Thursday, November 8, 2012

Art and politics in postcommunist Romania: changes and continuities

I wrote an article, Art and politics in postcommunist Romania: changes and continuities  for the Journal of Arts Management, Law and Society that discusses how artists are the first ones to react to their environment and to articulate a protest. Recent Romanian contemporary art questions the way communism is remembered or forgotten and the manner in which the postcommunist society was organized. This study uses the approach of politics and the arts to analyze both institutions and artistic discourses in Romania after 1989 in order to show how an artistic space is rebuilt after a dictatorial experience. The conclusions show that artists interrogate the “reconstruction” of democratic institutions and discourses on solid communist bases.

Ciprian Murean

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Artistic critiques of modern dictatorships

I wrote an article called Artistic critiques of modern dictatorships for the latest number of The European Legacy that discusses how under a political dictatorship it is primarily from the margins that an artistic critique can be articulated, as suggested by the examples presented  from Romania and Chile during the 1970s and 1980s. By focusing on their threefold marginality—of the artist, the art form, and the subject of art—and by applying to them Jacques Rancière's concept of dissensus, the analysis of artistic variants of marginality sheds light on the relationship of art and politics in totalitarian regimes.
Ion Grigorescu, La Inchisoare (In prison, 1978)

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Civil society activism and authoritarian rule in Romania and Chile. Evidence for the role played by art(ists)

I wrote a chapter about "Civil society activism and authoritarian rule in Romania and Chile. Evidence for the role played by art(ists)" in  Civil Society Activism under Authoritarian Rule (Routledge 2012) edited by Francesco Cavatorta and that you can order here:
László Újvárossy, Chestnut Self-portrait, 1983, photography, dimensions variable

Friday, June 1, 2012

Iron Curtain Graphics

Iron Curtain Graphics is a beautiful volume edited by the Atelierul de Grafica and published by the prestigious publishing house Gestalten. The volume presents communist posters and has four sections: Propaganda, Labour Safety, Culture & Entertainment, Education & Science. I wrote one of the introductory texts called "Invisible daily propaganda. The template for uniform thought" that states how this type of propaganda tool was useless as all the posters and images became invisible for the majority of citizens. The intention of the authors of the project, Ciprian Isac and Carla Duschka, was to safeguard these images from total erasure and oblivion. A series of interesting details came up while writing the text for this book: the details of the communist décor are still present while being invisible. These details of the bygone epoch still present were accompanied by a "double life" people had - an official one and a private, personal one. The involuntary comicality of some of the labour safety enouncements makes propaganda even more ridiculous than it appeared at the time. The aesthetic value of these signs of the still present past is certain and merits to be saved, documented, showed.

The volume can be bought on the website of Gestalten or in Bucharest at the Bookstore Carturesti.

Monday, May 28, 2012

One too many statues

This is my third post about an unwanted statue. This time things are even more problematic then  before. The latest controversial statue is that of the poet/politician Adrian Paunescu known especially for his praising of Nicolae Ceausescu and the socialist republic; also leader of the Cenaclul Flacara, he was a politician after 1990 as a representative of the socialist party (PSM) and then of the social-democrat party (PDSR/PSD). His most important role after 1990 was as head of the Commission for Culture of the Senate. Thus, his influence in both communist and post-communist culture was quite important.

As his legacy is quite divisive in post-communist Romania why did one of the mayors of Bucharest decide to inaugurate just before local elections his bust? My question being rhetorical I think Paunescu represents for some nostalgic Romanians one of the greatest poets of the XXc, his verses are known by heart and can be heard in very diverse TV shows when the topic discussed concerns "our nation's great destiny" (this is one of the typical communist phrases of the protochronist period). For others, he represents all the evil the Ceausescu regime created: false values and false idols, accentuated nationalism and arrivisme. Yet, in our city, the first win; every time. Their perspective is officialized by local authorities such as the current mayor Necolai Ontanu. And this is what counts and should concern us all.
The photo belongs to Vlad Petri.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Naked Traian or yet another failed monument in Bucharest

The most recent monument inaugurated in Bucharest belongs to the sculptor Vasile Gorduz and shows the Roman emperor Traian naked and holding the symbol of the Roman and Dacian fusion (the wolf/snake). This depiction, placed on the steps of the Museum of National History has been greeted by all sorts of jokes and derision as authorities themselves fight each other (the current mayor Oprescu and the director of the museum Oberlander Tarnoveanu). I raised this issue before: why not a more interactive form of decision concerning public monuments? This time the cost of the project is not so enormous as for previous recent monuments but still the issue remains. Why inaugurate (as the mayor Oprescu announced) an entire series of monuments dedicated to the fusion of Romans and Dacians (oh so dear to the protochronism of the 1970s-1980s)? Why "tradition" and our "glorious" history are the only things politicians have in mind when public art is concerned? Contemporary art still seems rather an extraterrestrial form of art for Romanian public authorities.
 The statue has already been ridiculed in social media as the picture shown below testifies
by Julien Britnic (Facebook)

Saturday, January 28, 2012

From Lenin to Deng Xiaoping: statues in Romania

Who decides in Romania where and whom shall be represented in the public space? This is the question. A recent decision taken by the local administration of the city of Bistrita in the northern part of Romania has puzzled me. They decided to build a statue of Deng Xiaoping in the Independence Square motivating that they received an address from the county' prefect...

If we take a look at the case of Bucharest we discover that the Bucharest Mayor has a "Scientific Council of the Administration of Monuments" (?!) that decides what personality should be represented. My puzzlement comes after two controversial decisions to (re)build in Bucharest the statue of King Carol (which cost was of 3 million Euro) on its former pre-communist site (realized by sculptor Florin Codre) and to place in front of the Bucharest National Theater (TNB) a equally costly project (worth 800.000 Euros) called "Caragialiana" by Ioan Bolborea and inspired by Romanian playwright I.L. Caragiale. Both projects were questioned by contemporary artists as part of their public interventions. See more about it on their website.

Let's not forget Bucharest is already scarred by such monuments as the "Memorial of rebirth - Eternal glory to the heroes and to the Romanian revolution of December 1989" (!) by Alexandru Ghildus also known as "the olive" or "the potato" failing to achieve the status of an obelisk the author intended so as to remember the heroes of the Romanian revolution of 1989 in the Revolution Square.

I ask why isn't a form of public consultation imagined before building such unrepresentative monuments and why isn't there more transparency in what concerns the selection of personalities to be remembered as well as in what concerns the authors of these projects.