Daniela Kostova’s solo exhibition, Loose at A.I.R. Gallery (the first women’s cooperative gallery in the United States, founded in 1972) in DUMBO Brooklyn, questions the notions of the balance between freedom and safety in a child’s world. Kostova remembers playing as a child in Bulgaria with hardly any rules and/or regulations. Her installation hearkens back to this feeling of play as a complete abandonment of rules and innocence teetering on peril.
For starters, a visitor to her installation may feel a sense of dizziness due to a large geometric shaped photographic mural that has been angled partly on the wall and then, continues onto the floor. The mural like photograph depicts children on a tire swing, arching and bending to achieve the feeling of flying higher and higher. In addition, faux snowballs lay scattered randomly on the floor, a photo of mud swirled into shapes by small hands placed in the center of the floor, and a recently chopped log in a corner, create a sensation of forbidden play. It’s as if the children had played and left in a hurry. In addition, an open bag of sand spills on the floor buttressed by a car tire connected to a rope that springs down from the corner of an opposite wall. The rope stretched so tight divides the room, perhaps symbolizing a boundary between rules imposed by adults and the carefree world of a child. Parents aim to create a safe zone for children. However, eventually the safe zone transforms and the space becomes roped in. In fact, ropes are tied around rolled enlarged photos which are displayed in the center of the gallery space. These sculptural forms depict the push/pull between pure childhood joy and confinement. The photos depict children energized by sheer enjoyment, and then quite literally given boundaries by their rolled shapes and the inherent nature of knotted ropes.
Kostova created a playground within her living room at home and invited her daughter and friends to play within this set up environment of a forbidden safe zone. Photographs of the children playing in Kostova’s indoor playground were ultimately shot during a few sessions. As a parent, I completely understand Kostova’s concern as to how much freedom a child requires to learn and discover without confining and imposed boundaries. As parents, we find it necessary to find a balance between controlling children’s actions and allowing for self discovery without impediments. Kostova’s benign substances, including non toxic sand, spa quality mud and, the illusion of fire would ultimately cause no harm to the children, thus creating an ambiguous space between safety and danger. Furthermore, these installation elements create an in-between state of fear and anticipation, seriousness and bliss. As I watched some of the children in attendance at the opening coloring with crayons on pages taken from a coloring book, namely Kostova’s daughter and some of her friends, I found that this balance between safety and danger was achieved. For this parent, as I made my way through the gallery space, child-like sensations of joy won over the self-imposed constraints of my adult life.