From the catalogue of the exhibition PARADOXES. THE EMBODIED CITY, Gulbenkian Foundation, Lisbon, 2005
COMMUNITY WORK – A Report
The primary intention of this text is to introduce some the most interesting artistic positions and recent projects on the young Romanian scene. Individual cases will take precedence over an exhaustive presentation in this report, which seeks to convey the sense of a scene in progress, as Romanian art is learning to function in tandem with social life and to devise (post-)institutional formulas allowing it to expand its reach. Common themes, like re-mappings of certain territories in the history of art or the critique of nationalist reflexes of Romanian society, will emerge throughout this text. As disparate as these shared concerns may seem, they in fact articulate a common ground on which convergent practices can interact. Shared areas of investigation mean finding the like-minded and more and more frequently lead to forms of collaborative action. They also serve to outline the cultural profile of a generation – a term of limited applicability and dangerous in its extrapolations, yet useful in many respects in the particular Romanian context, in the sense of a platform of ideas, emergencies, and complicated, confrontational answers with which artists in their twenties and thirties work.
Using the term as makeshift, I would say that this generation has come to define itself through acts of opposition, discontent with – in random enumeration – laments about historical belatedness or that indistinct evolutionary stage named “normalization”, the mystique of “international standards”, the traditional, perverse mixture of self-deprecation and feelings of exceptionality, the abuse and devaluation of symbols of the nation, the precariousness of institutional culture and the dysfunctions of political life in contemporary Romania. In a different context I have termed this diffuse group the “after-the-mall generation”, whose practices contest to a certain extent those of predecessors: the “after-the-wall” generation, composed of artists coming out of the underground, changing course or becoming active after 1989, who delved with a sense of urgency into the political and social context of post-socialist Romania, challenged its collective disorientation but left behind a few participations in international exhibitions or the glorious memory of Soros funding and almost nothing in terms of institutional coherence or a consistent pedagogic exercise. The “after-the-mall” generation has chosen instead to work towards the multiplication of contexts in which art projects can perform their critical function as well as towards creating communities, supplanting the protest letter with the flash mob, the traditional catalogue with the fanzine and the roundtable with the barbecue, able to think in quite pragmatic terms about the social or political effectiveness of an art project. This generation seems perfectly aware of its unique historical position and manipulates its historical data with a sense of responsibility: young artists belong to the last generation to have experienced the social and political brutality of communism, a memory which is used as a critical instrument, but they have also seen the myth of consumerism deflate in post-revolutionary years, developing a certain immunity to utopia. A perfect illustration of this stance is ‘A 1st Person Shooter’, a project by Miklos Szilard recently performed at 2020 Home Gallery. The artist invited visitors to re-enact a game played by children growing up before 1989 in the proximity of construction sites that never seemed to achieve their purpose. The children would steal leftover plastic tubes from the construction sites and turn them into relatively harmless weapons, with pages ripped out of used school notebooks as raw material for arrows. Shooting paper arrows from the gallery established a violent, vindictive relation between the apartment used as exhibition space and the street (a fact soon confirmed by the arrival of intrigued police officers, less inclined to melancholy and by no means prey to any sort of déja-vu), reinstating this bit of shared memory as common ground for contemporary action.
