Museutopia Chişinău 2008*.
My Ongoing Museutopia project investigates and documents the representation and shaping of national identity narratives through National Museum exhibitions. In its first chapter, which took place in 2008, I concentrated on Moldovan National museums.
My research consisted of photographing the on-display collections at the Moldovan museums and then juxtaposing my photographs with found footage from archives of those museums. Furthermore, I have searched for written information that could shed light on the changes that those institutes were going through after the Independence of the Moldovan Republic in 1989. Specifically, I focused on The National Museum of Ethnography and Natural History, the National Museum of History and Archeology, The National Museum of Fine Arts, The Pedagogical Museum, The Military Museum, The Union of the Writers Museum, and The Union of the Public Transport Workers Museum. I also photographed former buildings of other museums directly connected to the former regime. Obviously, those institutes ceased to exist after Moldavia’s independence.
During the time I spent in the museums, I witnessed a clear and disturbing trend: I identified the process of omitting traces of recent history from their displays. Each institute tried to re-create its own concept and strategy of re-presenting the continuity and existence of the Moldavian state. Artifacts related to ancient history of the state were re-contextualized, while other artifacts and archeological exhibits dealing with recent history of the 19th and 20th century were removed and replaced with ones that support the new national discourse.
Reflecting on the idea of the museum as a cultural machine that produces content to help establish group identity, I had a thought-provoking question: how can national identity be formed if the presented narratives contrast and contradict each other?
This project aims to question the political truths that had shaped the Moldavia region in the last decades. Specifically, it might indicate the magnitude of the national trauma that is causing the Moldavian society to erase and reject any objective reference to the cultural and social atmosphere of the Soviet era. The role and responsibilities of cultural heritage institutions like the museums seem ambiguous in the light of the denial ideology they present to the public. Finally, Museutopia opens a more general discussion about the intersection of politics, history, culture, and social participation in a period of rapid changes.
The Museutopia project was developed in close collaboration with Stefan Russ (freelance curator) and Lilya Dragniyva, director of KSA:K (Chisinau Contemporary Art Center), and with the generous support of Mondrian fonds, Cantemier foundation, Eerste foundation, and Breda photo.
*The photographs are accompanied by their original captions from 2008