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Artqol magazine and curated section

Written by Eyal Zucker

Internationalism is a political principle which transcends nationalism and advocates a greater political or economic cooperation among nations and people. Supporters of this principle are referred to as internationalists, and generally believe that the people of the world should unite across national, political, cultural, racial, or class boundaries to advance their common interests, or that the governments of the world should cooperate because their mutual long-term interests are of greater importance than their short-term disputes. (from Wikipedia)

Today (2019), principles of internationalism are in some what of a decline. The US-China trade war, Brexit and the populist movements in countries like Austria, Sweden, Hungary, Poland and others are leaning towards nationalistic principles. Some thought leaders attribute this social political environment to the economic down turn of 2007/8.

Cosmonaut 1001 by Daniela Kostova

Cosmonaut 1001 is a celebration of internationalism. A white dove has landed on the head of an infant child in a space suit, its sewn-on badges suggesting affiliation with countries previously on opposite sides of a divide, Capitalist and Communist.

The image feels borrowed from a TV commercial designed to convince us of a dream which anyone’s money can buy: the Cold War is over, globalization of space is a reality and even infants can fly.

Cosmonaut 1001 was produced for the exhibition After the Flight, curated by Iara Boubnova and dedicated to the 50th anniversary of the first human flight in outer space. It was presented at the Institute for Contemporary Art in Sofia.

From a macro perspective the current period is some what analogous to the late 1930’s. After the Great Depression and the economic collapse of 1929, the wealth gap between the rich and the have-nots was at its peak. This drove populism in countries which led to conflicts and war. In 2019 the wealth gap is at its peak (again), mainly because people who owned financial assets have benefited greatly from economic stimulus, also referred to as Recovery, versus those who did not own financial assets, which represent most of the population, and did not benefit from this so-called Recovery. In fact, from an economic perspective, the have-nots experienced stagnation and decline of their purchasing power.

This type of polarity creates tension, which leads to populism and protectionism. People’s loose faith in the political process is driving them to look for alternatives. This opens the opportunity for nationalist agendas to influence people’s opinions and gain political power. How all of this is going to play out is for us to see in the next upcoming years, and during these times it is interesting to see how principles of Internationalism can be communicated not only through economics but through arts and culture.

New York based artist Daniela Kostova has an incredible talent to work with seemingly obvious features of our society and at the same time discover very specific aspects and details that make her art on the one hand playful, and the other hand serious and critical. In her last cycle of art works she deals with playgrounds and their philosophy. Berlin based art critic and curator Boris Kostadinov adds, “It turns out that the playground is a very serious topic with historical, social and political features.”

LOOSE by Daniela Kostova

Last summer Kostova’s art installation LOOSE was presented at Structura Gallery, in Sofia, her country of birth, as part of the international exhibition Subversive Play, curated by Izabel Galliera. The exhibition considered the concept of play, play objects and playful environments in public and institutional spaces as potent subversive sites. It aimed to problematize normative expectations of play by inviting artists to consider denying public access to their works.

LOOSE questioned what is safe and what is not in the overprotective U.S. society by comparing American standards of childhood play to those of Kostova’s Bulgarian upbringing. The starting point for this project was research on “Adventure Playgrounds”. Once called “Junk Playgrounds,” they materialized in the aftermath of WWII when London architects realized that kids preferred playing in the bomb ruins instead of at designated conventional play spaces. Currently, these “dangerous” playgrounds are both a privilege of first-world children, and natural play environments for children in warzones.

LOOSE by Daniela Kostova

Embodying concepts such as “free play” and the “loose parts theory,” these emerging spaces represent alternate social models that questions power structures and control mechanisms, while unleashing the imagination. An amazing way to communicate the message to young children through an experience of play.

Inspired by this concept, Kostova built a “dangerous” playground inside her apartment in New York, where kids could play with ropes, sand, mud and fire. Addressing the numerous regulations of public space in the U.S, “I considered the private home setting the only “safe” place for free play” Translating concepts of this project for the gallery space, she created a series of manipulated photo sculptures that are constricted by ropes. LOOSE was presented for the first time at A.I.R. Gallery in NYC.

Flip House by Daniela Kostova at the Queens Museum, NY

An international arist, Kostova moved from Sofia to New York. “I currently live in Brooklyn. My studio is in Bushwick, a gentrified former immigrant part of Brooklyn, populated with ruff industrial buildings now housing art-studios, bars, restaurants, galleries, both commercial and artist-run. Large hand painted graffiti walls and artisanal stores attract tourists in double decker busses, turning the artists someimtes into guides of Airbnb experiences.”

A little further in Williamsburg is the ISCP, an art residency home to many international artists, some supported by their countries, some grantees of fellowships provided by the institution itself. These types of programs are ideal for international artists, simply because the rental studio prices and living expenses in NYC are very high and spaces are often limited.

Adventure Playground by Daniela Kostova

Kostova is also a mentor for immigrant artists at the NYFA Immigrant Artist Program.

Situated in Dumbo, Brooklyn, a NYC landmark and home to many artist studios and programs.

Her works were recently exhibited in LAZYBOY, a collaborative project with artist Eva Davidova, and in Art in Odd Places: BODY, curated by Katya Grokhovski at Westbeth Gallery in the West Village. Kostova also continues to exhibit in her home country, last year she was invited to create a new work for the exhibition Metaphorai. The project was scpecially designed for the Center of Contemporary Art in Plovdiv, Bulgaria.