The constellation of clichés that come with the Romanian territory is tackled in Alexandra Croitoru's series of “holiday photographs”. In the ideal sunny setting of the Maldives or in front of touristy landmarks across Europe, the artist poses wearing a mask knit in the colors of the Romanian flag, an image of the traveler dragging behind the burden of culpable origin, anonymously lending herself to a suspicious scan. The striking presence of the mask presupposes and actualizes an exterior instance, surveying the scene from a travel-size Panopticon and dividing the world according to stereotypes about the merits of various nations, deciding winners and losers in the game of victimization and self-victimization. The mask implies the massive simplifications of a rudimentary, vulgar sociology, which discerns the adversary by several schematic traits. Alexandra's works present us with an insidious portrait of power – a pseudo-figure, a face hidden behind another mask knit in the national colors of a country in which public order has in some way been jeopardized by Romanians. Confronted with an enemy which is so clear-cut and incapable of any stratagem in dissimulating criminal intent, power seems effective, untroubled and confirmed in its aims: the code of transnational communication – certainly not that of symposia and cross-cultural projects – works perfectly and seems to be taken very seriously in its transparent ridicule. Alexandra’s ironic treatment of the theme positions itself in stark contrast to Dan Perjovschi’s heroic consent to being labeled Romanian. The famous tattoo declaring national identity also engaged the logic which divides the world into advanced countries and nations perpetually smothered by their own mediocre history, helpless in their damnation. Yet there is a significant change of tone between the two statements, something which makes the generation gap and paradigm clash instantly visible. Playful disobedience replaces capitulation. Alexandra’s investigation was complemented, in the project ‘Powerplay’ exhibited at H’Art Gallery, by her photo sessions with “powerful” people, the MCs of the most popular hip-hop band, entertainment stars and the prime-minister, all averting their eyes from the camera, strangely dispossessed of any ability to control the situation.
Working in a subREAListic vein (in the sense defined on one occasion by Călin Dan, as revealing and playing with the supreme state secrets – poverty and the ridicule), the artist Vlad Nancă is the initiator of the already mentioned 2020 Home Gallery and of the ‘Începem’ (‘We’re getting started’) internet discussion group and fanzine – processes which gelled a collective of artists of diverse backgrounds around the ironic credo that Romania will be the epicenter of the art world in the year 2020. This collective practices a D.I.Y, low-budget post-institutional attitude, through projects like the intended creation of a network of home galleries, with art works traveling by post. As an artist, Vlad Nancă reacts to the misuse of national symbols, the backdrop of false heroics on which the nation seeks to project its daily life and the political channeling or appropriation of such practices. One victim of an excessive yet perfectly ignorant adulation is the poet Mihai Eminescu, mounted on a pedestal of paper and vociferousness from which he seems to command the nation’s self-reflection and to guide its natural propensity towards the absolute, the latter being probably the most stable preoccupation in Romanian culture. The idiotic and fundamentally destructive stardom thus achieved by the poet, completely isolated from the life of culture since rendered “ultimate” and “unique”, is counteracted by Vlad in a piece called ‘The Eminemscu Show’, which works either as a stencil graffiti in the streets or equipped with a heavy gilt frame in a gallery context. Joining hands we have the poet of longing and the lyricist of unhappy childhood or sworn revenge, a figment of pop marketing and the restless gesticulation of a culture which secretly perceives itself as second-rate. The Slim Shady of late Romanticism does stand up, with a chorus of academics, journalists and cultural workers ready to acclaim genius and to demand reverence in its name. The same strategy of “fuse and confuse” is deployed in a work which inverts the “logos” on Communist Party and European Union banners – the misplaced hammer, sickle and 12 stars accurately describe the ideological confusion that makes political life in Romania such a dispiriting spectacle and such an exercise in futility. ‘30 Years of Social History’ departs from the iconic significance of Dacia, an imported model of Renault from the ‘70s which was transformed into the national car and mass-produced until recently with almost no improvement involved. Vlad’s fast-paced slideshow has the car, with its seemingly inevitable design, parade in various cityscapes more or less affected by communist urbanism. Attention gradually shifts from the pitiful design of the car to the cityscape itself, oddly unitary in its desolation. All images become equalized in a sort of social numbness, into which the car punches always the same hole, metaphorically readable as rupture of the social tissue. The final slide has the Dacia positioned symmetrically in front of the House of the People, the crown jewel of communist architecture in Bucharest, in all its dumb grandeur. The House