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Andrea Williamson
Bogdan Cheta at Stride Gallery
August 19, 2014

Upon visiting Bogdan Cheta's residency in Stride's project room (in partnership with the M:ST Performative Art Festival), a staff member gave me an Ikea-brand ziplock bag containing pink and green documents, assembled by the artist for visitors, while she checked whether Bogdan could accept an unexpected guest. The bag of pastel papers reminded me of a free informational package you might receive at a health clinic. Perhaps this was intentional. As I later read in these papers, Bogdan frequently visits clinics in dealing with health issues and as a way to cope with a strong premonition that he will soon face death.

Bogdan Cheta, Be what you want, but stay where you are

One way he's found acceptable is to retreat into books and thoughts, or a more abstract (impersonal) realm of elements and nature, like the escape routes of his guides Agnes Varda and Roland Barthes. But it's not that he doesn't like/need/want other people. In fact, he says, à la Barthes, that his audience is an imagined lover and he is always viewing things through the third-person eyes of the friend or admirer. In answer to one of Sophie Calle's survey questions (created for herself in place of the typical meaningless artist interview questions), Bogdan says what's missing from his life is touch.

His project at Stride is a continuation of a collaborative oral history project called "long way from home" that is also supported by EAR (Elephant Artist Relief). He invites people to take him to a beloved place of their choosing and talk with him about "the intercrossings between art, therapy, and the notion of 'wellness' in a time of financial collapse and un-negotiated austerity measures." His residency is a temporary home where you can contribute to his shared research or find him working through his encounters, while always seeing the world "as a construction, a project, and an intention." If you come visit his project room, remember that it's not only an artwork but a place of living and that you will not only be a viewer, but a potential friend. You probably already share many of the same questions about how to survive and it's nice to find a friend in this.

Stride Gallery:
Bogdan Cheta: Be what you want, but stay where you are continues until October 10.

Andrea Williamson is a Calgary-based writer and artist. Her reviews have appeared in C magazine, Swerve, Color magazine, esse arts and opinion, and FFWD. She can be followed on Twitter @andreawillsamin. This is her last review for Akimblog before she begins an MFA in Fine Art at Goldsmiths College in the UK.



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