Liv Schulman Imagines the Demise of Europe

06 MAY 2021

Argentine artist Liv Schulman is known for making videos with narratives that explore subjects as diverse as the economy, the conditions of creation and the processes of alienation. For last year’s edition of steirischer herbst, for instance, she produced Brown, Yellow, White and Dead (2020) – a four-part video series addressing the phenomenon of the prosumer. In ‘Eurropa’, Schulman’s current exhibition at CRAC Alsace, the artist responds to Altkirch’s location on the border of three European countries: France, Germany and Switzerland.

For the show, the artist produced the titular, site-specific video installation Eurropa (2021), which imagines a fictional Europe after the demise of the European Union and the border-free Schengen area initiated in 1995. Schulman takes particular interest in European tax havens – Andorra, Guernsey, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Monaco, San Marino and Switzerland – where the wealthy store their money. Having travelled around and researched these locations, the artist developed a project that focussed on their history and architecture – as well as the contradictions they embody.

Each of CRAC’s seven galleries contains a film dedicated to one of these countries. The protagonists are customs officers carrying out their regular duties, such as checking the passports of new arrivals. However, most of the time, they chat about a variety of topics – the origins of coffee trading, the Portuguese occupation of South America – or hang around cash points and banks. One of the most striking aspects of their conversations is that they seem to have completely forgotten the EU ever existed. Like investigators, the characters in Eurropa appear to be searching for the means to capture the essence of these orderly yet often elusive locales.

While moving from one gallery to another, visitors must at times navigate the border agents’ uniforms, made from furniture blankets, which have been spread out across the floor. In a portentous vision of the future, Europe – reduced to the intermediary space of the CRAC’s corridors – has been suppressed in favour of these countries with their murky tax systems. Moreover, since there is no narrative continuity between the videos for each territory, it is almost impossible to comprehend the piece in its entirety and, consequently, to grasp what defines this new version of Europe. At the entrance to the exhibition, a railway-style timetable announces the start time of each video, from 9am to 11:25pm. Since this schedule extends beyond the gallery’s opening times, Schulman seems to indicate that our perception of Eurropa will only ever be partial.

The films themselves are installed in a variety of ways: the Luxembourg video is shown on a wall-mounted monitor reminiscent of those used in waiting rooms. In the galleries for Andorra, Monaco and Lichtenstein, the films are projected onto cinema-style screens. The embedded monitors held in place by steel supports in the Guernsey and San Marino galleries lend a strong sculptural presence, reminiscent of the high-security architecture of banks, while Switzerland’s installation spans two rooms, with a hole drilled into the party wall enabling both screens to be viewed simultaneously. By rendering ‘Eurropa’ inscrutable in its entirety, Schulman effectively mirrors the opaque systems of these enigmatic tax havens.

Liv Schulman's ‘Eurropa’ is on view at CRAC Alsace, through 30 May 2021.

Main image: Liv Schulman, 'Eurropa', 2021, installation view, CRAC Alsace. Courtesy: the artist and CRAC Alsace; photograph: Aurélien Mole