Lilia Dragneva and Lucia Macari

Lilia Dragneva and Lucia Macari

Lilia Dragneva is currently the director of the Chisinau Center for Contemporary Art (K:SAK), but is also a practicing artist herself, with experience in performance art. For a time, she worked in collaboration with fellow artist Lucia Macari, and some of their earliest performance work was created together. When I was in Chisinau I spent a considerable amount of time speaking with Lilia at K:SAK, but was unable to meet with Lucia, who was in the Netherlands.

The artists were initially interested in sound. Lilia had attended music school, and Lucia’s sister was a professional musician. They created a number of pieces that attempted to generate alternative music, for example, throwing paint on a blank piece of sheet music and having musicians play that music on the piano; typing on the score, sewing on it, and even shooting a gun at it. From there, they investigated the reverse of this principle: instead of converting images into sound, they converted sound into image. In Graphics of Sound (1998), presented at the K:SAK festival Giocanda’s Smile – from the Mythic to the Techno Ritual, they used a device that is meant to measure lung capacity, made different sounds into it, and those sounds were drawn as graphics on paper.

The artists also staged one of the first happenings in Moldova, entitled Aphros, which took place at the first annual exhibition of K:SAK, “km6,” in 1996. The artists used live models, who were naked, covering them and thus clothing them in the shaving cream. The audience, then, participated in the event, bringing the shaving cream with them throughout the exhibition space. The myth of Aphrodite, being born out of sea foam, is recreated in a modern context.

One of the projects I found most interesting by the two artists was actually a curatorial project entitled “Kinovari-Imitazija.” The title comes from a type of paint that they had used as art students, called “Kinovari-Imitazija.” The artists had thought that this was a cheap Soviet imitation of Kinovari-Cinnibar,” an important component of oil paint, but in fact, a “real” version of cinnabar does not exist, because it is unstable, and oxidizes quickly.

Concerned at the state of contemporary art in Moldova, where artists seemed to be copying work of great modern and contemporary artists haphazardly, the two decided to invite artists to deliberately copy works of art from the artistic canon, as a pedagogical method, which was lacking in art schools at the time. The artists, themselves, had been accused, by a Moscow art critic, of also being mere copyists. The two felt that this situation derived from the lack of exposure to contemporary art in their studies, and set out to rectify that. The result was a programme of art objects that were put on display as a didactic exhibition. Visitors were invited to write comments and thoughts regarding the show, so that the curators could gauge the impact of it, and decide on the next stage.

Lilia and Lucia have been an integral part of the development of the contemporary art scene in Moldova since the 1990s, and their legacy can be seen in the work that continues to be produced to this day, outside of the conventional and traditional, which has formed the bulk of Moldova’s art history until only just recently.