Western Front is pleased to present an exhibition co-organized with Vector Association. Based in Iasi, Romania, Vector is a not-for-profit association that acts as a platform for contemporary art. Since 1997 Vector has been producing the Periferic Biennial, publishing Vector Magazine, commissioning public projects, and hosting residencies. Vector Association is an initiate-member of the European Network for Public Art Producers and a host institution in the Accented Residency Network (a professional network connecting residency programmes between six institutions in Romania, Egypt, Lebanon, Turkey and the UK ).
Vector Association at Western Front is a cross section view of Vector’s role in articulating a contemporary art scene in the city of Iasi, offering a survey of current working methodologies for some of the city’s artists. Importantly, Vector Association engages the city of Iasi itself as a participant in this process—as visiting artists are encouraged to use the city as a resource for the production of their work. This collaboration with the Western Front is one of several stops during Vector Association’s time on the road. Over the span of a year, Vector Association will produce several projects outside of the city of Iasi. This offsite working methodology has already included the exhibition project Critical Point at Frieze Art Fair 2010 (London, UK)
For the exhibition at Western Front, Vector Association highlights a range of its activities through the work of Iasi based artists: Matei Bejenaru (RO), Dan Acostioaei (RO) and Florin Bobu (RO), as well as their last artist in residence, Ayman Ramadan (EG).
Matei Bejenaru’s short documentary Battling Inertia (2010), tells the story of Alexandru Tacu, a former librarian at the C.U.C. – Industrial Platform for Steel Processing. The C.U.C was a major industrial complex outside of the city of Iasi that, up until the early 1990s, employed a significant percentage of the city’s population. While at C.U.C, Alexandru Tacu formed a poetry club named Battling Inertia. Matei Bejenaru’s film depicts Alexandru Tacu returning to the factory and library, 20 years after his retirement. Of his library and the poetry group, Alexandru Tacu says its ambitions were to create new relationships where there was “… this kind of melting point between the individual and the industrial machine, between the epic and the intrinsic poetry from the worker’s eye.” The film conveys a deep nostalgia for certain conditions of socialism in the protagonist, Alexandru Tacu, the artist, Matei Bejenaru and possibly the viewer.
As pertinent as Iasi’s socialist past, is the current re-emergence of the Orthodox Church. In much of his practice, Dan Acostioaei addresses the revival of the church after the fall of communism in the Eastern Bloc. His new video work, What Goes Around (2011) enacts an image of four middle-aged businessmen seated on a rotating ski lift, repetitively performing a vague blessing ritual. Through this scene, Acostioaei addresses the challenge to define ideological boundaries between the relatively new economic sphere and the contemporary church.
Using the Western Front’s gallery as a site of creation, Florin Bobu’s new sculpture, 63 Real Birdhouses (2011), takes the form of a workspace where 63 birdhouses have been built. Through this mass of objects, Bobu may draw attention to prevailing anthropocentric views that birds, while fully capable of looking after themselves, should be provided with a home. This embedded thinking could parallel a type of paternalistic institutional positioning, that often over defines the contexts and situations for artistic production and presentation.
Egyptian artist Ayman Ramadan is Vector Association’s latest resident in their collaboration with the Accented Residency Network. During his stay in Iasi, the artist befriended a young man named Calin, who became his companion, guide and translator. From this relationship, Ramadan created the five channel video work The Dreamer (2011). The result is a portrait of this young man, which earnestly reveals the insecurities, ambitions and imaginings of a teenager in the city of Iasi today.
Through this collaboration, Vector Association brings to Vancouver a number of institutional strategies for operating a publicly oriented arts platform in an unstable cultural economy. This project comes at time when many artist-run-centres are looking for alternative ways to stimulate their own institutional methodologies. In addition to the exhibition, this dialogue around other models for institutions will be made accessible through a temporary reading room in the Western Front’s box office, open during the course of the exhibition. A selection of Vector Magazines, as well as Periferic Biennial catalogues and other titles recently published by Vector will be available to exhibition visitors. As well, a professional roundtable with the Vector Assosication’s founding director, Matei Bejenaru and curator, Livia Pancu is scheduled. Segments of this conversation will be available for viewing on the Western Front’s website.