Issue #25, 2006

A Version of Memory (January 2007)
Ion Grigorescu

Ion Grigorescu was born in Bucharest in 1945. He is one of the most representative artists of Romanian conceptual art, using photography, film, performance and installation as media of expression. 2006 Toys for Children (with Mircea Cantor), Studio Protokoll, Cluj; Am Boden, Salzburger Kunstverein; Grey Zones, Galerie für Zeitgenössische Kunst, Leipzig; Autopoesis, Slovak National Gallery, Bratislava. 2005 The IX Baltic Triennial of International Art, Contemporary Art Center, Vilnius; Paradoxos: Incorporar a Cidade – Romanian Artists, Fundaçao Calouste Gulbenkian, Lisbon. 2003 In den Schluchten des Balkan, Museum Fridericianum, Kassel; Periferic 6 – Prophetic Corners, Iași. 2001 Double Life, Generali Foundation, Vienna. 1998 Body and the East, Moderna Galerija, Ljubljana. 1997 Venice Biennial. 1994 Sao Paulo Biennial.



A Version of Memory (January 2007)




I know there is a theory according to which when you find out something, it’s not because you’re ahead, but because you reached the age (you’ll find out when you are...), meaning that you opened a door. You think you found out about the past.

I want to keep moving in three directions – future, past, present, all three of them placed in a kind of another future.

Although I’m very objective, I live with the fear that the affirmation of my value may exist subjectively in me. I’m afraid that while going towards the future, and sometimes even towards present, I could open useless doors or get lost an alienating road, even though this is my way of going in another direction. In my move towards the past, I want to recapture new ways, for me, not some place else and maybe weave a larger area. (Translated by Alex Moldovan)


Today, for me and for others, the canvas has very small importance. The old perspective in which were binding lines with plane, and lines with space, reductions on scale, things one could see rather at Donatello’s bas-reliefs (therefore you observe I am not giving paintings as examples) and which made canvas necessary, are today annoying because too flat and artificial.

The colour is embarrassing, unfortunately all I have learned, all the strains of the modern painting, the famous seven contrasts of colour, are not useful. Form is proceeding from light, colour and collocation, as said Cézanne – it is an on eye and not on painting assert! – and courageously we show to the spectators another collocations-spaces nearer to real.

Air may be rendered both in painting and in sculpture. All the atmospheric phenomena, so industrious depicted by the impressionists must be replaced by real ones. They will seem grotesque especially in a milieu with Byzantine traditions.

All means, be they related to the space or time, are directed to make us react to the reality in the same way we traverse it. The comic strip is a draft that solves in a simplest way the extremely remote things like sound, script, puzzle, photorealism, film animation, individuation of characters.


Finally, what can I say, for my future, for my own future, for my projects except that I feel old, in the sense of some strong feelings of going back, of returning to childhood and, at the same time, something like an abandon of the projects, an abandon of some attempts to synthesise the human relations, that which constitutes the psychic, of creating some artworks, in which I’ve never believed, because I regarded art as bare work, as bare manual practice, and the only important volume, not point, but volume, still seems to me the unconscious, with everything going through our heads. I have so many thoughts which remained in my mind from childhood, so many things going through my mind, so many emotions, so many stylistic evaluations, which I used to make walking these streets and thinking, are these thoughts, this amount of thoughts, which I wished to fix, to hold so many times, as if I thought it was not such a huge amount of thoughts, now I wonder again, is it really a huge amount of thoughts? An activity so large, let’s say numeric, to be fixed in order to be rethought, so a reinterpretation, a reanalyzing before the totality of thoughts. It might just not be that much, although the danger does not consist in the technical impossibility, but in the amount, I mean that if it’s much, it’s not worth, this means that the line is broken, it’s too long, or that I feel, more than ever, these thoughts about getting old and loneliness, so I have to give up the useless actions and maybe art is among the most useless and work more on the field of the last things and, not last, those artworks which are expressions of the unconscious, but while the unconscious remains a manifestation, the art objects become something very different from what I want, in other words are objects and are part of the soil, of the nature and have their own complete development, while my thoughts keep flapping towards the gross direction from my mind. (Translated by Alex Moldovan)


Now I want to write something about the mirror, for a magazine, about my whole activity in the microcosm, in fact not the microcosm, it’s just a plate, or how do they call it, Andrei, the slice they put between the plates, the sample? I know that I used to cut a slice as thin as possible from a steam or even from a leaf, try to see a film: dark, over-exposed tonality, sometimes blinding flashes, creating negatives in the eye, people with hairy, white aureoles, with overexposures. Then the images get distorted, like on the out of order TVs, the images flow on an inclined trough, as if the group of people on the negative would lose some­thing through skinning. We would look at these rather dark skinning between two glasses placed in a magnifying machine, with reflections, golden, darkly, silver flexions and reflections on the glass and then small images, with small heads, white figures of people, on a brown background, small brown or coloured indented diapositives. Brown gelatines, a kind of charcoals of our existence, shall one light the fire in the morning? Burnt coal.

