Studio Protokoll: New Projects
Created in 1999 by the curator Attila Tordai-S. together with a group of artists and enthusiasts, and functioning with an interruption between the summer of 2002 and the spring of 2004, Studio Protokoll in Cluj evolved in an apparently paradoxical manner. Although dedicated to and constant in its original program and aims, those of promoting independent artists and movements and critical positions, Protokoll underwent substantial changes in its role on the Romanian art scene, as well as in its symbolic hinterland of impregnation and in its perception by the other actors on the scene, due to the significant mutations of the Romanian art context of the past years.
In its beginnings, Protokoll functioned as a studio-space for a group of artists with similar interests, being simultaneously a support and an interface for them, a laboratory for questioning those issues of contemporary art with a more or less direct social implication. This activity was carried out in a cultural context where contemporary art (still a vague phenomenon, approached rather in its media than in its issues) was only beginning to articulate its own system. Under these circumstances, the assertion of ethically defined positions and the (post)institutional critique, present in the attitude of Protokoll’s activity, was difficult to promote. Even more, Protokoll’s general profile was somehow introvert, it’s aim hadn’t been that of impregnating the extremely confused context of Cluj (even less the Romanian one) which was at that moment functioning on different parameters, but rather that of creating its own platform. Also the axis of communication was to a large extent Budapest orientated, given the orientation of the majority of the invited artists. The collaboration with the artists in Bucharest was limited to the representatives of a 'young photographers' group and to Lia and Dan Perjovschi, with whom Protokoll shared a similar political agenda.
In the light of the transformations of the Romanian art scene in the last years, with the success of some private initiatives (The Periferic Biennial in Iasi, spectacularly transformed from a local festival to an important regional biennial and the coherent development of Balkon/IDEA magazine) and primarily with their assumption of their independent position, together with the transfer of the central position on the Bucharest scene from the International Center for Contemporary Art (the inheritor of the Soros program in Romania) to the National Museum of Contemporary Art, (a public institution which will function in the People’s House-Ceausescu’s former palace- starting this autumn) Protokoll became an integrated part of the Romanian scene, with an ever growing importance. Its coherent direction during this period ensured it a leading position in the coagulation of the rising independent movement. And it is fair to say that with the official opening of the National Museum of Contemporary Art in Bucharest, this movement is concentrating mainly around Protokoll.
This autumn, Protokoll is hosting several shows, starting with the personal exhibitions of three of the most acclaimed and politically orientated Romanian young artists, Ciprian Muresan, Ioan Godeanu and Mircea Cantor. Personal shows are quite uncommon in Romania, the emphasis being on (large) group exhibitions where the (often vague) curatorial intention overshadows the individual work, and the personality of each artist. And although featured in several extended shows, the first two artists had never had solo exhibitions in Romania, and Mircea Cantor only had one.
This series of exhibitions will be followed by a project presentation and screenings of the Romanian group Mindbomb, a group which significantly contributed to promoting social poster campaigns in Romania. At Protokoll, they will present the campaign on one of the largest mining projects in Europe, at Rosia Montana (in the Transylvanian Carpathians) and also one of the biggest potential ecological, social and economical disasters in post-communist Romania, as well as the documentaries produced in the past years on this issue by several ecologist organizations.
In parallel, Studio Protokoll will be the organizer of a three phase project, Secularity after Complicity, which is questioning the ambiguous status of the Romanian state today, between the constitutional proclamation of an (almost) secular regime and a praxis of favoritisms to the Romanian Orthodox Church, favoritisms which stretch from the symbolic association of state symbols with religious (specifically orthodox) ones to questionable public budgetary policies. This project will consist of an insert-exhibition in one of the most popular Romanian weeklies of political satire and civic attitude, an exhibition organized in Bucharest (the absolute center of political decision in Romania, but also the center of the Romanian Orthodox Church) and a colloquium, debating the different strategies available to the civic society for tackling this almost tabu issue for the Romanian intellectual elite, traditionally right wing orientated.
First appeared in Praesens Magazine,