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Galliera, Anca Izabel.
Negotiating artistic identity through satire
h [electronic resource] :
b subreal 1989-1999 /
by Anca Izabel Galliera.
[Tampa, Fla.] :
University of South Florida,
Thesis (M.A.)--University of South Florida, 2005.
Includes bibliographical references.
Text (Electronic thesis) in PDF format.
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ABSTRACT: The focus of this research study is on major art works produced during the nineteen-nineties by the Romanian collective subREAL, composed of Calin Dan and Josif Kiraly. The thesis is an alternative to the literal-minded and politically biased Western view typified in two major exhibitions of art from Eastern Europe: Beyond Belief: Contemporary Art from East Central Europe (Chicago, 1995) and After the Wall: Art and Culture in Post-Communist Europe (Sweden, 1999). Both exhibitions presented Post-Communist nations as a monolithic bloc, in which art was primarily a passive reflection of political and social events. It will be demonstrated that such exhibitions had consciously promoted this polarizing Western interpretation of the former socialist cultures of Eastern Europe. By contrast, the argument presented here is that subREAL did not merely transmit information and facts from remote lands, but rather explored satire as the way to engage the world around them.
Adviser: Dr. Bradley J. Nickels.
t USF Electronic Theses and Dissertations.
Ne g otiatin g Artistic I d e n ti t y thro u g h Satire: subREA L 198 9 -1999 b y Anca I zabel Galliera A thesis submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for t h e de g ree of Master of Arts School of Art and Art H i stor y Colle g e of Visual and Performin g Arts Universi t y o f South Florida Major Professor: Brad le y J Nickels, Ph.D. David Wri g ht, Ph.D. L ouis Marcus, M.A. Andaluna Codruta Borci l a, Ph.D. Date of Ap p roval: April 22, 2005 K e y words: Romania, Dracula, E x hibition Practices, Post-Communist Co n dition, Archive Co p y r i g ht 2005, Anca I zabel Galliera
i Table of Contents Abstrac t ii I ntrod u ction: Post-Cold War Eastern E u rope 1 Chapter One: The Preva l ent Monolithic Western View in Beyond Belief an d After the W all E x hibitio ns 8 Chapter Two: An O v erv i ew of Satire in the Romanian L itera r y and Artistic Tradition / Satire in subREAL 23 Chapter Three: Ag g ress i ve Satire in the Ear l y 19 9 0s I nstallations 33 Chapter Fo u r: Social Satire in the Draculand Series 45 Chapter Five: The Art H i story Archive Series and Satirical Critical Distance 62 Conclusion 70 Biblio g rap h y 76
ii Ne g otiatin g Artistic I d e n ti t y T h ro u g h Satire: subREA L 198 9 -1999 Anca I zabel Galliera ABSTRACT The focus of this research stu d y is on major art works produced d u rin g t h e nineteen-nineties b y the Romanian collective su b REA L composed of Cal i n Dan and J osif Kira l y The thesis is an alternative to the literal-minded and political l y biased Western view t y pif i ed in two major e x hibitions of art from Eastern Euro p e: Beyond Belief: Contemporary A r t from East Central Eur o pe (Chica g o, 1995) and After the W all: Art and Culture in Post Communist Europe (Sweden, 1999). Both e x hibitions presented Post-Communi s t nations as a monolithic bloc, in which art was p rimari l y a passive reflection of political an d social events. I t will be demonstrated that such e x hibitions had conscious l y p romoted this polarizin g Western interpretation of the former s ocialist cultures of Eastern Euro p e. B y contrast, the ar g ume n t presented here is that s u bREA L did not mere l y transmit information and facts fr o m remote lands, but rather e x plored satire as the wa y to e n g a g e the world around them. I t will be ar g ued that an i m portant satirical tactic e m pl o y ed b y the artists was to ju x tapose elements from East and West in order, first, to cope with bitter memories; second, to mock stereo t y pical images o f Romanian culture; and final l y to disarm the ideolo g i cal past and present b y a critical distancin g strate g y This ana l y sis will
iii entail the identification o f specific s o cial themes reflecti n g Romanian political and cultural cha n ges of the 1 990s. The discussion of subREA L will reveal that the artists were ve r y much aware of the Western conventions and realized that in order to enter the inter n ational scene th e y had to deliver works accessible to a Western audience. Operati n g within a s pecific satirical tradition, the art i sts ne g otiated a path be t ween their artistic identit y and t h e Western perception of that identi t y
1 Introduction: P ost-Cold War Eastern Europe I s there a serious interest in true plurali t y and m utual e x change, or are d o ors opened on l y for p re-established notions of what is accep t ed, valuable, and commercial l y viable ? Or will those doors open onl y so that traditional Western art can appro p riate all that is new and v i g orous in or d er to re n ew its spent aesthetics ? ... 1 Durin g t h e almost half-centur y lo n g Cold War period (1953-1989), the n ations of Eastern and Central Eur o pe, as satellite states un d er Moscows direct con t rol, represen t ed a monochromatic, distan t and off-limits re g ion for the West. 2 Well-known metaphors, like the Berlin Wall 3 a n d the I ron Curtai n 4 were evocative and e x press i ve for th e y embodied the notion of the border b etween the Communist utopia and the Western Capitalist world. The collapse of t h e Berl i n Wall on November 6, 1989 insti g ated the histor i cal revolutions 5 of the late ni n eteen-ei g hties and ear l y nineteen-nineties in Eas t ern and Central Europe. T h e rev o lutions ended Soviet rule and initiated each n ations individual 1 Gerardo Mosquera, Spheres, Cities, T ransitions: Inte r nati o nal P erspectives on A rt a nd Cul t ure, Art Nexus 3, no. 54 (2004): 84-9. 2 Western Europe and Americ a 3 T he w a ll e m bodied the abst r act bord e r w ith a m a n i fest l y a r bitrar y physical barrier, cutting off traffic along w hat w ere busy stree t s. T o the global m etropolis it m e ant a shift of cont i n e nts, a freezing o f the co m p a ss. Sibel a n Forrester, Magdalena J. Zabor o w ska a nd Elena Gapova, I ntroduction : Mapping P ostsocialist Cul t ural S t udies in Over the W all / After the Fall ed. Sibelan Forrester, Magdalena J. Zabor o w ska and El e na Gapova (Bloo m ington: Indiana U n i versi t y P ress, 2004), 8. 4 T he w ord ir o n is express i v e in that i t evok e s t he iron f i st of the c o mmunist rule, recalls t he factories o f the social i st stat e s, and also i ron is i mmovable a nd i m p e netrable to sound and light. T he Iron Curtain i s s i milar to a w all, protecting the innoc e nce of t hose it protects and hid i ng t h e m fr o m p r y ing glares of t he w e st. Ibid., 13. 5 T he foll o w ing i s a list of s o me of the post-c o mmun i st coun t ries and the dates of t he revo l utions: A lb a nia (1991); Belarus (1991); Bosnia and Herzegov i na (1992); Bulgaria (1989); Croatia (1991); Czech Republic (1993); Eastonia (1989); East Berlin, Ge r m any (1989); Hunga r y (1989); P oland (1989); R o m a nia (1989); Slov a kia (1993) and Slovenia (1989). Bo j ana P e j ic and David Elliot, ed., After the W all, Art and Culture in Post-Communist Europe exh cat. (Modern Museum: Sto c kho l m 1999), 159-205.
