Ştefan RUSU (born in 1964, Câietu, Moldova) curator, editor, visual artist and filmmaker.
His artistic/curatorial agenda is geared towards the processes of transformation and changes in post-socialist societies after 1989. From 2000 onward, he was involved in the development of KSAK – Center for Contemporary Art, Chisinau where he produced curatorial projects and art initiatives. Following the years 2005-06 he attended the Curatorial Training Program at Stichting De Appel in Amsterdam, where he co-curated Mercury in Retrograde. Towards the end of 2012 he moved to Tajikistan and since then was involved in the development of Dushanbe Art Ground center.
Stefan has a lifelong trajectory in dealing with soviet past and its cultural heritage, starting from learning monumental art and its aesthetics in the art school and college in 70-80s, then serving military service where he continued practicing art by designing a WWII memorial to soviet soldier. As a matter of fact, his former training in monumental sculpture driven by communist ideology was later reversed into serving contemporary art system, in the capacity of transdisciplinary artist and later as curator of projects and exhibitions. His former experience of inhabiting social housing flat along with his interest in theory, architecture and urbanism turned it into designing and building Flat Space/Apartamentul Deschis, following mass housing technology and aesthetics.
His curatorial practice includes research based projects that deals with transformation of public sphere in post-socialist context; RO-MD/Moldova in Two Scenarios (2008) - a collaborative project realized in partnership with Vector Association from Iasi, Romania that investigated by juxtaposing current cultural, social and political contexts in two Moldova regions (Moldova region from Romania and Republic of Moldova), followed by CHIȘINĂU - Art, Research in the Public Sphere (2010)- a cross-disciplinary platform that investigated the connections between political and cultural symbols and propaganda and its impact on the urban environment. Invited artist and theoreticians explored the dominant institutional and political discourses, which shaped the society and the urban landscape of the city of Chisinau in the course of its recent history.
The Drifting Station presented at Open Space, Open Systems Zentrum für Kunstprojekte was initiated as an itinerant research platform to monitor and preserve the data related to the evolving state of identity in a given context. It started in Paris at Centre International d’Accueil et d’Echanges des Récollets, during art-in-residence program, as a platform to analyze old trajectories for the formation of identity and to determinate the intensity and temperature of the recent political debates in Moldova, which have polarized the issue of the identity of the state and its inhabitants. Within the context of Moldova, the urgency behind this exploratory stance toward the discourse of identity has become urgent after the protests following parliamentary elections on April 7, 2009. What we got, as a result of speculations and past political games, is a society trapped between the Russian military influence in the region and the EU expansion process, situated between Romanian nationalism and the nostalgia for a mixture of communist regime and socialist utopia, between the expansive development of the open market and the aggressiveness of neo-liberal establishment. The artists-researchers invited to the show discussed and visualized those tendencies through their works (photo collage, artist book, wall intervention, slide show and video works) presented at Centre des Récollets, Paris in 2010. The station was conceived and designed after former Soviet polar stations, which were used the 1950s to explore the arctic environment in extreme cold.
The chapter of Drifting Station installed in Vienna in 2011, investigated a larger context of European Union and the countries of Baltic region and neighboring countries of the Eastern Partnership (Belarus, Ukraine, Republic of Moldova). Visual art projects and other contributions that were on display in the Station commented on the evolution of social engineering project of European Union, as a political construct in progress and the political identity of the neighboring countries at its current state. At the same time invited artists- researchers assumed the posture of researchers that collected the samples from the field in order to preserve the residual traces that re-articulate the post-socialist condition of the societies that are EU members (Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia, etc.) and the other states integrated in EU very recently (Romania, Bulgaria - 2007). In this case the station was designed as Meteo station, while researchers interested in the socio-political environment used various devices and methodologies to collect and monitor the data relevant in the given context.
Among his curatorial initiatives is GHOST PAVILION of Republic of Moldova – a public campaign that was presented as part of Atlantis’11 exhibition organized by HEICO network in Venice. Beside co-curating the exhibition, he is also the producer of MISSING ARTIST documentary film that reflects the position of a number of art institutions and initiatives from independent cultural sector, developed in response to the designation by the local authorities from Republic of Moldova of the participants to represent the National Pavilion at the 54 edition of Venice Biennale.
Later, after moving to Tajikistan he become involved in the development of Dushanbe ArtGround center, where, beside designing and curating projects was also responsible for programs management, including fundraising and long-term sustainability of DAG. On the course of 2013-14 he initiated REIMAGINING THE NEW MAN: Practicing civic duties through social and visual media project, with the aim to understand, analyze and question civic engagement, participatory practices by means of social and visual media in contemporary Tajikistan, where a series of public events, experimental film workshop and itinerant public screenings took place in the cities of Dushanbe, Khorog and Khujand with participants from Tajikistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan.
The other project “SPACES ON THE RUN” designed and curated between 2013-15 in collaboration with Dushanbe ArtGround team was dedicated to mapping, activating, re-imagining the status of public spaces in Central Asian context, challenging the hegemonic narratives, consumerist and private interests by re-appropriating/re-imagining and re-activating the public space trough contemporary art and social practices. A substantial publication summarizing the research and presentation of art projects in Dushanbe including a series of mobile workshops in Bishkek, Almaty and Dushanbe was released in 2015. Beside other organizational tasks he was also responsible for the production of DAG programs including artist-in-residence program, which hosted in 2014 US media artists – John Davis and Mark Boswell and Hong Kong based Cosmin Costinas - director and curator ParaSite, in the next period of time two other participants come to Tajikistan: Berlin based film curator – Floran Wust and Amsterdam based finish visual artists Kristiina Koskentola.
