“Dura-Europos” is Iulia Toma’s second exhibition project at Ivan Gallery, with a meta-installation of textile collages, photography and video which points out and investigates in a personal way delicate issues for the contemporary geopolitic and social context, among which war, dislocation and alterity. The artist’s gestures suggest standpoints and attitudes which seek to generate empathy and nearness in regard to foreign yet present life situations, such as those of refugees and migrants. At the core of the exhibition is the textile installation #orientalswelcome, made of oriental carpets altered through a symbolical process which interrogates these social classes’ possibilities, statute and options. The animals and characters defined by the rugs’ fabric are cut out and singularised, taken out of context and in the same time freed from their surrounding netting. This point zero of existence has in itself a negative and positive potential likewise, on account of what can happen to a person after his/her containing matrix, his/her environment is removed, after his/her familiar atmosphere is suddenly taken away and the individual gradually stripped of his/her social, cultural and national layers finds him/herself alone in a setting laking any known coordinates, which require personal (re)adjustment and (re)construction.
Dura-Europos was a city at the oriental border of the Roman Empire, somewhere in today’s Eastern Syria. It had changed its rule many times before it was destroyed and deserted in the 3rd Century AD, while during Hellenistic and Roman times it was a cosmopolite and tolerant settlement in which lived together Jews, Romans, Greeks and Persians. Here have been discovered the ruins of the oldest Christian house church, and also here has been preserved a synagogue with rare figurative mural paintings. These coexisted with a Mithraeum and Roman military garrisons. Today, its ruins have been more than 70% devastated and are under the Islamic State’s occupation.
Dura-Europos is also known for its textile artefacts which have been discovered on its archaeological site, attesting the enduring tradition of the prosperous Syrian textile industry. The fabric remains contain information regarding the culture, lifestyle and history of human communities, they are fragments and traces of the bodies and the people from another time and space. Through these threads Iulia Toma connects to foreign civilisations and experiences and through this thread she passes on her own feed-backs and states of mind as well.