Proof of Identity - Dessislava Terzieva
We live in a world in which identity has been weaponized. Nations and generations clash at fortified borders, and we are told every day to offer up our identities as concrete facts provable beyond doubt, as badges of access to the exclusive spaces of sanctuary that we move between.
Proof of Identity, a new solo exhibition by Dessislava Terzieva, invites us to seek this sanctuary within identity itself.
Through this immersive collage of sculpture, painting and performance, Terzieva entices us to twirl playfully across thresholds of memory and culture, in step with the richly interwoven rhythms and mysteries of our individual lives. Here we are defied to move beyond the authoritarian idea of identity as a definitive statement, and to see it instead as an endlessly thrilling process of inquiry and discovery, towards new ways of explaining who we are to ourselves and our loved ones.
The abundance of found objects in this collection pays fanciful tribute to the randomness that underpins identity. Who are we, if not a never-ending curation of whatever experiences have tumbled like trinkets down from unknown ancestors and into our laps? When a simple garment carrier becomes first a chrysalis, and then a body bag for a past life, the artist is daring us to be bold as we follow where it leads.
And yet, despite this randomness, we cannot escape those established modes of discourse that remind us that identity is never performed in a vacuum, no matter how fragmentary and contradictory it may appear.
Is it the reverent gold of Byzantine sainthood that enshrines these family photos, or are we most drawn to the quick-drying neons of celebrity that they are doused with? And what do we make of that brutal concrete husk of Eastern Europe’s forgotten promises, hoisted triumphantly upon a Roman pedestal of nostalgia? What if it strikes us instead as a totem pole of ruination, warning us of what happens when we bind ourselves pridefully to an imperial heritage?
There are other revelations too, if we are brave enough to look beyond the limits of cultural symbols and consider how our identities are shaped by the border treaties of our personal relationships. Who do we tell and re-tell our stories with? Who are our partners in the trading of trinkets? Who do we perform our identities for? Who do we perform them against?
If nothing else, this collection challenges us to consider identity not as a provable fact, but as one proof among many; the latest in a series of drafts in the grand design and re-design of our lives.