Dialogue: Sebastian Moldovan & Liviana Dan

06 November 2021

For Sebastian Moldovan, the exchange of ideas with professionals from different fields that interest him tangentially and with curators who are intimately familiar with his work is part of the process of putting an exhibition together. The dialogue below, with curator Liviana Dan, highlights connections between Spacetime’s a Wastin’ and his previous shows, some of which had been curated by Dan herself. The artist’s remarkable way of engaging with the characteristics of a given space, his wide-ranging interests (from natural phenomena as old as the universe, to the latest technologies) and the value he assigns to intuition, empathy and sustainable resource-sharing are under discussion.

Sebastian Moldovan, Spacetime's a Wastin', Gaep, 2021, installation view

LIVIANA DAN: Your solo shows always mix an air of spontaineity with unfiltered emotion, being a sort of a bypass for sensibility. In addition, there’s a singular experience of the space itself. You quip that you waste the space. In reality, it “benefits” both you and every visitor. I remember how you expanded the space in a chimney at The Brukenthal Museum or around the fireplace at Galerie Jan Dhaese and how you turned the double traffic at Calina into a personal route. What is the strategy/story with Spacetime’s a Wastin’ at Gaep? How do all these spaces get to have the right music?

SEBASTIAN MOLDOVAN: Unlike the interventions you mentioned, for the one at Gaep I had more time. I had access to the gallery space – or at least part of it – for more than two months before the exhibition opening. Usually, when I work with plants, I cannot grow them on site. I just transplant them. This time around, I settled in the gallery basement and occupied it with tools, materials, pop-up studio, garden, playground, climbing route, etc. All the works were new, the narratives – in progress, the ending – to be decided. It all started from a brief inquisitive look at black holes, which generated a frustration towards our limited understanding of them. As I had a visual intuition about how they might be represented graphically, I proposed a reality in which these cosmic objects are the visible half of a symmetrical system instead of points of no return. In such a reality, things that have been lost are not forever lost; they can be reinstated, repurposed, restaged. So, the story might be this reality in which black holes act as a tunnel for things to continue their existence out of sight.  

Sebastian Moldovan, Spacetime's a Wastin', Gaep, 2021, installation view

I don’t know much about music, but by occupying the space and interacting with it purposefully, I had the chance to advance towards the iteration that the space needed. I say “towards” because things are never final, as I’m reminded by tectonic plates, the evolution of species, history and every work I’ve ever started. It’s arrogant to claim you’ve frozen a piece of the ever-changing universe. For how long? To quote Pink Floyd, “The sun is just a minor star”. I’ve lived by this verse and it has been a frequent reminder of the scale of things, of our relative importance. It helped me to conclude that Everything matters and, at the same time, Nothing matters. This conclusion – which needs to be lived rather than to be understood (as it is a contradiction) – gave me my Freedom.

L.D.: You work extensively with plants, seeds, sun and water, forms and movement on glass, mirror and paper. The scrutiny becomes cool, the interpretations – poetic. This “vegetal” expansion in marginal and/or institutional spaces accumulates a personal, performative tactic. The representativeness of the marginal – the climbing route by which you conquer the walls, the installation of endless tubes that becomes a running thread, the round elastic hairband, the pink ribbon, the hospital wristband – brings generosity and empathy. How tough does this familiarity remain to you?

S.M.: I work with whatever I need, trying to bring on stage what I feel is missing. I’m not keen on virtuosity and I don’t spend too much time fixated on a medium, a technique or a topic. I change my “toolbox” anytime I get a chance to. I explore areas that I’m not acquainted with. I make summaries and then move on. I tend to stay near the margins because the center is crowded and noisy. Marginal means close to Something Else, to what lies beyond and is unknown, unaccepted, intuited, but undiscovered. The margins are not a comfortable place. You are alone and uncertain, off the beaten track, with no confirmations. My exploration of objects, forms, situations and pheonomena highlights the distance from living at the center. To the extent that my emotional communication needs hairbands, ribbons, tubes and rocks, my familiarity with them and with the distance to what they represent is distressing, if not more.

I’m not keen on virtuosity and I don’t spend too much time fixated on a medium, a technique or a topic. I explore areas that I’m not acquainted with. I tend to stay near the margins because the center is crowded and noisy. – Sebastian Moldovan

L.D.: The intimacy of forms and thoughts often takes over the role played by materials and themes. You’re interested in shared resources, transparency, current events, scavenging, regeneration, as well as 3D printing, black holes, the theory of power structured around discourse… You used to live and work in a barn, you planted a garden to keep you alive, you have significant experiences with the community where this barn is situated. Between solidarity and content, you got very close to the concerns of Ruangrupa, the curatorial collective at the helm of documenta15 (2022). Sebastian, who decides the social space, the memory, the ideology? Who has the power in art?

S.M.: If I were a lot younger, I would say that the decision belongs to the many, that we grow and evolve together, that the most popular directions reach a critical mass and hit the ground running… But it’s not that easy. There’s only one world; the world of money and maneuvers is not distinct from the world in which artists make art. Evolutions are neutralized or hijacked altogether, bubbles with no real background get disproportionate attention, high acquisition prices and the aura of a praised standard. The mechanism is rotten. It’s not the artists who have the power in art. The best case scenario is that they have a voice, but this voice needs to coincide with someone’s agenda in order to be heard far and wide. Which means power is loaned. I’m not sure this is the truth, but it is what I believed for a long time. As a reaction, the works I made in the first ten years were impossible to be sold or kept once the exhibition ended. But this is not real power. It’s just a weak voice. Power has the one who sets the value system, the philosopher, the prophet, the banker… Power has the value system that prevailed.

Images: Sebastian Moldovan, Spacetime’s a Wastin’, Gaep, 2021, installation views (1-4); A Collection of Things Forever Lost, 2021, wooden and metal structure, plexiglass box, pins, hair bands, wristband, 71 x 127 x 51 cm (5); Earth, 32′, unchecked 1, 2021, 3D printing biodegradable filament, 14 cm (diameter), edition: 1/3 + 1 AP (6). Photos by Alexandru Paul and Albert Kaan