And yet there is another world – the one I saw on the lenses among the black bleu white reflections of those cambered a lot, among those crescents with violet parts of the rainbow. The rooms with curved walls and people stretching while watching towards the lens, like those watched at in the mirror-sheets, which revolve around the same point seen as slippery curves of level. Everything mixed with the golden and silver crescents of the light sources, like in the whirlpools, in the rippling basins and in the hot air vibrations. It looks a little bit like “oh!” or like something drowned in a well, because reality fades, it’s taken away and we just watch, from (very) aside, a bi-dimensional section. I don’t know if you were with us (with me and Marica) when we watched some stereo, black and white slides of Lulli (August Sturdza); I know that we have been very disappointed, because reality was like a box, and the reality we saw was like a box about to be crushed. The trees looked like they had been reduced to the size of a matchbox, of a book cover or the coat’s collar fringe.

What I want you to know, Andrei, is that almost everything I’ve done is related to the mirror, to this invisible crossroad. You should also remember our visit to the Bunea monastery, near Vulcana, when I approached the containers for the rain water, the plashes on the Beiușmountain top, stagnant mirrors, skies forced into the ground, holes, doors, some heading into black – to the cellars, some to the white, to the skies, airdromes, like the tombs carved in the mountain stone, with plants and grass growing on them, which sheltered the rain water. (Translated by Alex Moldovan)


Returning to past now I cannot choose the beloved books or between them; what I was reading was with great appetite. Tolstoy – The Kreutzer Sonata, George Călinescu (a literary critic, 1940–50) – The Work and Life of Mihai Eminescu, the romantic (also mystic and fantastic) poet and philosopher at the end of the nineteenth century, were followed by Freud, Ferenczy, Jung and Lacan. Before these analysts, as child I read some Romanian dadaists (Grigore Cugler), and at 18 I retook Dada and surrealists. Ending the secondary school and orientating me to the visual arts I more stayed with painting albums. Proust gave me the impulse to write in French. In the first study years I read Klee (Das Bildnerische Denken) and Kandinsky. It follows in the memory lectures and psychic and formal analyses in Sophocles, Aeschylus and Euripides and then Shakespeare.

I myself wanted to explain the meanings of the psyche but exhausting the first impetus I entered in crisis and abandoned. Meanwhile I am only with my dream world and the films – Eisenstein, Antonioni, Robbe-Grillet, Godard, and later Pasolini. documenta 6 opens me the doors for the theory, (semiotics of) image and performance. I am writing about serendipity (the text is lacking). I am reading also Lettres Françaises (the group Tel Quel and about the university revolution in May ‘68). Buddhists texts I read first in 1963, then, in late 60s The Egyptian and Tibetan Dead’ Books, then in mid 70 some about Tantra. I remind also reading Gilgamesh and old Near East texts. At the beginning of the 80s, the Bible and the “fathers of the church” (Philocaly). In all these years I was keen on the history of the photography about which I also wrote. In the nineties I discovered Annick de Souzenelle (Symbolism of the Human Body) and Cabala. The list must remain opened, I read more, I was influenced, and I am indebted to the books.


I think the religious past is still recoverable. For me, the first step is in the student years after lectures in Cesare Pavese, then the whole interval until 1997, is in the catalogue (1998, MNAR [National Museum of Art of Romania]), but only as excerpts, most of them chosen for their power to be exemplary, not for the case Grigorescu. But in the catalogue is presented a way in art, one to escape from art, a way to faith. Before the compiling of the catalogue my intention was to make the sum of artistic actions, or projects of actions. My way appeared under a different light: in different moments I found mentions about faith, even in a period of cybernetics convictions, so that there was a way, but with more than one person. Or one person on three, four ways, as an army with different tasks. If one makes such an archaeology of himself, I am not a good guide, I am searching at random, hesitating, keeping away from obliging, or forcing the memory.

Poverty in Romania, in the African or Yemen deserts, in Afghanistan, Vietnam is being exacerbated by the abandon of their own culture, their own traditions and the times when peoples’ dwellings were not ruined.

Hasn’t Rome been ruined, are there not photos or engravings albums with barefoot people and with carts followed by dogs?

Has not Carol Popp de Szathmári come in the nineteenth century in Romania only to find a more primitive world, like in the Renaissance period?

Romanians have been known for their folklore; even if they couldn’t write, they knew how to tell stories, how to sing; they had art, architecture, a folk costume. And the other ethnics, too: Hungarians, Saxons, Szeklers, Tatars and Bulgarians.

After the war, they were asked to live in the city and those living in the country have been taken away their land. They were the carriers of our basic culture, of our most inner believes, of our spiritual structure. This basis grew thinner. The city culture, of the Europeanized intellectuals, was also placed under the boot and despised for not really being a labour.