of the People must rank high in some top 10 of difficult buildings to look at, come to historical terms with and digest culturally. It is a flaccid expression of communist absolute power, an empty interdiction directed towards the city, isolated from the life outside and folded upon itself in a megalomaniac entanglement of decoration, abuse and meaningless glorification. It, and the adjoining Civic Centre, gridlocked a sizeable portion of the city. I must confess I haven’t checked whether it still is the second largest building in the world, yet it certainly belongs to a universal architectural freak show as one of the twisted wonders of late modernism. Another work by Vlad resorts to the edifice from a different perspective. When the news spread that the Romanian Orthodox intends to erect a monumental ‘Cathedral of National Redemption’, the artist proposed a morphing, a quick solution to both problems: the House itself can become a cathedral, by simply adding the generally recognizable signs of piety in the public sphere, dome and cross. No other adjustments would have been necessary to accommodate the new breed of megalomania, in the context of a perverse alliance between the ideology behind the House and the one evinced by the plans of the Orthodox Church, in a country trapped somewhere between the 19th and 21st century, still boasting its role in the Middle Ages as “defenders of faith” and where populist initiatives can display a remarkable opacity to the present and its imperative questions. Made last year, Vlad’s proposal brought together theoretically disparate realities; yet recent developments have confirmed what appeared at first to be no more than a quirk. Those disparate realities have come to articulate a closed, inescapable network, proving the artist’s derision prescient. After a few possible locations for the Cathedral were rejected, the site under consideration now is precisely the lawn in the back of the House, the only impediment being that the foundation of the Cathedral might affect the underground defense tunnels which spread from the House towards other locations vital for national security. This enfolding of military secret, conspiracy theory, late and falsified religiousness, megalomania and populism qualifies the House as a strange attractor for misplaced ambitions and unspoken political desires, as well as the perfect backdrop for acting out the post-communist syndrome. If the plan of church-plus-government is to enlist the support of that segment of population that needs this cathedral, and meanwhile safeguard the imperial isolation of the House, then the project of the Cathedral can work. If the plan is to cover the whole idea – and necessity – of urbanizing the House with a thick layer of ridicule, then the project is truly advisable. If the grandiosely confused plan is to build a sacred counterpart to the obscene violence of the House of the People, then the project is ill-advised. So is any thought that this might infuse life to an entire area ravaged by communist urbanism, or trigger the post-traumatic process.
‘The Palace’, by the duo Florin Tudor and Mona Vătămanu presents the opulent interiors of the House of the People, the very small portion of it that is accessible to avid, mostly foreign tourists, lead by guides ready to explain the architectural enigma. The brilliant idea behind ‘The Palace’ was to go twice and take two guided tours. What ensued is a two-channel video installation that works as a study in post-socialist psychology, reflecting a pregnant ambivalence towards the edifice and recent history in general: the two young guides perceive the House of the People differently, with feelings oscillating from pride to resentment and shame. Immediately after ‘89, the House was shortly opened to the public and Romanians proceeded in a bizarre political pilgrimage through its marble halls. The healing potential of the act found its counterpart in the fact that the majority of visitors left very positive remarks in the guest book, expressing their admiration for the achievement. The uprooting of tradition effected by communist propaganda and architecture was thus welcoming back its offspring, a generation ready to concur to the loss of measure and ideas of national superiority. Then the House was closed to the public and taken into possession by the new powers, not in the least worried about ancestry. The displacement seemed unproblematic: taking over the symbol of power was a natural and rightful gain, expressing the new democracy’s solidarity with its electors. Because the House was no longer viewed as the actualization of terminal megalomania, as the product of a troubled mind which cannot decide whether to follow an inferiority complex or a superiority compulsion, but – the new reading proclaimed – as a manifestation of the constructive genius of Romanians, of their mythic potential for buildings things that last. Communist propaganda would not have disagreed, as the new reading meandered around all the hard facts and harsh conclusions of recent history and, moving in a loop, re-branded the House and closed it again upon itself. Returning to the piece, even the statistical figures the guides in ‘The Palace’ provide about the space differ, as the two stories refer either to catastrophe or to “national value”, positioning the House as a highly ambiguous symbol, a collective trauma calling for collective psychoanalysis.
