cuban Tania Bruguera places a podium in Havana’s Biennal arts festival in 2009, offering anyone the chance to speak freely in front of an audience. People cry, talk about state security confiscating their papers and call for a long life to democracy. A dove stays on the shoulder of each person in a nod to the bird which landed on the shoulder of Fidel Castro during his maiden speech following his power seize in 1959.
More bizarre is Japanese Yoshinori Niwa’s ‘Tossing Socialists in the air in Romania’. Niwa interviews Romania’s remaining die-hard Marxist-Leninists and asks if a bunch of art students can take each of them to the roof of a tower block and throw them up and down.
Eventually leftist poet Alexandru Matei agrees to be the ‘tossed Socialist’, in an event which is either a visual metaphor for the turbulent status the Communist inheritance has experienced over the last 20 years or weak exhibitionist comedy, depending on one’s taste for Japanese whimsy.

Utopia of Exotic
Pavilion Unicredit
Curated by Andrei Craciun
1 Sos Nicolae Titulescu (Piata Victoriei)
Until 27 February

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