Benera and Estefan
The Equitable Principle, 2012-ongoing
mixed-media installation

"The Equitable Principle explores Romania’s geopolitical position and the historical controversies and territorial disputes around Snake Island, a remote rocky islet located in the north-western part of the Black Sea. In 1991, after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Snake Island became an object of a long-standing dispute between Romania and the Ukraine, stemming from shared economic interests in large oil and gas reserves. Romania brought the case to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) at The Hague, and the court’s decision was to draw an equidistant line between the Ukrainian and Romanian shorelines. The ICJ awarded the biggest share to Romania, but the oil concessions in the sea had already been granted to multinational companies before the resolution of the trial.

Benera and Estefan conceptualize this deceptive ‘recovery’ in The Equitable Principle. The artists cut out a 0,509 square-metre surface from a frozen part of the Black Sea—the unit that each Romanian citizen would get, had the maritime area been divided equally. Benera and Estefan applied a similar procedure to the area of Snake Island (which Romania lost). The artists take a trip to the island—navigating the Ukrainian bureaucracy in order to secure the necessary access permit—to smuggle approximately 8 square millimetres of soil out to Bucharest. The two complementary actions are the artists’ ‘political alchemy’: on one hand, what was lost (the island) is symbolically recovered (the 8 square millimetres of land per capita); on the other hand, what was gained (the maritime area) is lost, as the ice removed from the Black Sea evaporates."

Magda Radu