Issue #40, 2012

An Interview with Dan Perjovschi by Raluca Voinea
Erase & Forward

Raluca Voinea π The ephemeral character of the drawings you make in different contexts situates your interventions in the proximity of performance, a genre familiar to you (Romania, Erasing Romania, History/Hysteria are some of your performance works which have become iconic for recent Romanian art, and not only). In addition, even the erasure of the drawings may be seen as a performance, involuntarily and collectively, like at the Romanian Pavilion in Venice, where the audience wiped the floor drawings while looking at them, or assumed and self-directed, like the recent removal of the drawings in the ICA Sofia space through the concerted action of several Bulgarian artists and curators. Do you think your artistic practice can be placed in a genealogy of performativity?

Dan Perjovschi Yes. I started making performance because it was a radical, political and cheap media. When “festivals” started to seem narcissistic and repetitive, I stopped. But something of the “acting” madness remained. When I draw, I act. I make a kind of gesture-drawing, incorporating speed and the pushing of the wall with my marker (I have works entitled Drawing Against the Wall). I fight the wall, the window, the floor. Each drawing is well thought in the notebook, drew, redrew, rethought, edited, altered, simplified. But its implementation onto the architectural structure is super-fast. This gives its performative character. Moreover, in front of the wall, I repeat the gesture to get familiar with the movement, so, quietly, I do a kind of dance. I suggested this practice (to air-draw in front of a wall) as a project, but no institution was yet so courageous...

When there is an audience behind me, it is certainly a performance. The audience is cannibalistic. They eat you alive and, in some sense, they manipulate you. So you have to go with or against their gaze. When I am alone, it is an isolated performance. Frankly, I prefer solitude.

In the notebook I find ideas, which I “perform” on the wall.

π There is since some good years already this dominant trend in contemporary art, consisting in an archaeology and recovery of various aspects of modernism; the characters of its alternative histories, the architectural, decorative or social experiments are dug up, reframed, fetishized, its utopias are being discussed again and its failures reaffirmed – almost nostalgically. By contrast, your drawings are quick comments on the present, carried out in real time, a recording of the immediateness and a reflection on what becomes history even as it happens. In art institutions, museums, kunsthalles and kunstevereins, centres and institutes, galleries and artist-run spaces, the care for objects (the new, contemporary series of modernity relics) is counterpointed by the pressure of the “relations” with the audience (educational programs, discursive programs, souvenirs and restaurants). Not accidentally, your drawings have appeared often in the intermediate spaces of these institutions – hallways, windows, offices or exterior walls. This emplacement points out, once again, to the need of adjusting such venues to the immediate stream of reality and to an audience to be captured immediately as well, but is it not, at the same time, a symptom of collectability limits, of the connection to a sense of the finite, of presence rather than of accumulation?

I myself said that I’m forcibly kept in a radical condition (by being offered hallways, stairs, corridors or inoperable spaces). At first, I was pissed off by these emplacements (I was getting leftovers because I was a Romanian? or because I was unknown?). Now I look for them myself. At the Sharjah Biennial, I refused the boot in the museum and I drew with charcoal in the cafeteria. I have a long history of a peripheral positioning in the mainstream; in 1991 I spent three days locked in the doorkeeper’s room at the Timișoara Museum of Art...

In fact, I look for new, marginal places, not hidden, but in full traffic. At MoMA, everyone had to pass in front of that wall, at Van Abbe it’s the main lobby to the museum, at Bloomberg, since the drawing was on the window, it was rather outside, in the street, than inside etc...

I draw the present-day, but from most of the immediate facts I draw something generally valid. One needs to know where one is only for a fraction of the drawings, the others are “universal”.

I’ve also felt the educational pressure. I did workshops with children or adults. I lecture. But in my head, all these are part of one project. This also goes for the exhibition extending to a local newspaper or an artist newspaper that people can take home. On the other hand, it may not be so sophisticated. I think that I’m invited to draw on the walls because of my humour and my intellectual-popular gaze. It’s like I said. At the edge of the mainstream.

π In a cultural-political context in which iconoclasm, for example, is revived or cultural artefacts are revalorized as war loot, the destruction of your drawings is rather refreshing, an abandonment of the past only to better install ourselves in the future. Like journalistic notations, your drawings are not competing with time. Yet, how do you feel about these processes of repeated and permanent erasure?

At first, I was disturbed. In 1995, I gave people at Franklin Furnace erasers and when I saw them deleting me, I got mad (some took advantage of the erasers on the wall to draw flowers). After that, I got over it and now I like it. I like that in New York, the home of marketing, I was strong enough to draw with my pencil a whole gallery and then delete all of it with the eraser.

In Venice, as well, as I saw people treading on my drawings with their wet feet, my hair stood on end. Now, when I show the images, they seem cool. I’m glad my drawings were destroyed and never made it to Art Basel.

How did this practice come to life? There was no brilliant plan or some theoretical book. I simply needed a mobile practice to get rid of the conditionings of transportation, insurances and the lack of local institutions (which did not make crates, pay insurances and did not always bring back in good conditions what they had sent abroad). So I ended up by traveling solely with my marker. I drew on the spot. At first, manic things, grids that I filled with little people. No thinking, just work. An endurance thing (and also performative). Then, after Venice, I exploded and I drew stories. I could be called anytime, anywhere. As soon as I arrived, I got to work immediately. I did not depend on anybody and I needed almost nothing. That freedom has a cost and it is called temporariness. Drawing and drawing, my practice has professionalized, subjects structured themselves, the drawings got tougher and my lines become firmer. In 2003, at the Essen mines, I reached a plateau wherefrom I never descended. I drew for three months. And while drawing upstairs, downstairs, in the office, I talked with my curators about politics, culture jamming, etc. It was like a school of critical positioning.

You’re right. I know my drawing is going to be deleted, so I’m free to draw it. I can do something bad, something not good enough, something wrong. It won’t be there forever and on the next wall I have a chance to correct myself, to do everything better...

I am in the flow and I respond to the flow. That is my basic practice that collaterally produces durable things, objects or drawings (on paper, in newspapers, as newspapers, as video projections, in notebooks or at the National Technical Library in Prague). From time to time, I lay down my repertoire somewhere, somehow.

But the great show passes with me. I am its sole director and actor.

Translated by Alex Moldovan