2 and uneven jour ne y fro m a totalitarian re g ime toward democra c y T h e eu p horia felt b y the new l y liberated n ations celebratin g the fall of the wall dissipated rapid l y in the ear l y nineteen-nineties and pr o blems soon started to surface. For e x ample, the Post-Cold War 6 g eopolitical map, o f a s i mplified Europe, neat l y divided into East and West, has shifted and became problematic and several of the f o rmer Socialist countries positions in the g lobal atlas were uncertain. 7 Furthermore, re p resentin g and understandi n g the cultures of the former Communist nations within the Western scene, pro v ed to be pr o blematic main l y because intellectuals and critics continued t o emphasize separation and had little interest in generatin g a true dialo g b etween equal s Adjectives like backward and primitive when applie d to the Balkans, s u g g es t ed a re g ion riddled with n ationalist and ethnic conflicts, that stood in contrast to the pr o g ressive and sophisticated West. Despite the g aps, the West was ea g er to discover and enter the n ew l y free d Eastern Euro p ean coun t ries. Be g inni n g with the ear l y months of 1990, there was an e x plosion of short essa y s and le n g t h y articles in art publications on art and culture in Eastern Euro p e. Amer i can magazines, such as ArtNews hit the newsstands with catc h y headlines. I t is interesti n g to mention a few of the titles especial l y since the y often told a lot more than the actual article. I n the M a y 1990 i s sue of ArtNews 8 an e x tensive report titled After the Revolut i on: Art in Eastern Euro p e was published. I t contained separate 6 P ost-Cold War refers to the period after the overthr o w n o f t he C o mmunist r e g i mes. T hrough o ut my paper I use other s i milar te r ms l i ke P ost-Socialist, or P os t -C o mmun i st or pos t -1989or P ost-Berl i n Wall to describe the s a m e period. 7 A ccording to the Fr e nch Le P etit Larousse Illus t re (1993), t he Balk a ns st a tes i nclude A lb a nia, Bu l garia, Croatia, Greece, Slovenia, T urk e y ( t he European portion) and Yugosl a via. In t he Encyclopedia Britannica CD (1998) the Balkan P eninsula as a slight l y d i ffer e nt c o m p osition c o m pris i ng all t he countries mentioned above exclud i ng T urk e y. Co m ptons Interactive Encyc l oped i a CD (1998) defines the Ba l k a ns to in c lude A lb a nia, Bu l garia, Greece, T u rk e ythe E uropean portion, Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia a nd Herzegov i na, Yugoslavia, Macedonia, and R o m a nia. A drian Cioroianu, T he I m possible Escape: R o m a nian a nd the Balkans, i n Balkan as Metaphor, Between Globalization and Fragmentation ed. Dusan I. B j elic and Obrad Savic (C a m bridge: M IT P ress, 2002), 210.
3 mini-reports on several n ations from the former Soviet bloc, for e x ample, Poland: Waitin g for Solidari t y Hunga r y : Goulash Democra c y Czechoslovakia : Theater o f the Absurd and Roma n ia: Suspended Animation. I n these articles the p o st-Communist Eastern Euro p e was s een as A new Europe in its infant sta g e of formation Furtherm o re, each of t h e articles titles was an i r o nic pla y on words. Th e y attempted to describe the p resent situation, in each of these n ations, b y ironical l y alludin g to the communist past. For e x ample, Hunga r y was seen as slow l y replaci n g J anos Kadars soft dictatorship or Gou l a s h Communism 9 with Goulash Democra c y ; the presence of the theater of t h e absurd in C zechoslovakia referred t o the dissident absurdist pla y wr i g ht Vaclav Havel who b ecame the count r y s president; and Romanias Suspended Animation referred to the ve r y slow almost non-e x i s tent changes within the arts. A similar report titled E astern Euro p e: Euphoria Eclipsed ap p eared a y ear later in the Febr u a r y 1991 iss u e of ArtNews documentin g the p ast y ears cha n ges that had occurred in some of the former Soviet-bloc natio n s. The article reported m ain l y on issues related to the real hardships of a bare l y emer g i n g art market in these nation s The subsequent titles from this publication were also sug g estive: Soviet Unio n : Reinventin g an Art World, Poland: Gettin g Closer to the Cu s tomer, Hu n ga r y : After the Soft Revolution, Czechoslovakia: Torn Vel v et and Romania: The Standar d s of Change. The articles, as their titles sug g est, point toward t he cultural, economic a n d political instabili t y of t h e former Socialist countries. Close l y followin g t h e p u blished articles, a new litera r y genre, t ermed journal of return, appeared and h e l ped maintain the American interest in the new l y d iscovered 8 After the Revo l uti o n: A rt in Eastern Europe, ArtN e ws 89, no. 5 (1990): 151-75.