In ‘Persepolis’, Mona Vătămanu and Florin Tudor cast a clinical look at the urban anatomy of contemporary Bucharest, a dysfunctional organism whose limbs have declared war to each other. The scarred urban tissue testifies by implication to a mindset in which the memory of ravage, a readiness to forget and the vitality of reprisal co-exist. ‘Persepolis’ explores post-socialist dwelling, starting from the realization that “Bucharest contains superimposed patterns of constructed utopia”. Read diachronically, the images show the painful co-existence of three historical strata: early modernism, the particular brand of modernism practiced during communist times, and the contorted ways of new, post-revolutionary architecture. The flotsam of early modernism is what the severe interventions of communist urbanism left behind, as they sought to remap Bucharest by displacement and disruption, producing grids and gridlocks and paralyzing the organic growth of the city. ‘Persepolis’ includes both the ceremonial and the social type of communist architecture, the first designed to express absolute power and a complete disregard to notions of utility and scale, and the second to replicate endlessly the same precarious suburb, lending itself reluctantly to dwelling and discouraging the establishment of communities. In its turn, the socialist layer sustains today the onslaught of entrepreneurial urban thinking, engulfing and building upon urban dysfunction, adaptable and indifferent to context, channeling peripheral energies of opposition and colonizing space indiscriminately. Old and new ruins are striving to mute each other in cacophonic agglomeration: read synchronically, the images introduce viewers to an architectural war front, a site of collisions or tense juxtapositions between disjointed urban fragments, taking bricolage to the level of state policy and defying the prospect of a restorative master plan. I would not argue that ‘Persepolis’ aims to chart this city in progress, the Bucharest of emergency and uncertain deadlines, although an interstitial counter-geography, an emergent city mixed in and against the existing one is sometimes noticeable. Instead of cartography, the project makes reference to another visualization device: the panorama. This panorama of Bucharest is history made visible, in tandem with the definition proposed by Roland Barthes, yet not in the sense of a linear, impersonal flow of distant history, but in the flesh of buildings and places, by reading architecture like a narrative fresco.
Two other works also suggests this context: ‘Il Mondo Nuovo’ re-stages a mysterious painting by Giandomenico Tiepolo, in which the characters turn their back to the viewer, engrossed in contemplating something to which the viewer has no access. Mona and Florin reproduced the scene in a filmed performance acted by architects and artists from Innsbruck, who silently contemplate the central part of a construction site, from which the new world and the future of architecture will emerge – an architectural object that does not de-nature the landscape, that appeases all tensions and solves all problems engendered by communal living. The actors in the anticipated discovery stand at the threshold between two worlds (“architecture is the new world since there is no more land to discover and people are constantly re-processing their cities”, the artists say), somehow performing the utopian component that architecture unmistakably contains. In a film that the duo are about to complete, Florin sits under a heavy outpouring of rain, attempting to sketch from memory the (communist) block in which they live, with the rain of course washing away the ink and destroying the paper. The work is directly based on ‘La Pluie (Projet pour un texte)’, by Marcel Broodthaers, an artist who used cinema as a device of simultaneous inscription and erasure. The displaced quote functions like a subtle comment on communist architecture, whose unhinged seriality and infinite suburbs flout the organization of memory.
Although closer in age to the previous generation, Matei Bejenaru is an essential presence on the contemporary art scene in Iaşi, in North-Eastern Romania. He is the director of Vector Association, (organizers of the Periferic Biennial which in a relatively short span of time has turned from a performance festival of regional resonance to a very interesting international event), a curator and professor at the Iaşi Art Academy, as well as an arduous organizer of context for the projects of his younger artist colleagues. Matei’s work as an artist displays a sustained involvement with the status, well-being and self-perception of communities and minorities. He is, to my knowledge, the only Romanian artist who has turned this into the main theme of his artistic practice. One of his interventions consisted of installing pork meat smoking stands on a lawn between communist blocks in Iaşi, trying to recreate a village practice in the middle of the city. The people living in the area descended from peasants forcibly relocated by the communist regime to rudimentary urban settlements, obliged to abandon their habits and never quite adapted to the alien setting, which the intervention aspired to imbue with a sense of belonging. ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’ deals with the circulation of the work force: each year, thousands of Romanians go to Spain to harvest strawberries. In order to mediate between them and the local population, Bejenaru made strawberry jam in a public space in Barcelona, from fruit given to him as a gift by the workers, to whom the money resulted from selling the jam returned. Each jar of the “limited edition” had the hourly pay of Romanian workers inscribed on the label, thus articulating a complex system in which gift economy stands aside economic disparity, bringing each other into focus. ‘Lohn’ is an installation of seriously oversized garments, the increase in size being proportional with the profit foreign employers make by selling clothes manufactured in Romania by seriously underpaid local workers. When he learnt that half of the inhabitants of Tirana do not have access to drinking water, Bejenaru built a water post in front of the Enver Hoxha monument as his contribution to the 2003 Tirana Biennial, which has turned into truly the most popular work of art of the event. Finally, in ‘Mehr Chancen fur Unsere Jugend’ (‘More Chances for Our Youth’, electoral slogan of an Austrian politician), Bejenaru used the budget of his residency in Vienna to invite there a group of 5 young artists from his native Iaşi, that would thus have the chance to explore and interact with a blossoming contemporary art scene.
