Dan Perjovschi


With its inscription A GERMAN CITIZEN. FEAR, an untitled drawing (all works 2004) of a man sitting at a table with a drink in front of him, his legs trembling, underlines a theme running through this exhibition: Germans’ fears—exaggerated, in Dan Perjovschi’s estimation—for the future. “Recession” in the welfare state of Germany, according to the drawing on the invitation card, is in his view the imposition of limits on a thoroughly superfluous, prosperous life: Of five pints of beer sketched in concise strokes, two are crossed out. Perjovschi, known in Romania not only for his artistic endeavors but also for his publishing activities (including the magazine 22, which he launched shortly after the fall of Ceaușescu in 1987), made innumerable drawings like this during a four-week residency in Cologne. He recorded everyday happenings and encounters as well as recent events in international politics, especially the new order prevailing in Europe since the dissolution of the old political blocs. Condensed to essentials, Perjovschi’s drawings twist these observations into polemical grotesques: NO TURKEY. NO THANKSGIVING calls out a female figure designated as conservative politician Angela Merkel—so much for the debate over whether Turkey should join the European Union.

As with earlier exhibitions—such as his contribution to the Venice Biennale in 1999, through which he made his name internationally—Perjovschi once again forged a tight bond between his works on paper and the space. The walls were completely covered with countless pencil drawings so delicate that they could hardly be made out at a distance. Thus the room seemed empty at first—a calculated means of provoking the viewer, which is picked up in one of Perjovschi’s sketches. IS THIS SPACE EMPTY? I WANNA RENT asks a figure in a room labeled GALLERY with the subtitle MY SHOW. This conscious slowing down of perception was amplified by another gesture: Perjovschi had covered the showroom window facing the street with drawings of little figures that, though each different in the details, melted into an ornamental overall pattern hindering the view in from outside. To see anything, one had to enter the room and literally get up close to the drawings, which were always on the verge of disappearing, so to speak, should the visitor back away from the wall.

This spatially determined resistance to the ready consumption of art finds its counterpart at the level of content. Thus Perjovschi subjects the role of art in post-Socialist societies—its status within a consumer-oriented exhibition industry and the Western interest in so-called Eastern European art—to a two-pronged reflection. In one of his small sketches—his exhibition at the Schnittraum ran at the same time as Art Cologne—he takes aim at the juxtaposition of the “Old Big Art Fair” and the smaller parallel “Young Art Fair”: A clueless middle-class collector stands rather forlornly in front of both convention centers. In another drawing, the artist depicts himself surrounded by Western curators, the EU-CORE IN MY BUCHAREST STUDIO, according to the subtitle. Himself a part of the art business, Perjovschi nevertheless keeps his distance, using his ephemeral wall drawings to probe the artist’s role within the complicated web of art and politics. His works are analysis, polemics, and criticism all at once.

Astrid Wege

Translated from German by Sara Ogger.