4 cultures of the f o rmer C o mmunist countries. The litera r y g e n re of t h e jour n al of return was developed once y o u n g m i g rs retur n ed to their place o f or i g in after livin g most of their lives in the United States as American citizens. The journal of return recor d ed the identification of the returnee as both Eastern Eur o pean and A m erican. As Andaluna Borcila pointed out, o n ce the Communist re g imes collapsed, the returnees were authorized, contracted to document both their ret u rn and the political realities of Eastern Europe. T h e narratives o f returni n g immi g rants participated in the prod u ction of meanin g about Eastern Europe and post-Communism. 10 Works such as Andrei Codrescus The Hole in t he Flag (1991) and E v a Hoffmans E xit Into History (1991) were written main l y for t he Western audie n ce an d the y fu l filled that audie n ces de m and for knowle d g e about Ea s tern Europe. 11 The narratives of return and the art journals (ment i oned above) evoked binar y contrasts between the n ormali t y o f the West a n d the traumatized post Communist Eastern Euro p e. Additional l y th e y allowed the Western audie n ces to witness histor y in the makin g in a distant E astern Euro p e. F o r e x ample in The Hole in the Flag Andrei Codrescu talked about h i s first hand e x perience o f the historical events be t ween Decem b er 1989J anua r y 1990 in Romania. Also, it is relevant to note that the narratives of return and t h e art articles were written ve r y sh o rt l y after the collapse of t he communist re g imes. J ust as the returnin g immi g rants were sent to witness and record histor y in the makin g the ArtNews re p orters were also sent to d iscover how the art sce n es in the Eastern bloc, havi n g b een lon g repressed, were reinventin g themselves. T he infant and 9 Goulash C o mmunism w a s a m iddle road bet w e e n social i s m a nd capitalism. Ernest Be c k, Hunga r y : Goulash C o mmunism, Ar t N e ws 89, no. 5 (1990): 169. 10 N e w Voices Conference at t he Universi t y o f W y o m i ng E ncounters w i t h P ost-C o mmun i st Sit e s: T r a j ectories of Inqui r y (Notes of a Resid e nt A li e n), Ameri c an Studies 44, no. 1 (2003): 196.
5 defor m ed Eas t ern Eur o pean nations were seen as be g inni n g their jour ne y towards normali t y specific to t h e West. J ames Aulich noted that stereo t y pical l y news p a p ers and news broa d casts portr a y ed E astern Euro p e as a land o f the orphan s food queues, emp t y sh o ps, peasants, reli g ious ardour, police b rutali t y and anti-communist fervor. For e x ample, Magnums East Europe a 1992 film record in still images, told the histor y of the re g i o n since 1945 throu g h black and white art prints. 12 The film was a stor y of lost opportuni t y pover t y and backwardness. Also it is si g nificant to note that t h e movie did not refer to individual postcommunist nations but rather it considered E aster n Europe as a compact region. Throu g hout the ni n eties the persistence of post-C o ld War binar y oppositio n s between identities of Western and Eastern European cultures was the focu s of several eminent scholars of post-totalitarian studies. 13 Slavoj Z izek and Mar i a Todorova were concer n ed with the persistence of a Western Bal k anist discourse, and o f m y ths ori g inati n g from the e i g h teenth centu r y wh i ch pr o jected a sa v a g e and bac k ward ima g e o f Eastern Euro p ean peop l es. Z izek talked about the Western perception of the PostCold War Europe, specifical l y the Balkans, as a p l ace where nothi n g is for g otten and nothin g is ever learned, w h ere t h e old traumas are repl a y ed again and again. 14 Maria Todoro v a, in her s eminal book Imagining the Balkans set forth the differe n ces b etween Bal k anism and the Orientali s m of Edward Said. She s uccessful l y 11 Ibid., 197. 12 T hrough the Look i ng Glass: Visu a l Expressi o n in C e ntral Europe 1989-93, in Europe without W al l s: Art, Posters and Revolution 1989-93 exh. cat., ed. Ja m es Auli c h and Ti m othy Wilcox ( M anch e ster: Manch e ster Ci t y Galle r y, 1993), 11. 13 An e m e r g i ng i nterdiscipl i na r y fi e ld of scholarship fo c us e s on the enc o unters be t w een t h e n e w l y discovered Eastern Europe and the West, especial l y Nor t h America, after 1989. See Bor c ila, American Studies 188.
6 ar g ued that Balkanism was not a subspecies o r a v ariation of Saids Orien t alism. Todorova cited concrete e x amples to support her claim: the g e o graphical concrete n ess of the Balkans; a lack of e x otic and se x ual l y femini n e images t y p i cal of the Orient (Harem, etc); and the ima g e of a brid g e o r cros s roads 15 rather than a distant place in time and space (as the Or i ent is perceive d ). While Orientalism, accordi n g to Todor o va, is a discourse about an impu t ed opposition, Balkanism is about an imputed ambi g ui t y . 16 Within post-totalitarian scholarship, in additio n to Todorova an d Z izek, L ar r y Wolff offered a historical perspective on the c o ncept of Eastern Europe. I n his book Inventing Eastern Euro p e: the Map of Civilization on the Mind of the Enlightenment Wolff showed the ei g hteenth-centu r y or i g in and l ater persistence of the W estern view of Eastern Europe as a n o mans land, a place both uncivilized and backward. Wolff ar g ued that the invention of Eastern Europe as a geographical l y and cultural l y remote an d barbar i c location duri n g the Enli g htenment was n ecessa r y for the creation of the West a s the civilized and refine d land: J ust as the new centers of the Enli g hten m ent superseded t h e old centers of the Renaissance, the old lan d s of barbarism and bac k wardness in the north were correspondi n g l y displaced to the east. The Enl i g htenment had to invent Ea s tern Europe and Western E u rope together, as complementa r y concepts, defin i n g each other b y opposition and adjacen c y . 17 Similar l y to Wolffs his t orical obser v ation, post-Cold War Europe is (re) i nvented again b y the West as a ver y distant, underdevelo p ed and backward re g ion of the world. Moreover, as Andaluna Borcila pointed out, post-1989 Romania is percei v ed b y t h e 14 Ziz e k specifical l y address e s t he role of the Balk a nist f a ntasy in Weste r n perception of th e even t s in fo r m er Yugosl a via. The Metastases of Enjoyment: Six Essay on W oman and Causality (London: Verso, 1994), 212. 15 Maria Todorova, Balkanism and Oriental i sm: A re th e y D i fferent Cat e gories, Imagining the Balkans (N e w York: O xford Unive r si t y P ress, 1997), 3-21. 16 Ibid., 17.