This type of practice that is firmly attached to the texture of society is one of the ways in which contemporary art can participate in the re-invention of solidarity in Romania. Among the projects produced by the young artists working with Vector, Dragoş Platon’s ’95 000’ also alerted to the economic exodus Romania is undergoing. Stickers stating that 95 000 Romanians have left the country in the last two years for better paid employment were placed in strategic locations in various cities. 95 000 was of course the official figure, derived from reports of the European Union and every passer-by whose attention the sticker caught could have completed the picture with countless stories of illegal immigration. Aurel Cornea’s ‘360 degrees/ Boomerang’ uses the term ‘magazine’ but works using different principles, by providing space for visual or textual contributions and no theme or restriction concerning content. A folder and a stapler are circulated among friends and via post without any predetermined editorial selection or policy. “The main goal of the magazine is the network which is created from the moment it is launched until there is no more space left to fill”, the artist states. Aurel Cornea was recently invited to do an intervention for the exhibition ‘The Painting Museum’ at the National Museum of Contemporary Art in Bucharest. The exhibition explored the official painting before 1989, the communist iconography of power. There were, in willful and historically accurate disarray, portraits of Nicolae Ceauşescu in dizzying variety, depicting the leader surrounded by workers, soldiers, grateful townspeople, children, doves, peasants, industrial and urban achievements, bears he had shot or medieval kings whose work he supposedly furthered. The obviously, humorously amateurish “homage” was mingled with works by prominent “masters of Romanian painting”. The artist reacted to this image of collective and frenzied orgy of obedience with ‘The Sound of Historical Conflict’, a sound installation in the elevators of the Museum. The piece was an equally indiscriminate and subversive political mix, as Aurel Cornea cross-faded between political speeches of different epochs – pre- or post-1989 – and of different motivations, yet all overflowing with the tropes of populism, as if a single voice had been speaking throughout modern history to one dormant Romanian nation, whose unity, to quote a commonplace of communist propaganda, has always been “unshakable”. There were patriotic songs and the brief disruption of the Revolution, then the political voice resumed its soothing mumble, always mesmerizing the audience, appeasing its civic vigilance and relegating it from the status of collectivity to that of crowd.
