Conversations

Terroir Q&A Series: Margarita Fainshtein

Terroir: a Nova Scotia Survey is in it's final week on vew at the Gallery and we are winding down our Terroir Q&A series with a reflection of Margarita Fainshtein's work and practice, in her own words.

We hope that you have a chance to get out to the Gallery and experience Terroir before the exhibition closes this Sunday (January 15, 2017) is the final day to view, but never fear, the gorgeous full-colour hardcover exhibition publication is available for sale at the Gallery Shop

 

What is your connection to Nova Scotia, and why were you inspired to submit a work for this exhibition?

My identity is formed and built from many cultures, languages and nations, which come together in Nova Scotia, Halifax city. I am thinking where I am from and how this cultural “baggage” influences my current identity.

Through our lives my family and me were “tagged” by the national aspect and were treated accordingly. Here, in Canada, Nova Scotia, for the first time in my life I open my passport and see “Canadian”, with no other national adjectives.

The exhibition’s theme is very close to my art practice, which is about culture, identity and memories.

 

Can you tell us a little about your work that is on view?

Memory - a copper plate covered with letters, which smoothed out the time quietly, if at times not to renew their cutter"
- John Locke

The work I’ve submitted to the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia show is a printmaking floor installation. My practice investigates notions of Identity and Erasure and the intersection of these concepts when applied to cultural and generational crossings. Utilizing printmaking techniques and multi- generational family documents, I enlarge then layer these documents on top of one another. I fuse into the canvas, the letters and documents from several generations, embossing them into the surface and binding them together. During this process I lose and abolish the patterns stamped into the official papers and erase the details, creating a new vibrant identity reminiscent of the mixed languages and cultures where my family lived. Some elements are still visible, while others are completely erased, forming something else.

This obscuring creates a new unreadable, yet unified identity. The resulting installation consists of three canvases, which interact with a floor based sculptural element of 7 laser carved wooden and plexiglass plates.

I believe all of us have memory and history. From the very beginning of our lives we learn about our cultures, traditions and roots; we believe in it. We never think that history is a mutable thing that could change according to the politic situation or specific timing of the circumstances. Is the time linear or there is a reenactment, which could disturb this chronopolitic process to create new interpretation of same events and deeds? What outcomes and influences does it have on our modern history? How personal history or memories are overlapped and generate the public ones? What is the difference between memory and past?

 

What are you working on in now, or planning for the near future?

The world is becoming more diverse; cultural borders are converting into bridges and acceptance of a cross-cultural reality influences societal identity through the generations. I think about my practice as a platform, which tries to understand multiculturalism through collective and personal memories as objects, which are part of the identity and culture one is exposed to.

I am continuing the theme I’ve started at the Art Institute of Chicago, where I am doing my MFA. There, I began to materialize my ideas of cultural identity and belonging. I am working in a printmaking technique, although experimenting with it and expend the traditional meaning of it. I build 3D installations, printing on acetate and working with the lights, shadows and reflections. I am participating in Nocturne this year as one of the beacon artists with an art project, named Thinking with an accent – Part 2, which involves printing on plexiglass and acetate, creating the mystery safe place of a shadows and memories.

Also, right now I am working on written dialog with my 92 year old Grandfather, where we share one of the most private and valuable things that any person has; memories. When one looses everything, even the last hope, the memories are still there. Recently, he shared with me his thoughts about history, culture and reenactment of his times. By reproducing my Grandpa memories, I meet his friends and restore his emotions and atmosphere of these times. I am writing to my Grandfather, who is sharing his memories with me and I am planning to share them with you through my project. Does it mean we all will have mutual memories?

 

How has your artistic process developed over time? What informs your practice?

I view my practice as a collaboration with past generations and with my own memories.

Through my work I wonder if memories, when layered one upon another, become buried in the past or are there remains left from a former life, identity, or time. I try to discover if anybody can recuperate their own past and I question to what extent identity is truly unique or inherent.

I believe culture defines history and is strongly connected to it. There is a phenomenon, when cultures and histories are crossed, forming multiculturalism and multilingualism. This intersection generates an interesting singularity, which creates a separate layer of culture, which alien to others and develops an alternative set of questions about identity, language, history, time and culture in a whole.

If to think about history as a cultural feature, which could be adjusted and edited depending on geographical location, socio-economic issues and time aspects, my art practice supports this claim by overlapping personal history (or memories) and public ones. By involving audience in my art works, telling them the history, which was experienced by one, I am projecting it on others, converting the viewers into active participants. Personal memory (experience) becomes public and forms a mutual history with the hope that past alters the future and with the desire to change it.

 

When you’re not working, what are activities/interests that inspire your practice?

I feel like I am always working on my art, even when I am not. I obtain a lot of inspiration from my culture, family and memories. We just had our baby and I am fascinated how the new life is connected and infused into my identity, the identity of my parents and grandparents; how the generations are related, without even having a chance of meeting each other.

What documents our daughter will have? And how documents, the pieces of paper, influence the lives of entire generation?

Image Credit: 

Thinking with an Accent, 2015, mixed media installation (prints on canvas, laser cut on wood and acrylic glass), dimensions variable.