7 American audience as a l and of orphans, a le g a c y of Communist atrocities, violence and pover t y Television re p resentations, print media and travel g uides also s u g g ested t h at in the Western perception the post-Cold War Eastern Europe, specifical l y Romania, was an assembla g e of traumatized sites and patholo g ical spaces f o r the victims of Communism. 18 I n summa r y Z izek, Todorova, Wolff and Borcila s howed that Eastern Eur o pean cultures were repre s ente d as one-dimensional b y t he West. Their studies on cultural repre s entations revealed t he persistence of bina r y oppositions between the West and PostCold War Eastern Euro p e. Additional l y the art journals and the narratives of return (published in the west) p ortr a y ed Post-Communist European nations as victims of communism that stood i n contrast to the West. As Wolff pointed out, Since 1989, Eastern Euro p e has bec o me an idea o n ce again, n o lon g er under the militar y control o f the Soviet Union. Eastern Europe howe v er rema i ns an e x treme l y powerfu l idea, deep l y imbedded in the histor y o f two centuries, so influential in its political consequences that its intellectual ori g ins are bare l y rec o g nized, hidden in historical camouflage. 19 The initial questions of this research stu d y then are whether the cultural repre s entation of Easter n European as monolithic b y the West influenced t he Western reception of art and artists from Eastern E u rope, s pecifical l y Romania. Al s o, how did Romanian artists attempt to participate within the international e x hibition p ractices ? The preset stu d y will attempt to formulate some answers b y looki n g at two ma j or art e x hibitio n s of East European art staged in North America and Western Eur o pe. 17 Inventing Eastern Europe: T he Map of Civilization on the Mind of the Enlight e nment (Stanford, CA : Stanford Un i versi t y P ress, 1994), 5. 18 Borcila, American Studies 195-6. 19 Inventing 16.
8 Chapter One: The P revalent Monolithic Western View in Beyond Belief and After the Wall Contempora r y Art, ma y b e a n y art and a n y cult u ral production, comes to us throu g h the medium of t h e e x hibition. Or g anizin g e x hibitio n s is writin g art histor y . 20 Beyond Belief: Contem p orary Art from East Central Europe, 21 organized a t the Museum of Contemporar y Art, Chica g o in 1995, and After the W all: Art a n d Culture in Post-Communist Europe, 22 organized at the Moderna Musee, Stockholm, Sweden in 1999, were two m ajor e x hibitions of art from Eastern Europe t h at great l y s haped the Western perception of the art and culture of Post-Socialist nations, includin g Romania, throu g hout the nineteen-nineties. The ar g ument in this c h apter is that the s e e x hibitions were not isolated events, but that their sta g in g was r o oted within the North American cultural re p resentations of the concept of Eastern Euro p e and f o rmer Soviet-bloc countries as a uniform cultural re g ion a bias was revealed in the structure and curator i al approach of each. I n both of these e x hibitio n s art was treated primari l y as a reflecti o n of political and social events, as if the artists and their art wou l d have no si g n i ficance without the desi g nation of their national ori g in. 20 P iotr P iotro w ski C e ntral Europe in the Face of Unificati o n, in Art Margins http://www.artmargins.com/content/feature/piotrowski2.html 22 Nov 2004. 21 Margaret Welsh, ed., Beyond Belief: Contemporary Art from East Central Europe exh. c at. (Chic a go: Mus e um of C o nt e m pora r y A r t 1995). 22 P e j ic and Elliott, ed., After the W all
9 The present account attempts to answer two important questions: B y w h at criteria did the curator choose which art works and artists would be repre s ented ? How much did the curator control re p re s entation ? However, besides the curators, billionaire George Soros had an influential role in sta g i n g the two e x hibitions. He has been fundi n g a network of Soros Cen t ers for Contempora r y Art (SCCA) in virtual l y eve r y cap i tal in Eastern and Central Europe since the fall of the Berlin Wall. The Soros Center for C ontempora r y Art in Romania opened in November 1992 as part o f the general SCCA network. The or g anization aimed to financial l y support and s t imulate the production of Romanian art, to promote the inte g ration of new artistic strate g ies within the local arts, and to ensure tha t the Romanian art sce n e has access abr o ad. All of the cen t ers were coordinated b y a hub office in New York (called the Open S o cie t y I nstitute and the Soros Foundations Netw o r k ), that repre s ented the on l y ma j or port of ent r y for the Westerner into the local c o ntempora r y art activi t y SCCA provided lo g istical coordi n ation, translations and most imp o rtant l y contacts with a set netw o rk of artists associated with the Center. Subseque n t l y on l y those artists in affiliation with the Soros Centers were m eant to be re p resen t ed in international l y o r g anized e x hibitio n s, as in the case of Beyond Belief and A f ter the W all. 23 Rachel Weiss made a g o od point when she obser v ed that the same few artists were most often represe n ted in the international l y organized e x hibitions, t h us underlinin g 23 Being connected to the S CC A for an Eastern E uropean artist m e a nt access to inte r nation a l exposure. Be t w e e n Nov e m ber 1992 unt i l Februa r y 1995 subR E AL played a central role w i t h i n t he S CC A i n R o m a nia w i t h Cal i n Dan as t he artistic director and Josif Kira l y a s the chief p hotographer for the F oundation. See Introduction i n subREALs Fi l es (Ku e nstle r haus Beth a nien / Neuer Berliner Kuns t vere i n, 1996).
10 the influence that the Soros centers ha d in promotin g these few artists. 24 I t i s not surprisin g theref o re to see his name mentioned before a n y ot h er participan t in both the Beyond Belief an d After the W all catal o g ues. Althou g h the Soros Foundat i on had centers practical l y in each and e v e r y nation of the post-C o ld War Eastern and Central Europe, on l y a limited number of artists were actual l y affiliated with them. For instance, in Romania, throu g hout the ear l y and mid nine t y nineties, the artists predominate l y associated with the Center were the ones who formed durin g the 1980s u n der g round artistic generation and reached maturi t y in the 19 9 0s 25 includin g the g roup s ubREA L Dan and L ia Perjovschi, Calin Man, Teodor Graur and others. I n general durin g the nine t y nineties, the s e art i sts were interested in international artistic practices and wanted to emer g e on the A m erican and Western Euro p ean art sce n e. I n this sense, in the ear l y nineties, on the local art i stic scene, the Center initiated specific e x hibition practices promotin g the use of n ew technolo g i es, video-installation art and performance aimed f o r s y nc h ronization with contempora r y inter n ational e x hibition practices. 26 Geor g e Soros was born i n Hunga r y immi g rated t o L ondon in 1937 at the age of seventeen and enrolled i n L ondons School of Ec o nomics. I n 1956, h e moved to the United States and be g an t o build his financial success throu g h an internati o nal investment fund that he founded an d mana g ed. I n time he b ecame one of the p rincipal financial fi g ures on the inter n ational scene, and has been a n authoritative prese n ce i n establishin g communication between post-Cold War Eastern and Central European co u ntries and 24 Rachel Weiss, T he March o f P aradig m , N e w Art Examin er 23 (1995): 22-5. 25 In the n e xt c hapter, I w ill off e r a brief overvi e w o f t he R o manian art i stic underground act i viti e s of the 1980s. 26 In Chapter Four, I w ill dis c uss s o m e of t he R o m a nian e xhibition practices supported b y the Soros Center.