Based in Cluj, Duo van der Mixt (Cristian Rusu and Mihai Pop) act upon exasperation with the neuroses of an immature political and social system. Tracing the seeds of insanity in nationalist discourse and cultivating them in the art lab has been a major concern underlying the Duo’s research. ‘Micographia’, their first project, brought the Duo on the threshold of a graphic revolution. The raw material in this mixed media experiment was the meat used to cook mici (meat rolls), the culinary equivalent of “home” for any Romanian. Undisclosed spices make the blend relatively acid, capable of oxidizing certain surfaces. Equipped with meat blend and oak cutting boards, all it took for image-production were stencils and patience: the meat worked its magic, eroding into the wood the ghostly likenesses of Mona Lisa, Mickey Mouse, Michelangelo’s ‘David’, Einstein, the Nike Swoosh, a Mondrian grid, Volkswagen Beetle and the Twin Towers aflame. An entire gallery of universally recognizable signifiers, the logotypes of past and present, high and low, lost in an arbitrary tangle, where the ready-made is collapsed and confused with assumption and desire, use and value, truth and aspiration. It is essential to note that the micographemes articulate a clear case of glocalization: assaulted and alienated by the dominant visual discourse, Romanian culture has found a breach, a way of writing its own history into that discourse. The following project interrogated another instance of paralysis of thought, to be observed on the streets of Cluj. Between 1992 and 2004, Cluj had been ruled by the nationalist Gheorghe Funar, a representative of far-right extremism. He was systematically voted by Romanian inhabitants for hazy managerial abilities, but also as a warning to a dimly perceived enemy: the large minority of Hungarians in the city. Funar was eager to reciprocate: teaching Hungarians a lesson and stamping out any demand for autonomy meant exposing them systematically to symbols of Romanianness, in order to dispel any geographic and political uncertainty. His compulsion of proclaiming national identity led to painting in the three colors of the Romanian flag virtually anything that lent itself to such an aggressive display of inanity. The streets of Cluj got the full tricolor treatment and the cityscape became a grotesquely triumphant and redundant manifesto of sovereignty. The extravaganza was diligently documented by Duo van der Mixt in an impressive archive, presented at Studio Protokoll, the most interesting gallery in the city, as ‘The Very Best of Red, Yellow and Blue’. The collection consisted of tricolor objects and fixations, actes manqués and frustrations, documenting the way in which a highly questionable political decision seeps into the minds of those subjected to it. As far as modernization plans were concerned, Funar managed to eschew any practical understanding of the contemporary city, coming up with expensive devices of ostentation which defeated any reasonable purpose, but fed his phantasm of a modern Cluj, capable of direct competition with Bucharest. Among other things meant to put the city on the map, Funar envisioned building a subway, a metro being at least etymologically the quickest way to having a metropolis. Duo van der Mixt made the video ‘The Subway – A Sweet Memory’ in 2003. ‘The Subway…’ is a mockumentary that tells the story of the metro in Cluj from the viewpoint of a young man, coming of age together with the groundbreaking transportation system. When the digging begins, excitement prevails and there is a growing sense of local pride: children start roaming the tunnels, returning with scary tales of the underground. The spell is complete with the discovery of the ‘Cluj Treasure’ – coins and jewelry from the Roman age and poetic reparation for all the pillaging in Romanian history. But the inauguration of the subway is followed by an abrupt anticlimax: interest in using the new system dwindled and it became clear that the subway was not necessary. ’The Subway…’ comes across as a wry allegory of the disparities that erode contemporary society in Romania. The question of ethnic tolerance, for instance, is tackled through the bias of the Chinese community, composed of the destitute technicians that had to console themselves by building a Chinatown instead of a subway, slowly becoming integrated in the amiable texture of a multi-ethnic city. Another target of irony is that large, unexplored portion of the collective psyche, where untold ambitions, unresolved questions and hasty interpretations of history, modernization and progress, finally overlap in false harmony, and where the nation is finally at ease with itself, or perhaps protected from itself. The point just might be universal – the artists are about to complete a second episode in the subway bonanza. It is set in Linz, Austria, where an unscrupulous Dutch-Romanian contractor called Van der Mixt starts building a subway, but is forced to halt when the digging stumbles upon the ruin of a medieval pastry shop, where the recipe of the traditional Linzer cake originated.
