Issue #41, 2012
scene

Who is Behind the Scene
Daria Ghiu

Behind the Scene, Projects’ Salon, Bucharest, 22 June – 5 August 2012
Artists: The Bureau of Melodramatic Researches, together with Ștefan Tiron, Simina Guga and Irina Costache, Tatiana Fiodorova, Bogdan Gîrbovan, Mihaela Michailov & Paul Dunca, Olivia Mihălțianu, Alex Niculescu, Ștefan Sava


„We do not intend to live here“, says firmly the blind woman seated in a wheelchair in front of the tent installed in the Great National Assembly Square, in the center of Chișinău. Next to her is her husband and they use the marble street furniture as a table, they dry their clothes, from the tent one may hear occasionally the rattling spelling of their disabled daughter. They are homeless and they ask for a home, they appealed to all authorities, „even to Voronin“. That’s what triggers the latch: the poor of the society, forced to live in isolation, with a social support at the limit of survival, but with one privilege – limited to minutes, hours, days – to reach downtown, in the large square, to protest and to address the highest officials. They could only acquire normality by showing their wounds, claiming their disability, shamelessly exposing themselves. Palms, the video from which I quoted the scene above, belongs to the artist Tatiana Fiodorova from the Republic of Moldova. I’ve seen this work – a cruel and thrilling video poem – at the exhibition Behind the Scene, open between 22 June and 5 August at Projects’ Salon in Bucharest.

Born on October 2011 and located in a building belonging to the National Museum of Contemporary Art (MNAC), on Calea Moșilor nos. 62–68, the Projects’ Salon is a platform created by Magda Radu (art historian and curator) and Alexandra Croitoru (artist). The Salon focuses primarily on young artists, as a production space. During its first year of existence, apart from two such exhibitions, the Salon has opened three other with artists such as Ion Grigorescu, Anetta Mona Chișa and Lucia Tkácová, Daniel Knorr. The Salon is financially and logistically supported by the MNAC and one of its tasks is to give young artists a vote of confidence, to make them visibly in Bucharest, supporting them in achieving their projects. The sole thing pertaining to the „anachronistic concept of Salon“ – as Magda Radu said in an interview – is the idea of a regular event and the type of collective exhibition instead of solo exhibitions.

The fifth exhibition at the Projects’ Salon emerged from the open call launched in July 2011. The artists have produced new works, out of the „participants’ urgency or need to leave the white cube, the art’s aseptic space, to come into contact with public space areas“. Formed after a fierce series of protests – protests that continue in effect today, constantly animated by members of the civil society – the exhibition Behind the Scene is a breath of fresh air, a solid project, with works „tracked“ over time, elaborated, developed and, at the same time, is a current event that fills a void and occurs at a time when one feels manipulated and rock bottom as regards the political, social, cultural options.

Behind the scenes, the daily rehearsal takes place. This is where the viscera are. The title metaphor seems to apply at three levels in the exhibition: weather we talk about the very dynamics of the exhibition, about how it occupies the space, attacking corners, hiding behind a pillar or creating its own space, protectively, its own „room“; or we talk about the media that the artists have used or we talk content-wise. The artists in this exhibition question the authorities, the institutions, everything that tries to manipulate us in one way or another. I find it symptomatic that the video only appears in two projects: Tatiana Fiodorova’s work and Olivia Mihălțianu’s installation. In the first case, the artist from the Republic of Moldova tracks two families who, as a form of protest, raised a temporary shelter in front the government in Chișinău. The camera films slowly the details of the makeshift home, stops before the messages of protest and the statements of the family members. The gate of the passing between the years, which the municipality installed at the New Year, becomes the entrance to the protesters’ hut. In another work, Fiodorova presents – without any intervention – three local televisions’ news broadcasted on National Flag Day, when the makeshift shelters were destroyed by the authorities for the ceremony. „They made ​​a mess at a festive time“, a simple citizen takes attitude.

Olivia Mihălțianu creates a cinema hall in the exhibition space, where a W*EASTERN spaghetti is being projected. A parody of the parody, western vs. W*EASTERN, the artist recreates Sergio Leone’s famous continental – spaghetti – westerns. With a cowboy hat, but with the camera instead of a revolver, the artist aims to visit the key points of contemporary art. The second film in the series, after Venice, happens in Paris. The plan is observed, the artist confronts the institution of art, and thus she enters the museum. She has worked up her place.