11 North America and Western Europe. 27 Howe v er, he contributed to the per p etuation of unilateral re p resentation of the post-Cold War nations. I n this sense, it is re l evant to quote one of subREA L s me m ber Calin Dan on the c o mple x philanthropic nat u re of the Geor g e Soros Foundation (between November 1992 and Februa r y 1995, C alin was Director of the Soros Center in Romania): I think the main cau s e for the frustrations the structures and the o p eratio n al policies of the Soros Fo u ndation mi g ht raise is scalin g Both Soros Founda t ions projects and Geor g e Sor o s personal philosop h y are deali n g with lar g e s cale concepts and emergencies. And lar g e scale has to step over the scale of the individual. What Geor g e Soros is doin g b y his phi l anthropic work is compressin g histor y into a life time project.What matters in the end is that philanthro p y operates in no different w a y from pr o fit. I t relies on the same s y stem of demand and offer, of punishment and reward as the oppre s sive capitalism itself. And at both ends of the link are t he eter n al enemies the rich who provide jobs, goods, control, and the poor w h o provide work, pr o fit, reco g nitionSoros Foun d ations programs are g ambli n g ma y b e on the elites of t o morrow and re l y on the local societies for acceptin g or rejecti n g them on a lo n g term. But here is another parado x g e n erated b y the imperfections of soc i eties, be the y open or closed You cannot build an open s y s t em on the ruins of a clo s ed one without countin g on the remnants of the previous. Even more, y ou cannot open a closed s o cie t y without makin g compromises wi t h those in char g e with it that means precise l y t h ose who do not fan c y the o p enin g This is just another relevant de t ail pointin g at the fact that Soros Foun d ation is a Power structure, representi n g other Power structures, operatin g within the environment of Power and acc o rdi n g to Power re g ulation. To pre s ent it otherwise is just a clever marketin g strate g y . 28 Soros was foremost an emblem of the Western world. Within the arts, for instance, I rina Sandomir s kaja pointed out that w o rds such as identi t y , s u bjectivi t y , stereo t y pe and critique are p art of an internati o nal lan g u a g e of critical representation in which the After the Wall e x hibition, for e x ample, chose to con ve y its own intentions. 29 The same w o rds were picked up b y E astern European artists fr o m the 27 George Soros, http://www.soros.org/about/b i os/a soros 7 Jan 2004. 28 Calin D a n, The Dictatorship of Goodwill, http://amsterdam.nettime.org/ListsA rchives/n e ttime-l9705/msg00050.html 10 Feb 2005. 29 Irina Sand o m i r ska j a, The W a l l after the W all, http://www.artmargins.com/ content/review / sandomirskajareview.html 17 Jan 2005.
12 package of application materials to the Soros Fou n dation. I t can be conclu d ed, therefore, that in g e n eral the E astern European artist, in order to enter the inter n ational art scene, would adopt a dominant international vocabu l a r y e x emplified b y the Nort h American contempora r y e x hibition practices. Beyond Belief 30 organized in the mid-nineties, represented the first and last major e x hibition of Eastern and Central European art in t he United States. The e x hibition focused on local cultural themes amon g thir t een m ost l y y o u n g artists from s i x different countries: Romania, Poland, Bu l g aria, Hu n g a r y C zech Republic and Slovakia, and structured the artists works on a count r y b y -cou n tr y basis. Romania was represen t ed b y the g rou p subREA L and two other artists, Dan Perjovschi and I oana Ba t rinu. 31 The e x hibition was g uest curated b y the American L a u ra Hoptman, who was s ent b y the Museum of Contemporar y Art, Chica g o on two fact-findin g jour ne y s (in 1 993 and 1994), to five countries and appro x imate l y twen t y cities. She returned with a gro u p of contempora r y artists who were well known in the countries of or i g in but virtual l y unknown in the U.S. 32 I n Romania, Hoptman collaborated with the SCCAs Artistic Director Calin Dan who is also one of subREA L s members. Accordi n g to Hoptman, Calin had set up a ve r y g ood pr o gram of studio v isits as well as visits to e x hibitions. 33 The works in the Beyon d Belief e x hibition were selected to re p resent most appropriate l y their countr y of p rovena n ce, and ap p ear to make u s e of a s o -called local 30 T he exhibition Beyond Belief: Contemporary Art from East and Central Europe opened in Sept e m ber 1995 a t the Mus e um of Cont e m pora r y A rt, Chic a go. It th e n traveled to A ll e n M e m orial A r t Mus e um, Oberlin, Ohio; t he Insti t ute of Cont e mporar y A rt, P hiladelphia and Joslyn A rt M us e u m O maha, Nebraska before closing i n t he spring of 1997. Judith Stein, O ut of t h e East, Art in America ( A pril 1998): 50-5. 31 Welsh, ed., Beyond Belief 32 Based on an e-mail correspondence I had w i t h Laura Hop t man. 18 A pr 2005. 33 Ibid. T he choice for Calin D a n as t he Soros Centers A r t ist i c Director is not surpris i ng s i nce he has be e n an active a nd w ell kn o w n f i gure w i t h i n the cont e m pora r y R o manian art sc e ne, before and after the fall of C o mmun i sm
13 icono g rap h y . 34 Acc o rding to the e x hibition catalo g ue, the artists were mean t to be seen as representative of t h eir own countries, the result bein g a bazaar o f curiosi t ies from different p arts of the w o rld. I n the catal o g ue eac h countr y was illustrated b y a n i ce l y drawn outlined map, accompanied b y an ess a y b y a local curator or art crit i c. Despite bein g g r o uped on a countr y b y -count r y b asis, the artists were seen as belo n gin g to a compact mass, referred t o as a re g ion and g o v erned b y a si n g le parad i g m. Sug g estive in this sense was the title of the e x hibition Beyond Belief which refered to Eastern Europes post-Communist disbelief in the viabili t y of d o ctrine, ideolo g i cal structures and belief s y stems af t er the es t ablishment and subsequent d i smantlin g of communism. 35 Althou g h there was an ess a y for each of the si x represented countries, the ess a y s were meant collective l y to refer to t h e former s o cialist Easter n Europe. As usual, the re g ion was to the West m y s t erious and rare l y characterized, a n d had been for ma n y d ecades a b l ank screen onto wh i ch a n y th i n g can be pro j ected. T h e e x hibition Beyond Belief began to fill that screen . 36 As the independent curator, writer and associate pr o fessor at the School of Art I nstitute Chica g o Rachel Weiss ri g htful l y po i nted out: Beyond B elief was organized in response to Chica g o s Museum of Contempora r y Arts interest in artw o rk s bein g ma d e in the de v elopin g democrac i es of Eastern Europe, an interest that arose both from the newness of this work to Western e y es and from the e x citement attached to art made in t h e midst of intense social transformation. 37 L a u ra Hoptman, a curi o us curator rather than an e x pert on the re g ion (as she described h erself), elected to e x hibit works that d e al with social and political themes, 34 Richard Franc i s. Introducti o n to Welsh, ed., Beyond Belief 35 Kev i n Cons e y Fo r w ard to Welsh, ed. Beyond Belief 36 Ibid. 37 New Art Examiner 22-5.