That’s why, because of the poverty in the country, in the small towns and in the poor neighbourhoods, is it in a natural landscape or between the apartment buildings, with no support in their hearths, the “poor” become “bestial”, according to the mass psychology. This behaviour comes, maybe, from that of the animals, of groups or “family”. (Translated by Alex Moldovan)


In socialism, the elections were always in the spring; it didn’t matter when a deputy’s mandate ended, the deputies didn’t matter either, it was one of the ritu­als conceived by the party (the only party). It all started with gathering the employees (thousands of them, I accompanied some school teachers) in the plaza in front of the Party’s Central Committee building. Each group of employees was accounted for by the syndicate’s head, which was a double employee, of Securitate, too; he kept us there until the meeting was over and provided us with the slogans which had to be hailed at the end of Ceausescu’s phrases. He (Ceausescu) was doing everything from somewhere above, in the building, we couldn’t see him. Nevertheless, he was human, too; the only thing I remem­ber from his discourse was surprising: he finished by saying “let’s sing The International (then, whispering), if anyone remembers it!” It’s obvious that he knew and he wanted everybody to be asleep, except the Securitate guys guarding him (today’s bodyguards). Why sleep? That’s how socialism works – being awake bothers it.

I sensed that it was time for photography, basing myself on this very state of anaesthesia. It was 1974. Later on, the cameras were not supposed to be seen even hanging on you. (Translated by Alex Moldovan)


I wonder if there was schizophrenia. Maybe because of being ashamed I do not immediately approve it. In the 50s (I was born in 1945) a fear of military uniforms penetrated me and also of public institution relationships with which I did not want anything to do with, only if a trustworthy relative could have erased it. When I finished my studies and got employed (the 70s) I learnt that is corruption. Everybody at home and at the office, among colleagues, was criticizing the Party, the political regime. They say that if the everywhere infiltrated securists do not hear the critics, get suspicious that we have something to hide. Once entered in the Union of Artists (every institution becomes a second family), I tried to criticize, to find the permitted limits. Maybe, looking in the same direction, the political regime introduced the self censure.

If we consider these relationships I do not think we can talk about schizophrenia, but of generalized corruption. If politicians or securists were plotting to bring down Ceausescu and in the same time serving him and again if I was making films and photos that I did not expose, all these things were known or supposed. There was not scandal; the regime did not want it.

A schizophrenic make scandal frees him, becomes an open dissident. He will be put away and medically treated. Why schizophrenic? Because between freeing and returning to normal, to corruption, is a fracture.

Body art

I was born and lived in Bucharest. I finished the study years and married a curator (she was interested in modern art), from the National Museum of Art in 1969, and, with the support of the public libraries I was well informed about the Western exhibitions. It is difficult to me to remind the catalogues and what I saw in: Vito Acconci, John Baldessari, and a good, complex presentation of the 1972 documenta, with excellent chapters on expression in autism, schizophrenia, theatre, kitsch, and in art in general. The end of the 60s is the freest period in the socialist Romania. The new relations to America brought the graphic and painting pop art exhibitions in Bucharest.

I was sportsman, and practiced nearly all the athletic events, preeminently high and pole jump, till the end of the art studies. I was also making photography, reading psychoanalysis; all these things are a modern kind of self education or of initiation ritual in the adult age.

The first photographies/self portrait/body art are conforming to the psychoanalytical thesis of the “nude as threat” (on the spectator). This genre could not be exhibited but in my own house and before verified friends; there was not an interdiction but the danger of a denunciation, becoming file, and varied subsequent blackmails. If I would try to exhibit in public should be intercepted by the jury and the official censorship.

I continued to do what I liked in my workshop (body art, self portraits and films), and to imaginary talk with the political regime. Amidst the 70s I met in Timișoara Constantin Flondor, Ștefan Bertalan and Doru Tulcan, members of the Sigma group (cinetic art) to whom I showed my films. I had a collaboration with István Kancsura, cinetic artist from Cluj. In Bucharest meanwhile is producing film only the artist Wanda Mihuleac.

Concerning the body art, my works evolved on a formal, visual path, in search of faire vrai, to go out of the picture surface. Writing scenarios, doing theatre in mirror, voyeurism, illusion, excitement, manipulating optical apparatus, optical apparatus are themselves producing art, working is replacing the works, and this leads to conceptualism. The body art gradually disappears for making room to writing and criticism. In the 80s I am renouncing to the exhibitions and working. I came to the conclusion am I a lying artist that is working for art’s sake, isolated, being a man who do not know the life is harsch: giving birth and bringing up children, finding food and so on.

After the Revolution in 1990, I critically showed my situation in socialism as artist, and, being frequently questioned, I had to rethink my career from different angles.

The first body art works was ordered by a photograph, with no public; more important than the action was the result, the drawing. Working on, alone, I became a sort of gamer, following what was being recorded, like in a shadow game. I was tied up with the machine-partner, which I used for drawing, for moving, I multiplied the moves and the results. The next step was directing, the topic; they were short-lived, meaningless projects, with no future, with no connection between themselves, which died as soon as they appeared, as experiences.