While being based in Central Asia he co-organized in collaboration with Arts Council Mongolia - URBAN ENCOUNTERS: Between Migration and Mobility (2017), Ulaanbaatar, devised in collaboration with John Davis –media artists from San Francisco, US. URBAN ENCOUNTERS was designed to explore the tensions between the nomadic and settled communities, the differences between rural and urban cultures and its economic and social conditions. The project consisted in public program (presentations and film screenings) and hands-on workshop - in-depth exploration of the use of archival material, the aesthetics of appropriation, re-enactment, sampling and “detournement”, and the transfer of cinematic language to digital forms. Assisted by ACM around 15th selected participants produced individual film works, which incorporated archival material mainly originated from - Mongolian State Archive (35mm digitized footage) and MNB Mongolian National Broadcast TV (digitized 16mm footage). The final works where compiled in about 60min. long film program presented at local cinema (iCinema) in Ulaanbaatar with full attendance (about 150seats). Urban Encounters film program was screened at “Ulaanbaatar” media arts festival and “Altan Khalis” Independent Film Festival in 2017.
His other initiative - Insular Modernities explores how the phenomena of socialist architecture formed in Eastern Bloc, is experienced, perceived and performed from the margins/peripheries. Beside social platforms (Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr) that are the main devices for dissemination of his ongoing research focused on Central Asian and East-European cities, he works on a series of documentaries investigating modernist architecture from Central Asian cities (Bishkek, Almaty, Tashkent, Dushanbe, etc.). The ultimate goal is advocacy and preservation of modernist architectural heritage, it analyses in various formats the former and current state of conservation surrounding socialist architecture, as well the role and changing status of public space at the new turn of history.
Projects curated in Tajikistan at Dushanbe Art Ground between 2013-2015:
“Reimagining New Man. Practicing civic duties through social and visual media” (2013-14), “SPACES ON THE RUN. Mapping, activating, re-imagining the status of public spaces in Central Asian context (2013-15)
Projects curated at KSAK- Center, Chisinau 2001-2012:
Invasia – art camp/conference/exhibition. Orheiul Vechi – archaeological site, National Museum of History, Archaeological Museum/Chisinau, Rep.of Moldova (2001), Found Footage Project– Workshop&Exhibition and Public Program, Chisinau, RM (2007), RO-MD/Moldova in Two Scenarios – workshops, seminars, exhibition, publication – National Museum of Ethnography and Natural History, Chisinau, RM (2008), Chisinau-Art, Research in the Public Sphere – workshops, seminars, urban interventions, conference, publication – Chisinau, RM (2010), Chisinau Circumvention-exhibition (co-curated), Zemstva Museum, Chisinau, RM (2011), Drifting Identities – seminar, exhibition, publication, Zemstva Museum, Chisinau, RM (2012), Urban Festival – Noroc Guguta! (co-curated with Lilia Dragneva and Vitalie Spranceana), Public Garden – Stefan the Great, Guguta café, (2019)
Projects curated as freelance curator:
VIDEO FORECAST: Video at from Central Asia, AUB Art Galleries, Beirut, Lebanon (2014), Drifting Identity Station, Open Space-Open Systems, Vienna, Austria (2011), Journey to the East, (contributing curator), Byalistok, Poland (2011), Drifting Identity Station, Center des Recollets, Paris, France (2010), Changing Climate, Kunsthalle Exnergasse, Vienna, Austria (2009), New Old Routes-Video Art from Central Asia, BizArt Center, Shanghai, China (2008), New Old Routes-Video Art from Central Asia, Arsenal Gallery, Bialystok, Poland (2007), Mold_Golia- selection of Video Art in the frame of Czechpoint – International Exhibition of Political Art (contributing curator). Museum of Art Zilina, Povazská galéria umenia v Ziline, Slovakia (2007), Urban Encounters: Between Migration and Mobility, Workshop and Public Program. Ulaanbaatar, 2017 (in collaboration with Arts Council Mongolia)
Exhibitions, residences, awards:
Selected solo exhibitions: “Instant Ecstazy”, HT003 Gallery, Bucharest, Romania (2003); “Alchimiolemia”, HEDAH” Foundation Gallery, Maastricht, Holland (1998); “Clouds and Waves”, in the frame of 2nd annual exhibition of CSAC, Chisinau, Moldova (1997). He participated in numerous group exhibitions, his works were exhibited at the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis, The Renaissance Society in Chicago, Outpost for Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, US; TATE Gallery London, UK; Zacheta National Gallery of Art, Warsaw, Poland; Neue Gesellschaft fur Bildende Kunst – NGBK, Berlin, Germany; Brukental Museum, Sibiu, Romania; Sammlung Essl Klosterneuburg, Vienna, Austria; Arsenal Gallery, Byalistok, Poland; Kalmar Art Museum, Kalmar, Sweden; VILTIN Gallery, Budapest, Hungary, etc.; and film festivals – Impakt, Utrecht, Holland; Imagesfestival, Toronto, Canada; Transmediale-06, Berlin, Germany; VIPER, Basel, Switzerland, etc. In 2012 he was part of 7th Berlin Biennial with investigative documentary Reclaiming the City.
In 2010 he was artist in residence at Centre International d’Accueil et d’Echanges des Récollets, Paris where he initiated curatorial research project – Drifting Identity Station, in the same year he was awarded a CEC Artslink Fellowship and completed the residence at Graduate Program in Curatorial Practice of California College of the Arts from San Francisco.
CEC Artslink Fellowship; Research fellowship in Central Asia (Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan) granted by “Mobility Program”, OSI (Open Society Institute) Budapest; Research fellowship in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia granted by “Looking Inside” program by OSI, Budapest, “Arte ad Arta” award, Art Academy of Milan, Italy.