14 such as nationalism (Ujlak) 38 national identi t y ( T a u chmannova) 39 rel i g ion (B o y adjie v) 40 communi t y and fami l y ( L ibera; J anin) 41 and natio n al stereo t y pi n g (subREA L) 42 To satisf y the curiosi t y o f the American audie n ce, H o ptman in her catal o g u e e s sa y S eeing is Believing interpreted the artists works as alw a y s relatin g to the Communist past, and these were perceived as e x tensions of the artists s urroundin g realities both past and present. F o r e x ample, let us consider Hoptmans d iscussion of subREA L s threep art installation titled News f r om Dracula. The w o rk featured a pommel hor s e (alludin g to the Romanias g y mnast Nad i a Comineci) with a TV monitor installed within it and covered with a woolen bed co v er The pommel horse was s urrounded as in a protect i ve shield with wooden stakes ( p ar t of the Dracula icon o g ra ph y ). Hoptman compared subREA L s usage of Dracula i con o g rap h y to the Romanian C o mmunist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu, because just like the v ampire, he too sucked his nations blood. I n offeri n g t his connection between su b REA L s work and the d i ctator, Hoptman a n chored the work within the conte x t of the Socialist past and made it e x otic and political enou g h to be appeali n g to a North A m erican audience. Although she brief l y mentioned t hat subREA L humorous l y ta k es control of a national stereo t y p e 43 she did not indicate how the artists were able to do this. Similar l y to Hoptman, R o x ana Marcoci, in her ca t alo g u e ess a y R o manian Democr a cy and Its Disc o ntents presented an e x tensive description of the contempora r y political parties and their orientation, alon g with several references to the Communist 38 Welsh, ed., Beyond Belief 124-5. See color plates. 39 Ibid. 122-123, color plates. 40 Ibid. 100-101, color plates. 41 Ibid. 112-113 and 106-107, c olor plates. 42 Ibid. 120-121, color plates. 43 Laura Hop t m a n, See i ng is Believ i ng, i n Margaret Welsh, ed., Beyond Belief 8.
15 past to set the stage for h er later ana l y ses of so m e of the Romanian artists works. For instance, subREA L s Al i mentara ( Food Store) s i mulated a food store dis p la y composed of stacked jars of pickle d vegetables placed in a p y rami d -like formation, b ottles of wine, smoked pork bones scat t ered on the floor as wells as other food items. Tal k in g about this installation Marcoci said that the work mirr o rs the national obsession with food supplies and ethnic networki n g p revalent in the last twen t y y ears of virt u al famine. 44 Rather than perceivi n g the artists w o rk as challe n g i n g and en t erin g in active dial o g ue with their social surroundi n g s, Marcoci saw subREA L s Al i mentara sole l y as a visual mirror that mere l y reflected t h e arti s ts surroundin g realities. Relevant to point out is that Ro x ana Marcoci, Assistant Cura t or, Department of Photograp h y at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, was not a local curator and critic o p eratin g in Romania, since s he had not been livin g in the countr y f o r ma n y y ears. The t o pic for the es sa y was g i v en to her b y Hoptman who invited Marcoci to write the ess a y because: she had a leve l of critical sophistication and knowledge of how to write for g e n eral A m erican audie n ces. 45 This was a c u rious choice when accordi n g to the e x hibition catal o g ues introduct i on the individual essa y s were written b y local c u rators, critics, art historians and cultural polic y makers and were meant to provide an introduct o r y te x t on issues of contempora r y visual culture in East an d Central Europe . 46 I n addition to considerin g art as passive reflection of political and social e v ents, the overall c u ratorial ap p roach in the B eyond Bel i ef e x hibition could be seen as misleadin g in that it g ro u ped si x indi v idual nations under one political um b rella. All these countries were considered to be b e y ond belief s y s tems due to the collapse of the Soviet 44 Roxana Marcoci, R o mani a n D e m ocra c y ad Its Disc o ntents in Margaret Welsh, ed., Be y ond Belief 18. 45 Based on an e-mail conversa t ion I had w i th L a ura Hop t m an. 18 A pr 2005.
16 bloc, which kept them u n ified under one i d eolo g y However, this notion, or rather assumption, that all these countries were one and the same is too great o f a g e n eralization. Despite more than for t y y ears of a shared Communist rule, these countries inter n al realit i es were more dissimilar than similar. Thro u g hout histor y each of these nations had see n and g o n e thro u g h diver s e political structures. S o me were p art of powerful empires benefitin g from their rulin g str u cture while other nations suffered e x tensive l y 47 A si g nificant overs i g ht o f the e x hibition is that it ne g l ected to acknowle d ge the awareness of artists, such as subREA L o f current i nternational artistic tren d s. As it will be pointed out in a future chapter, the artists were aspirin g for international rec o g nition and were aware o f the North American interest i n a specific t y p e of art fr o m a PostCommunist Eastern European artist. subREA L s s uccess within the interna t ional scene, could be seen when we consider the e x hibition Beyond Belief as a s p rin g b o ard for the artists repre s ented. F o r e x ample, followin g the e x hibition, subREA L was i ncluded in the 1997 Second Biennial, Truce: E choes of Art in an Age of Endless Conclusion at S I TE Santa Fe, curated b y Francesco Bonami, and another Romanian artist Dan Perjovschi, who also participated in Beyond Belief had a sol o e x hibition A n throprogr a mming at Franklin Furnace, New York in 1995. 48 Despite the e x hibitions g e n eral frami n g under the all encompassi n g para d i g m of Post-Communi s t Easter and Central Europe, B ey o nd Belief throu g h its s m all and approac h able e x hibitions scale, was able to offer international visibili t y to the featured artists. Additional l y it demonstrated that far fro m bein g isolated outside v o ices, y o un g 46 Francis, Introducti o n to Beyond Belief 47 Weiss, New A rt Examiner 22-5.