As a counter-model for television, for the manipulatively filmed image, it is surprising that artists use other means of disseminating the messages: a return to the newspaper, the radio, the play. The newspaper and radio Pro Life is a project of the Bureau of Melodramatic Researches, together with Ștefan Tiron, Simina Guga and Irina Costache. Under the poster for Doctuor Destin  with a random separation into syllables –, the radical discourse against feminism, in Orthodox Faith,  the anti-abortion text of a moderate priest and a glossary of terms (from animism to vitalism), the first issue of Pro Life examines with a sufficient dose of irony, black humor but also empathy, the moral and social implications of the phenomenon of abortion and all the stereotypes occurred around it. It is designed as a propaganda newspaper, written in the ’50s manner, with true stories, three categories of Did You Know That…, specialized articles, comics.1

Playwright Mihaela Michailov and choreographer Paul Dunca created a classroom in the exhibition and imagined an alternative history lesson about gay life in Romania before 1989: After Trajan and Decebalus. The opening performance2 is a series of biographies, trying to restore obscure areas of a prohibited reality, of the lives lived outside the law. If the communist period was equivalent to everyone with the invention of self-control and self-defense strategies, to survive as a gay then had even more to do with the ability of inventing subtle techniques of concealing oneself, raised to the power of two. The reference to files in the Security archives triggers in the viewer’s mind precisely this need for research, for restoration though documents of the unseen part. Privacy during the communist period must be recreated in at least three ways: as the others saw it, as the one who lived it saw it and as authorities tracked it.

Lastly, three other works in the Projects’ Salon exhibition. In the case of Bogdan Gîrbovan and Ștefan Sava it is about what I would call abidance on the image: to deconstruct each visual signal, to abide on the message. „From private to general“, the church ministers’ army is caught by the artist Bogdan Gîrbovan. The churchdom, from black to gold and precious stones, marks the path from „ashes to diamonds“, from birth to death. The series The Hierarchy of the Romanian Orthodox Church „also has an inevitably critical function. . . . acting, many times, within the same segments as the State or the Bank and becoming, in some circumstances, an unlimited liability company“ (Igor Mocanu).

As for the installation of the artist Ștefan Sava (photomontage, an alphabet-artist book, a documentation table), it is an invitation to contemplation, to the re-articulation of recent history, but also a literal, physical re-articulation, an internalization of each letter, starting from a phrase  in the controversial novel Delirul (Delirium) (published in 1975, in full dictatorship and cultural censorship) by Marin Preda, a phrase which – the artist reveals – is about the young clandestine activist Nicolae Ceaușescu. „He told himself that he had yet to receive the hardest blows and that, whilst he rolled with the punches, he had to prepare himself for future blows, the blows which would come much later and which would be far more terrible than the ones he was enduring at present“ is both the long title of Ștefan Sava’s work and the phrase decomposed in visually interpreted letters: a complicated choreography in the public space performed by the artist. A different occupation of the public space, with a sort of a silent protest, with his body turned into the alphabet. And in order to read, one has to take one’s time, to interpret, to live letter by letter. It is an intelligent reading of recent history: each letter weighed heavily in a written text, censorship meant negotiating each word, which might have remained or had to leave the piece of paper. This original rereading of the Delirium fragment consists of a re-alphabetization of recent history.

Behind the Scene is going back to the deepest springs of the image and its function, is a show of undermining authority by an analysis of the active marginality (behind the scenes are us, the protesters, the others, those vigilant, the artists), is an exhibition that you gives the comforting feeling of the unsuspected possibilities of art: the artists are careful, they research, they observe each anomaly of the present, they are united and they reinvent ways of understanding history, nay, they rewrite official history. There is another work in the exhibition, on which one could stumble upon, installed randomly in space, the only one almost standing in the way: abstract objects of wax. The Dream Factory by the artist Alex Niculescu is the result of two years of collecting remnants of candles lit by the faithful in church for the souls of the living. The candles symbolically loaded with the believers’ wishes and prayers, whose butts are remelted by the church to get back into the circuit, becoming candles again. The artist disrupts this process, this micro-economy, giving back what the Church – by remelting – would take: the believers’ dreams, desires.

Behind the Scene closed its first exhibition year at the Projects’ Salon and was a showwith strong works of young artists. An exhibition which managed to occupy the Bucharest art scene for two months.

Projects’ Salon was initially meant for a year. But this summer a new open call waslaunched. The works to be produced in the fall of 2012 and in 2013 at the Salon will be selected by the artists Aurelia Mihai and Ciprian Mureșan. The show continues on the Bucharest art scene.

Translated by Alex Moldovan

 

Notes:

1. ‑Pro Life newspaper can be read online at http://www.salonuldeproiecte.ro/texts/ProLife.pdf.

2. See http://vimeo.com/46063621.