A similar focus is manifest in Ciprian Mureşan’s ‘Romanian Blood’, a drawing which very succinctly makes the point about national identity, that never-ending drama, and the ways in which its expressions go astray, lose touch with reality and take off to a cozy, self-referential universe. The work presents an incompatible act, a paradox: what would come out of the veins of a true patriot were he/ she to commit suicide? – a fairly festive tricolor stream or ribbon, but on the other hand a true patriot would never commit suicide and deprive the nation of his/ her supportive zeal. The higher danger is not the dementia of leaders and their promiscuous relation to national identity, but complicity, whereby tricolor frenzy or nationalistic reflexes infiltrate the mental habits of those subjected to them and are internalized. Ciprian disagrees with any system that “places the made-up idea of nation before the individual” and believes that the former no longer has any historical legitimacy. “The Romanian nation died. What is left are individuals only. They assume this identity or they don’t, yet society is formed on other premises than the idea of the nation”. A large part of Ciprian Mureşan’s recent production evinces a keen understanding of the logic of the readymade, a passionate engagement with the convolutions of modern or contemporary art and the question of translation. His ‘Leap into the Void – After 3 Seconds’, restages Yves Klein’s jump towards the aesthetic sublime. The artist now lies crushed on the sidewalk and the man riding the bicycle is slightly further away. The difference of three seconds is equivalent with a difference of 40 years and cultural paradigm, while changing ideas of the climactic moment – between anticipated denouement with its aura of mystery and, on the other hand, a literal, obvious, visually striking conclusion – are explored, as the critic Cosmin Costinaş noted. Another instance of what I would call art in translation, in which the aesthetic moment is recast as a movement between two points, a relation rather than an obdurate instance of aesthesis, is Ciprian’s remix of Maurizio Cattelan’s ‘La nona ora’, this time with the Patriarch of the Romanian Orthodox Church as target of the fatal meteorite which can signify either divine wrath or heavenly choice. ‘Shrek’ instrumentalizes the congenial ogre to a horrendous purpose: the animated character slashes the eye of his beloved companion, exactly in the same way and sequence of scenes as seen in ‘Un chien andalou’, the collaboration of Bunuel and Dali. Besides playing with cultural memory, plunging into a pool of cultural data, finding connections or difficulties, Ciprian reflects on the accumulation and degradation of knowledge: the project seems to have been an opportunity to explore the anachronisms, displacements and paradoxes within the ever-shrinking temporal perspective of cultural heritage. The time lapses after something is considered worth keeping are getting distinctly shorter, and the shorter attention-span results in larger, ever-expanding collections of everything, with “statistical” culture becoming an accumulation of memorabilia. Ciprian points a difficult way out of this false embarrassment of riches, through a re-conceptualized dispute between original and plagiarism, through a narrative space produced by the seamless extension of two types of filmic space into each other. The viewer can simultaneously exclaim “Breton!” or “Bataille!”, “Duck!” or “Rabbit!”, and can commute between identities and readings, confronted with this elaborate Rorschach test for the post-modern intellectual, in which every place is a nowhere except from the point of view of an elsewhere. To conclude the list of quotes, I will mention ‘Rubliov’, which renders in 3D animation certain scenes from Tarkovsky’s ‘Andrei Rubliov’. Writing the unlimited possibilities of 3D animation into the original (which dealt with sturdily 2D icons) without destroying it – on the contrary, replicating it in detail – appears here as an infinitely delicate act which collapses preservation and translation. It is less the mimetic logic, the relation between original and copy that the works seek to examine or undermine, but rather an attempt to mark the temporal distance between the two versions as the space of representation itself.
Cristian Pogăcean, Mureşan’s collaborator in the Supernova group, showed a digitalized version of Caravaggio’s ‘The Doubting of St. Thomas’. Thomas’s gesture of incredulity and physically brutal testing is animated into a slow, painful oscillation, mapping the distance between faith and the empirical precepts of science in Caravaggio’s times. Likewise, ‘Video Cross’ contrasts two codes of representing space, in a cross-shaped projection of generic cosmic movements with a sci-fi feel. ‘Video Cross’ was Cristian’s personal contribution to “Art for the Masses”, the Supernova show at Studio Protokoll, which also contained samples of Supernova Cola and Supernova glass cleaner, the result of a collaboration with local manufacturers who agreed to transform the group into a commercial brand. Earlier at Casino Luxembourg, the glass cleaner had been used to “clean to perfection” an empty glass case, bringing into question the preconceptions and history of museum display, as well as the role of contemporary art in that process. Cristian Pogăcean’s current project, ‘Breaking Heart’, translates a political question into a St. Valentine cliché – the medallion that lovers break in half to signify found harmony takes the shape of the map of Romania and the Republic of Moldavia reunited after tens of years of frustrating separation. Cristian’s gesture is motivated by the progressive transformation of the bilateral political discourse of brotherly love, belonging together and nostalgia into a political telenovella, with the Ribbentrop-Molotov pact breaking the star-crossed engagement. Ineffective and ambiguous, unconcerned with any sort of pragmatic solution, this political discourse is denounced via an uncanny visual correlation.