17 artists from East and Ce n tral Europe were v e r y m u ch part of the internatio n al art conversation that took p l ace in magazines, journals, and multinational e x hibition. 49 The second major e x hibition that will be discussed is called After the W all: Art and Culture in Post-Co m munist Europe, which althou g h it had a different e x hibitin g structure, was in its overall curatorial ap p roach ver y much similar to B eyo n d Belief After the W all was first sta g ed in 1999 at Stockholms Moderna Museet and organized b y independent curator Bojana Pejic, in cooperation with David Elliot, director, and I ris Westermann, curat o r at t he Moderna Mu s eet. I t comprised one hundred f o r t y -four artists from twen t y -two f o rmer Communist European countries. I n contrast to Beyond Belief which followed a countr y b y -count r y cate g orizat i on, After the W all was g rouped around four major themes: socia l sculpture, reinventi n g t h e past, questionin g subjectivi t y and issues of gender. Bojana Pejic, the chief curator, in her catal o g ue essa y quoted Har r y Nah k ala, chief techn i cian at Moderna Museet, who, when p resented with the provis i onal installation plans of the e x hibition in Stockholm, murmured Yo u r e x hibition After the W all is real l y g oi n g to be nothin g but walls. 50 I n t he followin g p a g es, it will be demonstrated the modes in which After the W all e x hibition represented art confined within walls rather than promotin g emer g in g art after the fall of the Berl i n wall. The e x hibition or g anized in 1999 was meant to offer closure to the post-Co l d War period in European culture. As David Elliot, co-curator and director of M o derna Museet e x pressed: A shorter s p an would not have e n abled a generation to have emerged which 48 Ibid. 49 Hopt m a n, See i ng, 10. 50 Bo j ana P e j ic, T he Dialectics of No r m ali t y , i n Bo j ana P e j ic and David Elliott, ed., After the W all 27.
18 had not been direct l y i n fluenced b y the old s y ste m . 51 Howe v er, the e x hibitions entire framew o rk was formula t ed to relate all the selected art to an ideol o g ical C o mmunist past and the Post-Communist condition. The title, After the W all: Art and Culture in PostCommunist Europe was an umbrella under which all these different cultures were s een as localized to a sin g le re g ion and presen t ed as a bl o c. The four t h emes addressed in the e x hibition were interpre t ed and re l ated to the C o mmunist past. For e x ample, the theme of art as a social sculpture 52 was referred strict l y to an Eastern and Central E u ropean conte x t and was related t o issues such as econom i cs, pover t y rel i g ion, nat i onalism, alienation and consumerism. Histor y or the the m e of reinventi n g the past, was evident l y understood in the conte x t of both the preand post-Cold War period when the openin g of Secret Police and other archi v es all across the re g ion h as been a hot subject. 53 The third theme, related to personal and artistic subjec t ivi t y as well as the four t h theme, related to g en d er issues i n art, were both underst o od in relation to the artists Communist past. Th e y and their art were seen as a carriers and translators of a p ast ideolo g y The majori t y o f ess a y s i n the e x hibition catalo g ue provided limited discussions of the art per s e and on l y e x plored cultural and political issues charac t eristic o f the entire Eastern Euro p ean re g ion Consideration of all these cultures as a uniform g roup from the onset was too narr o w l y focused. B y t h e end of the nineties, the geopolitical borders of the ear l y and mid-nineties v anished and a redefinition of the re g ion took place. I f at the time when Beyond Belief was sta g ed, most of the post-Communist European nations were operati n g at a relative l y s imilar rate of soc i al tran s formation, b y t h e end of t he nineties, 51 David Elliot, Look i ng T hings in t he Face, in Bo j ana P e j i c and David Elliott, ed., After the W all 11. 52 T he ter m c a me fr o m Joseph Beu y s. It w as appropriated b y the artis t s in t he 1990s w hen a rt re-entered socie t y Ibid. 53 Ibid.
19 clear differences emerged amon g the s e countries l ar g e l y due to the E u ropean Unions e x pansion eastward. For e x ample, in March 1999 Poland, Hun g a r y and the Czech Republic were integrate d into the European Unio n which meant a certain l evel of social, political and economic d evelopment more in line with Western European countries. On the other end of t h e spec t rum, countries such as R omania and Bu l garia were strug g li n g to dissolve remnants of a stron g netw o rk of Communist structures. This fact a l one provided enou g h reason to consider Post-Socialist Eastern European coun t ries as se p arate cultures since their paths of inter n al transformation were u nique. I n h er es sa y Dialectics o f Normality Bojana Pejic viewed post-Cold War Eastern and Central Euro p ean c o untries to g et h er as g oi n g throu g h a pr o cess of normalization or followin g a quest for n o rmali t y . 54 The g oal of thi s process was the inte g rat i on into the European Union (EU). Until these nations were a b le to fulfill the requirements for EU inte g ration, the y will remain, as To n y Bla i r said, Europes Bac k y ar d . Pejics discussion of the issue of normali t y recalls the prob l ematic cultural repre s entation of Eastern Euro p e in the West. While Todorova and Wolf drew attention to the power of the western idea o f Eastern Euro p e as the b ackward and under d evel o ped land, Pejic associa t ed normali t y with the Western world and saw the Eastern Euro p ean nations aspiri n g to achieve it. Furtherm o re, Pejics c l aimed that After the W all was meant to b y pass re p resentational models of nationhood. 55 I nterestin g l y this is inherent l y contradicto r y On t he one hand, it referred to the c u rator i al approach e x emplified b y the the m e based e x hi b ition. The artists and their art were g rou p ed t o g ether un d er four themes and not on t h eir count r y of ori g in. However, on t h e other hand, the e x hibition actual l y unified the re p resented art b y 54 P e j ic, Dialectics, 20. 55 Ibid.