However, I became convinced that life itself is a performance, and that expression always comes from my entirety, without pause. I haven’t formed myself for acting at the gong’s toll.

After the revolution, I gave up the image control, there are many of my performances that not documented; the public achieved a status, the 1–4 steps were meant for the set-up, I was placing some conventions which subtended the stage. (Translated by Alex Moldovan)

February 2005

It’s 1990, and I am at M.S.’s house; the place is crowded, and I find myself face to face with Gheorghe Berindei. He starts talking to me quietly enough, so that at first I think he’s joking with me: he tells me I am lurking around, like a spider (perhaps because he had seen me silent and trying to understand), waiting to catch my prey (as always I car­ry my camera with me). His tone becomes angrier and shriller. “Get out, you have no business in this house, among us!” Yet, this is not his house either. I freeze at the accusation of having prospered during socialist times, by denouncing my friends.

He sees Ruxandra standing by me, and continues: “Can’t you see? Your current wife looks like your first!”

I look at my life under the sign of being cast out of a house, a group of artists or a family. The spirit of that culture does not accept me (any more). Be that true or false. I am seen as having done something and I must acknowledge that.

I see myself walking around the house; I am thin, with long black hair, dressed in shorts and a little jacket. I encounter myself and I begin to cry. I am not up to my (his) expectations. We talk about fate, me as a small boy, the foundation of me grown up, now disoriented, apparently unable to get anywhere; wandering around in the mist. Telling him I have given up reaching the top and am only concerned with finding solutions for my faults, with being able to live without guilt. How many faults have I committed (on his account)? I have led astray his desire for discovery, for a system, for remembering and using memory. So many things hidden, out of trust in oneself, until every impulse, every dream crumbles away.

Whenever I returned home, nobody accused of anything, perhaps my father and mo­ther were aware of something, but they said nothing and were happy that I was there.

My parents lived in a so called “Romanian”-style house, quite appropriate to the transformations they were undergoing, since they weren’t artists. Their children, however, proved different, for when I came to the house, music and painting were already there. The house lost value in our eyes, which denied everything that surrounded them to edify a “self” free from debts and influences. And now I must find the house again, through an archaeological investigation of that “self”.

Though pretty, the house was marked by poverty. There were no framed paintings, but my brother was becoming a modern artist: he painted directly on the walls. The beds had disparate covers, all rather untidy, with the sheets peeping form under them. Things were never tidied up, as if they were always ready to be used, by us or by our guests. People came in without ringing the bell and talked to me in the same tone as my parents, as if everybody were equal in morals and concerns, or as if all objects were toys.

I have never made a home for myself; I have actually wrecked some, for I am against the imposition of a style, which is why I have never been a complete painter. I don’t like to see my works in my studio, so I would not feel indebted to them.

My mother, my father and my siblings would call each other nicknames, which amu­sed my wife, who came from a Transylvanian Jewish family. She used to bring in huge art albums from the museum, and her clothes and furniture were in a Baroque-peasant style. She also brought me to the Batthyaneum, a medieval library, which was perfect for my studies in optics and history of photography. She took me to her dental surgeon for treatment, something I hadn’t had since my childhood. She asked me to take friendship into consideration, but dividing friends into categories, successful and not successful. To them she would show, in all solemnity, the house, with its studio and museum­ rooms, where I was able to display my films and photographs, present performances and tape and photograph our gatherings.

In 1974, while the house slept, I wandered through the rooms. The bathroom, whose door remained closed during the day, was just as present as the other rooms, with their artistic objects.

To be received or not in a house seems now a very important thing. In a bird’s nest, nobody gets in, except for the bird couple that build it. Even their parents remain on the threshold.

I went from maximum to minimum achievement. I descended the social scale and joined the less fortunate intellectuals. They felt proud of their modest, unpretentious society, and were suspicious of promises made by liars and swindlers. The honesty of just and simple people lies in their contentment with their situation, and refusal to sur­render them to the unknown.

For me, all daily tasks, like washing clothes, preparing a meal, doing the shopping, or working in construction, are performances, art, acts of survival. Some projects are born in a house and finished in another, thus uniting different houses and families beyond the limits of time.

During a meal, a young man runs in and asks us to hide him. A little later, the militia man who is looking for him comes in and is unable to find him. We do not know what he did; after the militia man has gone, he salutes us and leaves.

We are given a room in the parish house, which was a school during the nineteenth century. Each fa­mily feeds us different, unusual meals. To be friends with everyone, regardless of whom, accept the others’ shortcomings. Shut up, argue not. And thinking – as soon as we enter the church we are protected from evil thoughts, from imagining evil.

I have also an exploit of my own: an inebriate young man comes up to me, during work, and challenges me for a fight. I refuse. I put up with every insult, while asking him to leave, so as not to fight in the church.


