THE EXHIBITION "BIOGRAPHY: A MODEL KIT"
DANIELA COMANI
WORK:
It Was Me. Diary 1900-1999
2002/2019
Print on net vinyl

It Was Me. Diary 1900-1999
2002/2019
Audio loop
60 min.
Daniela Comani's piece is produced in three versions — as a text on the wall, an audio recording and a book (at the present exhibition the first two are combined). Moreover, all three versions use the same conceptual tool, that is, they unite two forms of storytelling, biographical and historical. The first-person narrator lists the events that occurred in each of the 366 days of a leap year. However, while the month and the date of the events align with reality, the indicated years are mixed up — taken together the events represent the history of the twentieth century. "January1st," Daniela Comani's story begins, "I founded the Communist Party of Germany in Berlin." It ends with the words, "December 31st. During a New Year party I flee Cuba. Thus ends my regime."

This seemingly simple device makes the text exceptionally succinct. It lays bare the basic elements of a narrative — biographical and not only. While the life events of 366 days are told in chronological order, the sequence of historical events is broken. These two kinds of narration — linear, a simpler one, and a nonlinear, a more complex one, were described by Aristotle, who referred to them respectively as mythos and logos, and the theorists of the Russian formal school introduced the terms of fabula and plot. Undoubtedly, most narratives in their endeavor to convey the complexity of the human experience go beyond fabula, forming complex temporal structures that disrupt the linear sequence. Therefore, as stated by formalists, while the fabula of "Anna Karenina" can be described in one paragraph, to become acquainted with this novel's plot one has to read it from the first line to the last. Similarly, the fabula of Comani's piece is recited in the first paragraph of this text and to comprehend its plot one has to read the piece or listen to it from the beginning to the end. However, while as a rule fabula is mixed into the plot, in Comani's self-reflective piece the fabula and the plot are plainly visible and fit each other like an object stored in its individual case.

With her paradoxical manipulation with time, Comani draws our attention to the fact that any narrative in essence is temporal. The reason people tell their life stories is that they want to apprehend themselves from the perspective of time. Similarly, they study history, because it enables them to locate their life in the bigger historical narrative. Without this we cannot build our identity. In Comani's work this is revealed through the affectation with which she stresses her presence in time — "It was me!" — as well as her urge to fully identify herself with her era and its events. The dialectical relationship between the universal and the particular, between the impersonal and the personal are characteristic of any narrative. People tell their life stories, which in their turn reflect their era. At the same time, when people are talking about their era, they inevitably draw on their personal experience. Unlike most narratives in which this background is hidden, the structure of Comani's piece per se makes it clearly visible.

Finally, when telling their life stories people usually start from the ever-ongoing present, making it part of history. However, when writing a story, they perceive it as something accomplished that is described as seen from afar. Combining biography with history, Comani shows that in both cases, describing their past, people tell their story, justifying their present and shaping their future.

THE HUMAN CONDITION
artistic director of the project: Viktor Misiano
National Center for Contemporary Arts
Moscow Museum of Modern Art
Jewish Museum and Tolerance Center
Made on
Tilda