You lose your balance when I hold you tight

Protective vest combat style, fencing suit, martial arts equipment, vest / apron / belt for all other sumo times. Four objects constructed by Iulia Toma, in the small white room on the top floor of Ivan gallery, in which you enter as in a temporarily intimate space, similar to those rented whose transience we both fill and don’t fill with intimacy.

Combat situations (sports related or not) are a form of public demonstration of our deepest affects: insecurity, self-preservation instinct, empathy to the other person’s pain, one’s own fear. The outfit specific to each combat style is utilitarian but it also signals the conventional construction of an interval, of a minute threshold between the public awe in front of broadcasted slaughters and the home-grown fear, grown in in-house laboratories; for its combat we train or at least we constantly promise ourselves to begin training.

In Bucharest one of the few women only gyms has pink equipment which apparently, reading the comments left by some women clients, provides a big part of the success. I think it’s really the last one remaining functional, who knows – maybe the absurd pink pillows and protections for benches or for weight machines/ back exercising represent exactly the stereotypical range required to drive fear towards the solution of training while obliterating any reference to that threshold of public and private aggression against each of us which actually makes training a necessity and requires from us to always be prepared and under self-defense conditions.

Four outfits displayed in a (probably) ex bedroom which has been converted into a (semi) public space. Iulia Toma works with fabric, often building or transforming clothing pieces or other sewn objects that build up a logical route through the course of the artist’s interest: poverty, unpaid domestic work, the weakening of the private space, and autobiographical references to the set of institutional trainers of public fears and of collective mentalities. Texture, degree of finish and discrete interventions matter for each of the four objects: two of them produced form start to finish as for a micro-runway show from a dystopian future, one which existed already in Iulia’s wardrobe, that she decorates, and the last one, in raw state, gathered from the overlapping fragments of her own clothes.

I know how to lunge. The sharp tip of my foil stings your sight, the glow of the costume contains the message that betrays. We both know that, ultimately, the place where we are will be the property of others, writes Iulia in the text accompanying the installation.

Protective vest with white office collar and orthodox stole golden edges. Fencing suit in two halves, the one on the left quilted row upon row bearing the year 1974, martial arts shirt with national folklore motifs that seem to have been torn apart and resemble a vernacular cartography, apron / belt holding the history of personal wardrobe pieces, as many as cooking stains. The nation state, the church institution, corporation preaching white collar work and mandatory dress code. Survival and colorful resistance through second-hand clothes in transitional housing. 1974-2014 and counting. Self defense and the hope to find the balance point or breaking point inside the person closest to you, the one you fight against or with. Exit solution: migration on Mars wearing a hand-made astronaut suit in a do-it-yourself rocket.

Iulia Gabriela Toma is a mix-media artist, working with textiles, painting, photography, installation and text. She has focused lately on social themes that resonate with her own biography: feminism, women’s rights, interpersonal relationships in closed communities, urban materiality of living, social equity etc. Her discourse includes visual and activist directions, as she tries each time to elaborate on the proportions between message and material. She collaborates with the Department of Art and Textile Design of the National University of the Arts in Bucharest. Her works have been included in important group shows such as „Tricoul Roşu” (2014, W.A.D. , Arad), „Working Title” (2014, MAGMA, Sf. Gheorghe), “First Shift, Second Shift and the Night Shift “ (2013, Platforma space, Anexa MNAC) “Ceea ce distrugem şi celebrăm în acelaşi timp” That which we destroy and celebrate in the same time ( 2012, Salonul de Proiecte, Bucuresti), “Dear Money” (2013, Salonul de proiecte, VIENNAFAIR), “Muzeul Muncii” / Work Museum, (2012 „Cultura ca sistem de operare”, AltArt, Cluj).


Iulia Toma: Untitled Fighter was at Ivan Gallery in Bucharest, until November 15, 2014.


English translation by Ramona Dima.


Simona Dumitriu

Simona collaborated until 2015 with Ileana Faur, Marian Dumitru and Claudiu Cobilanschi at Spațiul Platforma, an artist-run space supported by the National Museum of Contemporary Art / MNAC in the An...

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