Blow by Alina Lupu

“My best ‘trick’” with balloons is inflating two in my mouth at once. On a good day, I can inflate as many as five (if they’re all lined up just right)“ — Unknown

“Blow is the first in a series of interventions in public and institutional spaces that I am developing. It’s a purposeless activity I performed for exactly eight hours in the Museumplein (Museum square Amsterdam), the duration of a complete work shift. In the end I blew four hundred balloons, but it didn’t turn into a celebratory moment when you would release all the balloons at once; it was meant as a working schedule routine or a line of production.”

“People never knew where the balloons come from, even though there was one person blowing them. Different groups of people started gathering them and playing around with them yet there was the question of a common confusion: “are they coming from that person or from that person or what’s really happening?” and this was an interesting exercise in futility. There is also a tension (and interplay) in the public space of the Museum square between citizenship and institutions, pleasure and productivity and multicultural identities that inhabit the space.”

“I didn’t have any recognizable sign to point out that I am performing an action, but I was actually dressed in a quite specific way -I had a black shirt, a formal skirt and black shoes, an outfit you could call typical worker’s dress code on a regular office day. People could see me blow the balloons, but as they spread out throughout the square they kind of lost track of who’s behind the whole happening. There was just one person who came up to me warning me that I could get a fine, but it was the only case when someone spoke to me. Then we started talking about performance because he wanted to know “the meaning behind this performance.” I tried to tell him that it was not a performance because I didn’t know all the coordinates of what was going to happen, I hadn’t planned or rehearsed it and I didn’t have any kind of control over it, so in a way it was more like an improvised action than a performance. In reality at that moment everyone walking through the square was actually carrying out a performance, each position — be it that of a tourist or of people employed by the surrounding institutions, such as the Stedelijk Museum, the Rijksmuseum, the Van Gogh Museum, the Concert Hall, the US Consulate, the German Consulate, held its own performative stance. I was questioned by the Van Gogh Museum about what I was doing in front of their institution, even if the square is officially regarded as public ground. So the Museum square is an institutionalized space in a way, even though it’s public. The questioning of the institution and its mechanisms is a topic of interest to me and one I would like to develop in the next work of this series, probably at the municipality civil registry where people sign themselves in as official inhabitants of Amsterdam.”

“Blowing balloons in public spaces isn’t necessarily a statement against the institution, it’s more about trying to figure out my relation with the institution and also trusting it. I am not an anarchist, not in that sense. I don’t want to abolish the institution. I want to understand how institutions function, how they function in relation to me, how do they trigger and shape me but I try to not identify them as bad by default.”

“I recently ran across a quote which Jan Verwoert tried to frame in one of his lectures. He mentioned that (paraphrasing) “artists are damned, but carefully public” in the sense that they cannot help doing what they do. I thought, at the time, that each artistic action, seen through this lens, becomes more endearing. There is the need to speak, to scream, to be shown, to be there. But that’s not my attitude. I don’t necessarily want to be public. I am more of an observer. I am interested in questioning how artists do what they do and what does it mean “to be an artist” and how are you shaped by different elements from institutional frameworks to your own personal background.”

“I always used to write and I ended up studying photography at a certain point, soon enough after I spend time with a friend who had a camera and I thought I should have one as well. I made a lot of portraits at the time, but also street photography which was very spontaneous. My interests changed to conceptual art when I understood the limits of photography. There is only so much you can do when you photograph, you end up with a surface that you have to show somewhere. Even now I make photographs and I put them online or on my instagram, but it’s different of course. I still look and I still capture but I don’t frame, I don’t think about paper quality or other aesthetic qualities, because I don’t find these concerns interesting. ”

“I was trained as an artist to let go of everything that I knew, to “de-learn” rather than learn and this helped to shape my position. I always wanted to understand what it means to be stripped away from what you know and where would that lead me and where would that lead people who don’t necessarily have an education in the arts anyway. Being the character that makes is what counts, and it doesn’t really matter what you make. It can be objects, ideas, it can differ greatly. Something making means going into your own personal history so much that you become crazy.”

“I like to work with red. Especially in the case of the female-artist it points towards playing a part, performing a role. Like Chris Krauss writes, there is an excess of passion, which is not necessarily aesthetic, but it’s powerful and consuming. As a female-artist I used to wear red lipstick and I think red in general is another costume that you wear. Red embodies the character that consumes itself in front of you while making. In the woman’s case there is this exhaustion, when you are involved in the project and it’s consuming you.”

“I think as an artist you are also just doing your job like everyone else in a way, even if you don’t have proper funding for it, or the space, all these elements that would justify your intervention in a public space. You just do something because you are driven to do it. And again, sometimes it is pointless. Most of the time it’s pointless, and that’s ok. In this case, the public aspect of the work was very important for me and this is something I am interested in.”


Part of ‘I Amsterdact’ 2016. Made alongside: Daniela Medina Poch, Juan David Galindo and Mariël Smit. Displayed at Home of Art, Amsterdam. Photos: Andreea Peterfi.


To see more of Alina’s work visit her Instagram or Website.