Solo Exhibition Sofia
15 October – 15 November 2020
The title “EREWHELSE” is anagram of the word “ELSEWHERE”, by analogy to the Samuel Butler’s novel) and is the name of a fictional land and a satire of Victorian society), where Butler meant the title to be understood as the word “NOWHERE” backwards.The artist spent the pandemic lockdown 2020 in her native country Bulgaria and comments: “I experienced the “lockdown” in my former home country Bulgaria .. Now I’m going to exhibit the bulgarian and other flags consisting of chains. At the end of the flag there is a high-glossy, sharp guillotine made of stainless-steel hanging.
Both the health and economic consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic and the restrictions on fundamental rights by the state constitute a fundamental questioning of the liberal subject – the Individual.What lasting consequences will be appearing beyond the immediate crisis?Is there a risk that the Corona crisis will not only result in a global economic crisis, but also a serious danger to democracy, or to freedom of speech and press, or to European and international solidarity? In extreme situations, the disbalance of society and power emerge stronger.
NOW with the help of art, it is critically to examine the newly created processes and to ask open questions.There needs to be opportunities for cultural-political engagement and open-minded political debate. We have to engage and fight for that NOW.“
Iv Toshain, Sofia, 2020
The installation of three flags by Iv Toshain at the entrance of the gallery literally drives the blades into the status quo. Art is for everyone, it is public, and the message is accessible beyond the limits of white space. This is the freedom that Covid-19 gives. But it is also the freedom that it takes away. The notion is hinted by the guillotines at the end of each flag. The state machine is ready to cut anyone who dares to enter or leave, anyone who dares to violate the conditions. The flags are woven from seven-meter chains and are standing proudly like the ones for the Olympics, but the blades at the bottom stand proudly, too. The space is not accidental, the installation is built among a colonnade, more reminiscent of an institution instead of a gallery. Exponential rights not only raise the number of those infected, but also exacerbate relations, as well as the political and social attitudes in Europe.
Iv Toshain dwelled on her personal history during the pandemic between Austria, Bulgaria and the European Union, then the institutional machine does not have a specific flag and could be any country that has violated the democratic human rights.Flags are symbolic tools that reflect the essential foundations of state ideology, priorities, concepts, ideals, value components of the political system. This is the social philosophy in which the symbolic capital in politics performs the functions of both horizontally legitimizing subject and the vertically manipulating one, as in the middle is the need for a cultural policy focused on building an equal dialogue. But what happens when all these changes in an emergency situation and the dialogue disappears and do the institutions – this manipulative subject – have the right to demonstrate such behavior? Chained with fear, we look at freedom through the gaps in the chain – this is the breath of cold air permeated by the metal fittings in the installation. On the one hand, we are all intertwined and dependent on each other, but on the other hand, it is the social community that drives the blade in the end. Metal, cutting and stabbing elements are a trademark of Iv Toshain’s sharp visual language. To the stars in the chains of the European flag we can relate her work in several series“Embroidery“ where the artist creates a tracery using stainless steel shuriken stars. She has applied the same stars in several performances, sticking in the canvases of the depicted slogans or portraits until the paint begins to flow slowly like blood, creating a living work in front of the audience. In this case, the living work is the people who are faced with the choice whether to step under the blades of institutions or stay ahead. The cutting flag installation not only criticizes the violation of democratic rights veiled behind the thick curtains of the state apparatus, but also opens slightly the subject of the gallery economy where everyone is limited by space. We are used to seeing exhibitions located within the walls, but what happens when art comes out of it and starts talking directly to people, „EREWHELSE“ (anagram of the word „ELSEWHERE“) – „ELSEWHERE“? Or maybe „ELSEWHERE“ is the world that put in chains the freedoms of the individual behind the flag parade, and in fact everything is a satirical utopia that should be left in the books?
In the darkened gallery there are no sounds inside, no employees. As guiding stars, three large neon slogans flicker uncertainly in different colors. Contrary to the external installation, this uncertainty and fine workmanship refer to the fragility of the messages encoded in them. The slogans are placed in metal frames, reminiscent of bars and locked in storage, speaking of love, uncompromising truth, art, freedom. The gallery becomes a temple to protect these values from the sharp guillotines of the institutions. To let them stay, and not to fade away. Here the blades are in the words: „True love is uncompromising“, handwritten by the gallery owner Valentin Monev, „I’m taking out my own freedom for the art to live it like it’s own“ and finally ends with the uncompromising „Fire is my dress“ to take us forward in the struggle for change, without a stop on the way to freedom. The guillotine is raised and the blade – sharpened. And if the words have the power to cut, then Iv Toshain’s works cut through the truth – cold and painful – like the knives hanging between the columns.
Text: Martina Stefanova