First, I knew the house and the garden, then the street (Vasile Alecsandri), then the road to the Amzei Plaza, with my mother, and the road to school. In the third or the forth grade, I pedalled to Unirii Plaza (south) and maybe to the airport (Băneasa north). Further on, the dreams begin to mix with reality, creating, at the age of 18, jams and confusion about the directions and whereness. One of them was right in the house – as one descended from upstairs and passed through the doors to the downstairs hallway and vestibule, between them there was a space with white doors with crystal lace glasses. In the vestibule, the cloth-peg had a plate which spun (with us) and its arms were people with their hands stretched, leaning backward. But they asked that we close this space with a wall and it passed into oblivion.

The world, however, starts under the furniture (table, cupboard, iron bed) and inside the furniture (the cover of the sewing machine and the carrier, its black box, white on the inside, brought down from the very high wheels for us to play in or, in the courtyard, on the balustrades of the stairs, large as a horseback). Usually, the playground is a “car” made out of a sheep skin (who bleated a day or two in the backyard and which we hug) and a gear level or airplane cockpits. The house was continuing with those forbidden places, like the basement, the cellar and the tenants’ rooms.

Sources of a magnificent city, night or dawn, which I wish to make explicit, like a map.

But, passing on the other side (to now) do I have an opinion about it? I don’t, it lays indefinite from dreams and practical needs. I stood by Mr. Paul Gherasim’s side filming the city centre and taking pictures of its neighbourhoods. At the time of the exhibition Arta și orașul [Art and the city], 1973 (wells, Bernea’s Părul [Pear tree]), as they designed future artistic plans, I raised in an accusative stance towards this attitude, too conscientious, since the city is a product of the uncon­scious­ness, of the impassable initiative, of growing under the sun, I add now, but the “opinion” referred more to the authors (Vasile Drăguț, Dan Hăulică) than the city.

It’s even stranger to write about Rome like one would write about Babylon – the lure, all the world’s wealth, a place of laying, of hiding the monuments, of books to be read. So there is a dream about o house with a closed, walled courtyard, full of big, abandoned Jewish books in Bucharest, like the stones in a Jewish cemetery (Piatra-Neamț, Iași). It’s not a sense of the sacred, but of money, of spending, of using and getting rich, even if only with data, library-like, like an archaeological museum. Once here, we have seen the garden of the Archaeological Museum, and there are museum inter-grown on it in Sibiu, Cluj, Mangalia and places like Histria, Cîrța, Sîntămărie-Orlea, Zamca and the fortresses of Suceava and Neamț. But also the area surrounding Amzei Plaza, with houses with wooden verandas, with passages between the houses, one of them leading to this museum, behind the Brătianu Foundation, near the Romanian-Russian Museum. Mother was looking for stores and peasants here, who move and who are being moved, the passages are being blocked, other ones are opened. My mind gradually fades out, doesn’t raise any questions.

The house has its perimeters; I talked (in the first volume of the memories) about the bed window, oriented to the south, which didn’t have blinds like the others, which look closed. At night, I see shadows and lights passing through the blinds and on the ceiling. They don’t say too much, they are oriented to the street. From the other room’s window, you can see the kitchen roof. There is no passing through the door leading there (there are tenants, they climb down and get out through the backyard). Cats get on the roof by climbing the poplar. To the east, the house is isolated, it has a dead wall, it’s a corner house, always looking towards north-west, towards “the road”. Eastwards, there are the baffles of the Vasile Alecsandri courtyards meeting those on Cometa Street, sepa­rat­ed by some almost ruined walls, where we made peepholes.

I only reached the balcony late, too, as mother was terrified of falling off the balcony (I get nervous, too, when objects are falling). This will be the scene for sunsets, cloudiness, airplane shows and strange flying machines. The small room, Tuți’s, then Tăvel’s, is inaccessible. And the rooms downstairs, on the ground floor, I wonder if I ever looked through their windows?

I looked over the fence, but there are no views, one has to reaches the street and goes to the corner, in a world of enemies or friends, closed areas, unreach­able, with customs. After I started to go to school, I found out that it’s not advisable to go beyond it, that, the Floreasca hole is not much further. However, I saw it before it disappeared – many huts with feeble smoke coming out of them, all of them bent by a breeze, in the same direction. I saw other neighbour­hoods, too – Văcărești, on the hill with the Morgue, in 1964 (which became a work in 1974), Plumbuita, in the first day after the 1977 earthquake (in the movie Âme), Mihai Bravu, towards the Mirage factory (the movie În Bucureștiul iubit [My beloved Bucharest]).

I just saw such a house today, but a rustic one, whose gardens had been taken away by the neighbours, caught between other deformed two, fragile, inhabited by a gypsy. A chocking house, which should be helped out by authorities, in order not to disappear, like a museum tenant (the picture Șapca lui Lenin [Lenin’s cap], 2006, coll. Costion Nicolescu).

