LAURA A DIMA
Laura A Dima, Artist in Residence at WOW since February, is currently showing her most current project Model for a Monument in the vitrine in the lobby at WOW.
This project is a continuation and development of her graduation show at the Gerrit Rietveld Academy. “The original towers on show at the Rietveld were three metres high and after five days they were gone. In this case, the models were a way for me to reflect on the project after it ended, I did not make them before I realised the bigger version. This shape refers to spiritual and temple architecture. It is very fascinating to me, because of its totemic and archaic qualities that everybody can recognise. When I was making the model I asked myself what would happen if we had a complete village with only spiritual architecture, because what you usually experience in architecture nowadays is a mix of functions. So after I had created several of them, I played with and set them in different positions. The first time I organised them in a spiral, and thought about how one can accumulate energies to transform and limit the everyday space into the spiritual space”.
“The original project was called Utopia and originated from questions on how we can improve society, how can I find my position as an artist and as a designer the role of artists is to make a change. To reflect on these issues I organised a conference with seven of my friends, I gave them roles and “ministries” in a new possible world, and asked them questions about how the world look if we were to rethink it and what the main qualities would be. I chose people from the art world (artists, poets, musicians, performance artists) because I was curious to see what would come out of their creative approach. In the first half of the conference we chose the qualities that this new world would have (beauty, fun, transparency, freedom, equality) and each one of us was the head of the ministry of one of these qualities. Then we started thinking in this direction. The result of the conference was really nice, but too big and difficult to grasp, so I left the performance behind and started to think about how to give it a shape and place, and bring it back to me”.
‘’I was asking myself ‘When do I make these decisions in my life? Is it when I wake up and think ‘today Iʼm going to make a change’?’ For me, this particular moment is when I get ready before I go out. I put on my makeup and choose my clothes. You start performing the moment you go out of your door. With Utopia I wanted to make people aware, that is why I started thinking about changing rooms, but in a more spiritual format.’’
‘’The first idea was to make them 6 meters high, monumental, to turn the changing room into a temple. It would have been great if they were outside in a landscape. After I came up with this shape, I started working on the proportions, which in architecture dictates the shape. This very simple form was the result of an intense study on the geometry of space and how proportions work with each other, and also how the openings should be, since they play a very important part in the perception of the shape. The first opening was one meter and a half, while the second was only one meter, so you really had to crawl in and kneel down. The architecture was dictating the visitors’ behaviour. This is also one of the reasons why I find temple architecture so interesting, because the space affects your behaviour, as soon as you enter the space you start to unconsciously perform, and I wanted the people to perform in my Utopia as well. During the performance I was in the centre of the installation. Five performers, the gatekeepers, each symbolised one of the qualities of the new world. They would invite somebody into the temple and I would ritually perform by putting makeup on them and initiate them into my world. When they went out, they would visually spread the word to the other people that were at the graduation show. It also created a connection between people, because you could immediately see that they had been initiated, they became some sort of society.’’
‘’I also created a song for each of the qualities working together with a friend of mine who is a musician, and for the lyrics I used the exact words from the conference.’’
‘’The fact that this performance created its own world was my favourite aspect. When it was finished I felt a bit empty. Being invited to make a show afterwards I felt that Utopia was not really finished as a project and that I had to go deeper into it, I had to go beyond the surface. That is why I decided to make the models and reflect on what I had been creating. I chose ceramic because is one of the oldest materials that people created sculptures with, and it was a challenge to realise this sort of shape with it, because it is generally used for more organic objects. Material and concept-wise it was exciting for me to do this again and investigate more. I rethought the shape and the proportions, and I made obsessive amounts. Then I started to think about what would happen if I made a whole village out of them. The initial material was wood and the towers were three metres high, but they were built in a way that they didnʼt need any screws, the plates would support each other’s weight. I was trying to follow the megalithic way of building. It was a complete piece of research on how to make this. Since I was a kid I was curious about pyramids and how they got their shape; it is fascinating how they did it and how perfect they are. All these structures had something to do with spirituality.’’
‘’In Romania, my country of origin, rituals and spirituality are embedded in everyday life; there is a lot of superstition, magical objects and symbolism. Sometimes I feel that is somehow missing here in the Netherlands, and I wanted to bring it back with this project, because I believe it is such an intriguing part of who we are, and we should embrace it.’’
‘’After remaking the models in ceramics, I am thinking of the following steps. Probably Iʼll make them again in wood, but going into symbolism and inscriptions. I have been reflecting on enchanted objects, and how we attribute magical qualities to them. My question was how to make my objects magical, and convince people of it. This is my current object of research. Sometimes when I talk about my objects to people the concept becomes immediately clearer to them. I really like to do it in a performative way, I perform with my objects, but at the same time they are performing. I give them life. I assume the character of an oracle, in a white dress, which sometimes pops up and does something. It is an ongoing process, and Iʼm not sure of when and how it will end.’’
