Gabriel Stoian | Interview
After visiting his recent solo show “IKEA Temple”, we interviewed Gabriel Stoian (featured) about his latest body of work and upcoming exhibition in Frankfurt.
Would it be correct to consider you a nomad artist in both your artistic approach, going from one medium to another, and in your personal life through your travelling experiences? How does this influence your activity?
Yes, it would be fair to say that I am a nomad, I guess I don’t like to stay too much in one place – it is not as if I am running from something or that I dislike my origins but I just feel the urge to explore new contexts. I consider myself a universal being regardless of my nationality, gender, religion etc. I move a lot also because I am not a big fan of routine and I am a little bit hyperactive, they say. I am well aware that the idea of the artist as a nomad today is not considered trendy anymore but then again I myself never fancied anything trendy. Concerning my artistic approach and the variety of mediums I use, it just comes natural and of course it has a lot to do with my lifestyle. Everything I make is the product of what I see and feel these days.
Where are you now and what do you find challenging about this specific time and space?
At the moment I’m living in Frankfurt am Main and this is my second come after a short stay. It looks as if I will spend more than a few months here. The good part is that I made contact with the art community here and they were more than welcoming, they liked my work and offered to give me a studio in a nice building located in the rising east part of the city. The bad part is yet to be discovered… after my first solo-show here which will be in the second half of November this year so stay tuned!
When we first discussed, you introduced your work as “a subversive, ironical and critical reaction towards the instruments of power and its symbols”. Does this definition still apply? What interests you lately? What has changed in terms of power or in how you perceive it?
The main concept of my work was and still is questioning authority through a subtle, subversive and ironical display. In terms of evolution in my work I believe that the pieces that I currently make are less direct in terms of understanding than the old ones. The works I did in the past can be easily seen as pure statements, political metaphors, now I am more concerned with finding an adequate esthetical discourse for my research. I started to build a new body of work at the beginning of this year that consists mainly of drawings and I recently exhibited some of them in a solo-show called IKEA Temple, at Centrul de Arte Vizuale Multimedia in Bucharest, but I will talk about that a little bit later.
And to answer the final point of this question, regarding my actual perception of power, I shall refer to a recent discovery that I made coming to Germany and the western society as an East European. In the beginning, I was under the impression that this is a truly natural, emancipated, civilized country but it didn’t take a lot to discover that behind all this so-called civic positive behavior lies a huge set of rules and legal restrictions that the citizens of this country comply with. It is not in their nature or education to act accordingly, it is more out of the fear of getting punished by law or getting fined, than acting in good will… so I wonder what is more efficient in our days: is it education or is it fear?
Your works seem to focus on the way we think and behave as human beings, and especially on the mass mentality. Have you identified any specific patterns in our socially determined behavior and relationship with the other? What do you find most disturbing about the masses today? What about the individual – does he still exist or did he get lost in the crowd?
I am not a psychologist; therefore, it is hard for me to answer this question, I only speak in terms of work, throughout my personal experiences. It is nevertheless true that my work deals with the way we think and behave as human beings, focusing on mass mentality. However, I am not looking for patterns of certain individuals, I’m instead trying to see the bigger picture, i.e. what it takes to be an individual. Masses today are the same as always and the problem we are confronted with more and more today is this desperate desire to have another role from the role we already have. I guess in order to stand out we should believe in something that is not necessarily meant to be…
We visited your recent show, “IKEA Temple”. There was a book called “The McDonaldization of Society” (1993) by George Ritzer discussing how the principles of the fast-food restaurant began dominating different sectors of the American society. Is it the same with IKEA and the DIY concept? What are the consequences we need to acknowledge? And why IKEA? Did you think of it from the start? You also say that: “Through this project I want to generate an insight in relation to the IKEA products and question the authenticity of the – Do it yourself – concept which, from a different angle, looks more like: Don’t think about it. Don’t think at all. We will do it for you…” Tell us more about this exhibition.
McDonaldization, IKEAlization and other contemporary phenomena such as the Pharmacopornografical regime are just a few of them, what we need to acknowledge is that these organizations are taking control of the way we think and act. The consequences of this phenomena, which are growing bigger and bigger day by day, are limiting our possibilities by altering our perceptions, by controlling our potential in making our own decisions. Like I said earlier, I only speak in terms of work, throughout my personal experiences and IKEA is one of them. I recently visited IKEA and got shocked on how addictive it can become for some people. I saw young couples fighting over the right color of the coffee cups and people eating 10 hot-dog at once and so on. This project’s aim was not to directly denigrate this company, but just to inlay some doubt into people’s minds about this apparently perfect place. This show was built as a set of meaningless instructions that help you realize that you are easily manipulated. If we were to look at it more closely you are not doing it yourself, you are doing exactly what they want you to, by following their rules.
Your upcoming show is in Frankfurt. What will the show focus on? Share some insights with us.
My new show is called Glitter, queens and future beings – and it is built as an invitation, a mesmerizing glimpse into a not-so-unpredictable future, in which things might look harmless but not necessarily “un-poisonous”. In the new economy, the economy of desire, human figure can be easily seen as an extension of the global communication technologies that oscillate between excitation and frustration – techno bodies – individuals that only praise the effervescent effect of their orgasmic potential. Guys no longer rumble in the jungle, they started veering Chanel, appearing half fetus half zombie. Ladies cover up in Testogel (synthetic testosterone), as if to bring the perfect lover back to life. And all this just to test chemically induced sensations, a ritual that seems to be moving far beyond established categories of sex, gender and objects.
What is your next stop in your artistic career?
I don’t want to spoil the surprise but it has something to do with a long term residency at the Rijksakademie in Amsterdam.
What did we miss or forgot to ask? What do you miss and often forget?
I believe that would be my dear wife, Andra, a very important person in my life and artistic production.
Images courtesy of Gabriel Stoian, part of the exhibition “IKEA Temple” / October 15th – November 12th, 2015 / Centrul Artelor Vizuale Multimedia (16 Biserica Enei St., Bucharest).
More info about Gabriel on his website.