I remained here thinking about the gardens, the Augsburg ones, related to the gothic. I’m confused about the gardens around here. I saw something on the hill, a barnyard deranged by rain and labour between three trees tortured a bit, then, when I descended, one with beans and flowers, a kind of head dress, but do they have anything to do with the icon? At Craiova I saw, around Ungureni, hose like that of the singers or evangelists.

Today, at the horse market, the wagons’ covers were tapestried with pillows and white clothes with flowers, children allowed to sleep, youngsters lurking around. The gypsies seem tied up to a world (houses, courtyards, neighbourhoods) which is starting to crumble, some passing houses. An ancient world. It’s somehow like what happens to my clothes – I work wearing them and they get dirty, the clothes have defects, the man is too burnt, too beaten and scarred for flawless clothes. It’s really hard to dress and he stays undressed. Today I also saw a scytheman going to Brașov. Nice, starched shirt, dirty at the backhead. He was sun-burnt, lined and with a voluminous hair, which wouldn’t align, but remained loose.

Yesterday I’ve noticed a enclosed garden, a square between three walls, at the same time, a deserted house (Câmpulung; passing Bengești, towards Târgu-Jiu, a deserted wooden house, invaded by trees, houses since the walks with Andrei, at the T. Sperantia Street hospital, toward the Tei Lake). At Iași (’74–’75) I went from the pop-art of the movie În Bucureștiul iubit to the “icon”, sometimes richer, sometimes poorer, like in Moldavia. I see Iași again, in 2000, how have I changed? I notice the folklore apartment buildings (like at Slobozia or Vlaicu-Vodă/Vitan).

The Bucharest which was being built in 1954 for 1974 (În Bucureștiul iubit) and the chaotic 1994 Bucharest (Axele noi ale orașului [The new axis of the town]) mark two defeats, two retreats, towards the ruin, it’s a kind of archaeological aesthetic satisfaction, like arte povera, a sort of Book of Job of Bruegel’s Babel (Icarus). For a while, I collected strange houses, a kind of nests (Reșița, Trăisteni), I made a house out of clay and a movie (Pământul [The Ground]) also related to Pustiul [The Waste], the movie about Dobruja. In all these three movies, there are moments when everything (the world, the image, the constituent) disap­pears and reappears. In Âme, too, there is a large space (filmed in Fundeni, Colentina), where the skin takes over the soul, one can see too many poor neigh­bourhoods on the bank of Colentina: everything is dust, dust raised by the children’s play, children made out of dust, incarnation. The pigs seem no different. (Translated by Alex Moldovan)


I am not working with projects, because I am feeling to be obliged, not free, I do not manage ideas, not produce them. So the program is a limit for me, one I do not respect. The memories, by example, are freely walking; they began with 23 pages including also present, and stopped. They retook for Lisbon in the show format, and now they are under pressure, I have no time for edit.

For Salzburg I reviewed near all the photos (40 years) with various heights, more times, with changing intentions. Finally what I wish is to show that photography is the inheritance of the rococo style and taste (meanwhile painting is contaminated, after the revolution, by kitsch, the photography also, but can support it, the painting no).

Extending this to the discussion about “the possible in art” (University of Lund, with Anders Kreuger) I regard the period before the revolution (1789), before “liberty”, as a continuous progress to perfection. The only “art” which lead away the progress I consider the photo and then the film.

In relation with the caricatures scandal I see this limit of the art – the offense of the person (man, being). A compulsive limit. Mais les artistes tiennent des propos risqués toujours avec un courage garanti par le monde cuirassé de l’art (I paste this from the precedent letter). Why art should be so free? (Dalí – museums conceived by/for masturbators).

We could imagine the possible (on this way) in concordance with the progress of laws (reconsidering family, the type of violence, the last limits being the hunt, the pedophile, why not to permit them in art, or consider them as arts?). Let us consider the fear, the historical, overpassed fear of the Last Judgement, from saying “you must understand it”; yesterday one should understand democracy, social necessity of demolitions, and arts, yes, but some categories of people are frightened by arts.

I know there are another senses of the possible, but the upper view is more current.


I met things considered artworks, but which in their inner law, or in the relation to consume, or to reception, they are not art, beginning with icons, or other kinds of religious objects, or rites, continuing with people’s behaviours and means of communication (documenta 5 catalogue). Thus all loans from other domains could be asked backward, and we will recognize the ever restricting area of the arts, considering finaly them as not having proper ground, if not borrowing.

Searching the dictionaries about syncretism I found some stammering: in the Romanian Dictionary is “joining, recent advanced art characters in past, not differentiated phenomena of the culture”, in Larousse are “système philosophique ou religieux qui tend a fondre plusieurs doctrines, et perception globale chez l’enfant d’où emergeraient ensuite des objets distinctement perçus”. In all these definitions there are more kinds of depreciating the evolution or changes in history, be they looking backward or forward.

