“How can one steal such a large amount of money from such a small country?” asked rhetorically the Head of the EU Delegation to Chisinau, referring to the billion dollars stolen from the Moldovan banks and representing 15% of the country’s GDP – the operation uncovered at the end of 2014, after two years of money leaking through a complex operation, called the robbery of the century. 25 years after becoming an independent state, Moldova is split between its EU ambitions and its pro-Russian governments, hundreds of thousands of its people work abroad, from Moscow to Athens, Milan and London, the country is famous for its agricultural products but it still one of the poorest economies in Europe, while Chisinau, despite its incredibly rich potential as a site at the crossroads of empires, still remains a city difficult to pronounce, as Pavel Braila would say.
“How does a billion dollars look like?” would ask rhetorically most of Moldova’s inhabitants. Pavel Braila decided to underline the abstraction of this image by depicting it into a series of silkscreens, each representing the stolen billion counted in different denominations of the Moldovan currency. Unlike the Kroll agency, commissioned by the Moldovan government to trace the missing money and those connected to the heist, Pavel Braila knows already that the mechanism behind the operation is very complex, intangible and colorful at the same time, so his silkscreens go back to the iconic types of representations in conceptual art: imagine the money, look at the money, count the money. If you only can, that is.
Many of Pavel Braila’s works take inspiration from and are dedicated to Moldova and Chisinau. He is one of the few artists who manage to speak about a nation without becoming nationalist, to evoke a lifestyle without becoming nostalgic, to create odes without becoming a state bard. In New Year’s Dissections, his exhibition opening in Bucharest during the old-style Orthodox New Year celebration, the artist is taking the occasion that the beginning of the year offers, to reflect on a past that keeps being carried on in the habits and on a future that seems to have never been more uncertain. Yet, his reflections are filled with irony: in the exhibition space we are greeted by the portrait of a gangster turned revolutionary hero and we are counting money stolen by politicians turned bank robbers, while we are stepping on thick layers of confetti and celebrating Moldova turning to the East, to the West, to the West, to the East.
Just like the typewriter in the artist’s new video is reminding of the different alphabets that are used according to the political circumstances, just like the citizens of Chisinau, in the video which is giving the exhibition title are celebrating New Years’ Eve on both Moscow time and Moldova time, one doesn’t know if it’s too early or too late, who is delayed and who is catching up, what is history and what is repetition, which tradition is good to keep and which one becomes oppressive. Pavel Braila records these very oscillations, until there will be a bigger change he keeps track of all the small changes and exhibiting them reveals not only the portrait of a country and of an epoch but also a series of time capsules, which we need to take with us in this new year that has already started 13 days ago…
Text by Raluca Voinea, curator