‘’On the side I collaborate with many different people, I find it productive and it contributes to my development. I studied at the Rietveld in the department of Inter-Architecture, which is not really about buildings, but more thinking about the space conceptually.
‘’It is important to take into account how the space influences the behaviour of the spectator in an exhibition, that is why I like to collaborate with other artists and think with them about this. Nowadays exhibitions are a bit bland, but we need to break through this and incorporate the audience into the exhibition. Contemporary art is not only about watching something beautiful on the wall, it should engage people, it should transmit a message and be visual, so the space is the main factor to communicate this.
‘’For me Utopia was a very important project, because I was asking people what they felt when they were in the towers, and most of them replied that inside it became all of a sudden silent, they felt protected. Those were the emotions that I wanted people to feel. It was very satisfying.’’
A NEW CHURCH
Now Iʼm working on creating an alternative church of my own. Iʼve been thinking if it would be possible to convince people of new concepts. Departing from the icons in the churches in Romania that influence how a person is behaving in front of them just with their presence and aura, Iʼm working on a kind of critique to society and to the church. I find religion and spirituality very important, and I wanted people to reflect on what it means to them nowadays. What is their role? Is it just a mere performance or is it embedded deep inside of us? Even when people donʼt believe in God, they always find idols. Even if it is Beyoncé or Michael Jackson, people always find something or somebody to look up to, so probably a contemporary church reflecting contemporary society would look completely different to churches of medieval times. Maybe it will be Beyoncé in the center. I am very intrigued by people with many followers and how they deal with their fame. So if I had to make a church of my time it will probably have the images of my generation, because I think it is important to understand the position of my generation at this moment, and what is important to us – what message we want to transmit. In my mind I associate the church of the past with the clubs nowadays, because all the young people go to the club and there are so many rituals involved, like how you start talking with somebody, or how you dance. For me this is another place of cult, even if it is the cult of having fun. But as a place a club is definitely closer to our generation than the church.’’
ART AND SELF-IMAGE
‘’For me the place of art is everywhere, there is not a place where art stops, I am performing myself everyday wherever I go. This is who I am and I construct my own being, I am a construction of my own imagination, and whatever I do itʼs there: in my work, objects, styling and pictures. It is a continuous relevant story. The decisions we make regarding what we like and donʼt like say so much about our personality and who we want to be. It is important to show this freedom and strength, because this is how I feel about my image. It gives me the strength to be who I want to be.’’
‘’I think sometimes it is good to deconstruct and think about our behaviour, why we do certain things, what do they mean and what they communicate. We mostly do this when we go to a different country or society, because other people see these daily rituals as very strange, and so you have a cultural shock. You start analysing your own behaviour. Iʼm amazed by this moment of self-consciousness.
‘’My goal is to manipulate peopleʼs behaviour using architecture as a medium. Deconstructing architecture, thinking about all the measurements and proportions is very challenging.’’
‘’I want to make the models again, but with inscriptions and handpaint them, I like the craftsmanship of these kind of things, because it is also a ritual. When you work a material like ceramics, you get really close to it, or also when you carve wood or paint it. For me it is important to be involved in the creation, because I become one with the material in the process, and it is also part of the final work. I like to be physically busy with my body and hands, this is why Iʼm not really a digital artist. Materiality is really essestial for me. Iʼm studying a lot of symbolism in a graphic way because I want to incorporate it in my 3D objects as well.’’
‘’I have a lot of idols, and I get inspiration from very different fields, like cinema. I love films, like the movies by Russian film maker Andrei Tarkovsky and the spirituality he communicates. However I also love the Italian cinema of Fellini and Pasolini, and a lot of this is so amazing and so visual.
‘’For last yearʼs project my main inspiration was Alejandro Jodorowsky, who is visually very powerful. He was a big inspiration, especially some scenes of his movie The Holy Mountain, a fascinating movie.’’
‘’Living with other artists – it gives you something. You can feel the creativity in the air. Being in a community with artists and being busy with my art and other projects just feels right. Itʼs good to talk to the other people that live here, and share things with each other. Being here as an artist, people are interested in you and it feels great. It is also really beneficial, because I fulfill my role as a communicator. It becomes a platform that gives you exposure.’’
Check out more of Laura’s work on her website and watch a video of Utopia – The Initiation here.
Nowadays exhibitions are a bit bland, but we need to break through this and incorporate the audience into the exhibition.