In my own developments there is a starting point, impossible to precisely locate, a principle (inner law), an interdiction to copy, to remake other’s work or experiences. It is illusory, of course, it could function only freely and spontaneously working. In short time I reached to investigate outside art domains, especially medicine. I had more essays and enouncements, although with a comic continuity, hoping to find remedies, not art works. Yes, it is a problem, to be or not to be serious, but I prefer to be not convinced. Is this instability, this lack of certainty the cause of deviating to art, as uncertain experience?

Thinking about the installation genre I went back to set windows, light, room, and back to all, to invitation. I invite people to show them, I invite them to see an event, it will happen something, for this we or I must set, install. Is that cosmic, as thought Vasarely, or a sad loan from serious sciences or religions?

Another escape is to consider me handicraftsman, which opens a different perspective of enterprising. It made clear in exhibiting contemporary art in the Museum of the Village, result a making fun of the artists’ claims.


The Deleuze’s text (Bergsonism, pages 96–98 in the English translation by Hugh Tomlinson and Barbara Habberjam, Zone Books, 1988) reminds me two things, the Marxist philosophy lessons, the so called overturn of the idealist German philosophy to a materialist one. Marx found all ready but in an inconvenient state, as ideas, words, and as the child from Andersen’s tale (The King’s New Clothes) which said “but he is naked”, the solution of the insatisfaction will be “from the matter will raise the ideas”. (You understand in my academic reduced and caricature-like philosophic courses, I developed images of Marx and Lenin’s findings, I read some of their texts.) I imagined Marx rewriting Hegel’s trilogy with the same words realizing the previewed reverse. But there is nothing in the Complete Works, so I thought it was only a student reverie (Traumerei) after which he wrote his own works, So that the revelation of a possible reversed dialectic (from the matter to the spirit, annulling the last) remained only a project. (For me like outside observer.)

The second thing is the Derrida’s book Les Spectres de Marx. I confess my incapacity to follow every page, I tell you only I felt that J. D. facing the so called death of the Marxism, had a similar revelation of reversed images – no, it is not matter, it is spectrum. But the phantom is also real and virtual? I have the impression that Derrida is convinced that the Spectrum is more present than the two terms of antinomy, dialectic, matter and idea, real and virtual.

June 2005

Art and Religiousness?

The ’90s Events.

My reserve and, I think, of many believers come from the role of the objects called icons. If they are blessed, does their artistic quality count anymore? Of course, blessing them is an uncertain thing, some objects may be only worshiped and not only the objects: the sun, the fire, the water, even the air, the smoke, the recipients which may contain them, nature, the glades, the river banks, the hollows, the rocks, the trees. It’s up to our belief if someone or something has blessed them. Somebody’s words and vocation for blessing them.

The holy objects are not necessarily beautiful. The beauty was looked upon for generations sometimes with admiration, sometimes with reserve; it never suc­ceeded to become sacred, it only has something like a veil created by the staging which puts it forward. Unbelievers, of course, see the staging even in what is sacred, until they are confronted to the spontaneous appearance in their circle, of mysticism and the “through belief” in the “cause”, the leader, their dead heroes, etc. And this is not staging, the sacred is not dated, it doesn’t have a beginning, it is transmitted to objects and we lose connection with it or regain it and sometimes we suffer from an inflammation (not with the sacred, but with vanity), we come to think of ourselves as pontiff and ask the others to listen to us, a well-known delirium. It’s a possible confusion, of course, like in Jules Verne, where the tribes are led by charlatans who mumble and “fall into a trance”...


Art brings between us and the objects a knife with different levels of intelligence, a tiring art history with all kind of calculations and theories, maybe we should put them in two bags and write “beautiful” and “ugly” on them. With all the romantic or expressionist revolts, which may have brought “the feeling” back to the cold hall of the art academy (which goes to “ugly”), as we go beyond modernism, we get fed up with the “art” institution, a body already dissected by Victor Vasarely, by Joseph Kosuth, again young and prosperous, promoted by Jakob Burckhardt. The Babel tower was not enough as expression of the human projects lack of clarity, the Museum had to come up, too, as a sum of the curiosities, of the objects made by man.

I recently found a very brief and clear text about the birth of the Lisbon Museum: “the first collection consisted in works from different monasteries abolished by the 1834 liberal law. This extremely rich wealth was completed by the acquisitions made by the Royal Academy of Belle Arte and through the kings’ patronage of arts. A significant part of the collections came after the Republic was proclaimed, in 1910, and a as result of the law regarding the separation between the Church and the State – from cathedrals and bishop palaces.”

I can notice two things – first, almost every icon in the museum have an unknown author, nevertheless, the great masters of Academy did accept them as ancestors, in a grace-giving act, nor quite a blessing, but the icons are covered in a kind of professorial varnish – “this is how our art starts” – the topic? it’s below, on the label, after the author, school, country and technique, whatever is more important. Those who stage objects in the museum already borrow from the church’s rituals. The second thing is the disappointment when entering the church, what to bow to, its walls and its shape has a clear meaning; they are not the Babel tower, but the icons? where are they? only new stuff, banal, not taken care of, with messages broken by the modern world, humiliated by the anti­clerical propaganda. What’s missing are only those exiled into the Museum.

Before us, the artists, is anonymous art. What a tone! The nameless are preceded by folk art; I’m not saying “masters”, but a child-like art, of everybody. There was an exhibition at the Village Museum, an absolute fiasco for the artists; every object was standing out from distance, didn’t fit in at all, as a saddle suits a sow, they were obviously useless, bizarre, raising the question “why”? They were objects, but for what purpose no one could tell, perhaps the authors themselves avoided any functional aspect. Just as a decoration? This is kitsch itself. Art has created a utility for itself, autonomous, between entertainment, pointless speculation and great ambitions, killer vanity, which all hide the intention of taking over the church’s functions, installation, ritual, performance, in fact, the exterior appearance, maybe the false one, propagated by the fights between Protestants and Catholics. But it was not enough that it was expressive; art wanted to be in the politics, at the same level as the politics professionals, it wanted to be militant, dissident, social.

In the 29–30 issue of the Art-hoc magazine (Chișinău) I discovered some suggestions in a dialogue between Margarita and Victor Tupitsyn with Ilya Kabakov. Everything’s in there: “in modern visual art there was a final split, universally acknowledged, between mysticism and cultural activity”, but also “the transfer of the gravity centre from the relationship between life and art to the relationship between culture and ritual . . ., a leap backwards . . ., but not a copy of the past, but its manifestation under new circumstances”. Ilya Kabakov, with his infallible artistic sense, gives the verdict: “because of the society’s secularization and the foreground position of concepts like artistic production, the quality, the aesthetic good, the mystical powers claims and interventions from other worlds became a mark of the bad taste”.

I remember a definition from high-school: a man who meanly admires a mean thing is a snob (probably Thackeray). Then either today’s religious art is condem­ned to prove bad taste, or genres should not mix, or art in itself is a snobbism as large as life, because it admires itself in stupor without knowing why things go so well for it. Everything seems real, only that they start from a presupposition which reality, the unique man (how many like him?) do not accomplish. Man can get rid of every No, but what about art, the general project? Man is witness to good and evil, between “other worlds”, which Kabakov makes fun of.

The retrograde ones emancipates, my old life showed bad taste; but they were not retrograde and they didn’t emancipate, “my” life was good as it was. I return to what I said in the beginning, art sees itself as being above religion, but desires the mission of the latter. It would like everyone to worship it, not to be able to live without it, people coming to the artist like to the priest, but as far as one go, it becomes funnier, art has nothing to put forth.

Among art’s political targets there is religion, which it “firmly” criticizes, first of all for its “deceitfulness”, after a couple of centuries for “secularization”, after another century (the century of the soviets’ miracle) for “nationalism”, all reducible to “it should change”, “it should not longer be” and “it’s a danger”. These pressures have been exercised on East, too, on the remote civilisations, which survived modernity. What could have made them so resistant? Maybe it’s their unmodified structures, which, of course, I believe in. Returning to Ilya Kabakov: “production”, “quality”, “the aesthetic good”, which mean commodity and value (art’s specific case). These are the words used to separate correctly, strictly, religion and autonomous art, objects. The religious ones are not goods, have no value, but thieves steal them and sell them. The gifts to monasteries are laic treasures now, during the wars they have been robbed, but, as an intention, it’s exactly the uniqueness, the hard work, without a pecuniary purpose that made them qualify as gifts and as things to be kept in a holy place. In France, this “holy place” is owned by the state and it’s being rented, it doesn’t look to good or neat, but a monk’s cell may not have any objects in it and it’s not owned by its inhabitant. (Translated by Alex Moldovan)


When dreams are closer, day and night (like now), I think about the surprise offered by the swim through subjectivism and imagination, without returning to this world, the world of objects, which only allows me a simultaneous flight, extremely short, in the world of thoughts and always gives me something to do.

The book has a bookmark between its pages.

And it says: ask the days before you, from the day God walled man on Earth and watch the sky from one end to another.

The book is a walling and the bookmark is powerless, Man is walled on Earth and cannot get out, too.

The walls made by God, however, are like angels, they move and think, the walls made by man are cities, books, and they can be used by others, too. With benevolence, otherwise, they are torn apart.

Memories will overcome life, which will neglect dream, which will carry on without apparently caring about one thing or another. Will I lose myself within their whirl? I will almost fall asleep? The dream seems so careless with me, with time, with space. The book would like to be outside time, belonging to one who doesn’t grow, doesn’t decrease, is complex, but does not change; and is contradictory. The book, too, says it is contradictory, that it doesn’t exist outside. The author is outside. The author comes from reality, parties with it, with the food, with the work, with other people’s commitment into relationships; God accompanies him, especially in what he cannot do by himself. (Translated by Alex Moldovan)