20 assemblin g a multitude and diverse number o f art i sts under one label: that of postCommunist Eastern Europe. Another bias of the e x hi b ition was the non-inclusion of a n y Western artists who mi g ht have fit a n y o f the four g eneral themes of t h e e x hibition. Pejic poi n ted out that international shows, suc h as Documenta X (1997) and the 1999 Venice Bie n nial did not include more than three artists from Eastern and C entral Europe and this e x clusion she insists was considered n o rmal. 56 Thus, despite the curatorial intention to provide a platform of visibili t y for the Eastern Euro p ean art i sts, the e x hibitions framework of reception built more walls than it breaks down. David Elliot, director of Moderna Museet, said that Bojana Pejic was cho s en as the chief c u rator o f the A fter the W all e x hibition main l y for h er e x perie n ce livin g both in and outside the two different s y stems . 57 Becau s e Pejic was born in Be l g rade in 1948 and since 1991 has been livin g in Berlin, Elliot implie s that, she was able to pr o vide both an outside and an inside view on the Post-Communist Eastern European art. L ike Bojana Pejic, who was chosen so that she would be able to provide an un b iased repre s entation of the Eas t ern European nations, L aura Hoptman, c u rator of t he Beyond Belief was sent on two fact findin g jo u rn e y s in the re g ion, in order to research and se l ect artists for the e x hibition. One si g nif i cant differe n ce between the two e x hibitions was the overall sca l e. Beyond Be l ief featured on l y thirteen artists and attempted a c l oser look at the represented si x nations with a catal o g ue ess a y written b y a local art cri t ic, curator, art historian or cultural-polic y ma k er. B y contrast, Af t er the W all grouped t o g e t her one hundred and f o r t y four artists from twen t y two co u ntries. From the onset, it s large scale 56 Ibid., 19. 57 David Elliott. Introduction to P e j ic and Elliott, ed., After th e W all 11.
21 made it impossible to appropriate l y address the v arious artistic themes an d strate g ies empl o y ed b y t h e artists. Despite the evident difference in their s cale both e x hibitions in the end stre n g then a unilateral Western view of t h is part of the world. The i denti t y and diversi t y of each n ation was g eneralized under o n e parad i g m: Post-Communist Eastern and Central Euro p e that isolated the artists within the political Post-Sociali s t condition. Rather than an ind epth look at artistic strate g ies empl o y ed, the art works were considered as simple mirrors of the political and s ocial cha n ges. The role of the curators in choosin g the artists was influenced b y the local Soros Centers. For e x ample, the same artists like subREA L and Dan Perjovsch i featured in Beyond Belief were also shown in After the W all As described at the be g i nnin g of this chapter, the Soros Cen t er repre s ented the on l y ma j or Western point of acce s s to contempora r y E astern E u ropean art and thus the artists affiliated with the Center were most l y featured in local and international e x hibiti o n. Hoptman and Pejic had a leadin g role in defini n g t he e x hibitions g eneral framew o rk of reception. The e x hibitions curatorial approaches emp h asized the PostCold War binar y con t ras t s between E astern Euro p e and Amer i can and We s tern Europe. Furtherm o re, these e x hibitions were rooted in the North American cultural repre s entations of the c o ncept of Eastern Euro p e. As previous l y discus s ed, accordi n g to Wolf, Todorova and Z izek Post-Cold War Eastern Europe was p erceived b y the West as a remote and b ar b aric place. Theref o re, it is not surprisin g that the art from this re g ion was e x pected to be dista n t l y e x otic and political l y char g ed. The c u ratorial approaches cate g orized the art within a specific ethnici t y distancin g it from the intellectual discourses within the normative Western scene. As J ean Fisher said To b e locked into
22 the frame o f ethnici t y is also to be locked out of a ri g orous philosophical and historical debate that risks cripplin g the w o rks intellectual development and e x cludin g it from the g lobal circuit of ideas w h ere it r i g htful l y b elo n g s. 58 Thus, locked within the g eopolitical frami n g of Eastern Euro p e, the individuali t y of the artists repre s ented was b uried under this all encompassin g u m brella. As it has been d e s cribed, Beyond Belief fol l owed a countr y b y count r y struc t ure with each artist re p resentin g their own n ation. While artists, like subREA L and L u cherzar B o y adjiev addresse d themes from within their specific conte x ts, other artists li k e Roza El-Hassan and Z u zanna J anin created abstract and conceptual w o rks that are b e y ond a n y n ational narrative. The e x hibitions f ail to g ive attention to the varied ar t istic strate g ies empl o y ed b y the artists, and made general cultural representations o f the idea of E astern E u rope in its PostCommu n ist condition. However, Romanian art i sts like subREA L went b e y ond m ere p assive reflections of the socio-political co n te x t and operatin g from within a specific satirical tradition the y attempted to active l y e n gage both a local and an i n ternational audie n ce. The ne x t chapter will offer a b rief s y nthes i s of satire in the Romanian litera r y and artistic tradition as well as a brief o v erview of the art sce n e in Romania under communism in order to show subREA L s creative arti s tic conte x t. 58 Jean Fisher, T he S yncretic T urn, Cross-Cul t ural P ractices in the Age of M ulti c ul t uralism in Theory in Contemporary Art Since 1985 ed. Kocur, Zo y a a nd L e ung Si m on (Malden, M A: Black w e l l P ublish i ng, 2005), 235.
23 Chapter Two: An Overview of Satire in the Ro m anian Literary and Artistic Tradition / Satire in subREAL Beyond Belief an d After the W all presented PostC ommunist art as primaril y a passive ref l ection of political and social e v ents. However, artists like the Romanian collective subREA L (c o mposed of Calin Dan an d J osif Kira l y ), whose w o rk was included in the two e x hibitions, were active l y satirizin g not passive l y mirrorin g the situation in Romania. Furthermore, an important satirical tactic empl o y ed b y the artists in their installations was to juxtapose elements of their Romanian identi t y and Western stereo t y pes of that identi t y The artists were not mere l y transmitters of inf o rmation and facts from remote lands, but rather th e y e x plored the role of satir i cal humor as a w a y o f enga g i n g the world aro u nd them, as seen in wor k s such as Alimentara (F o od Store) and the Draculand Series w h ich will later be discuss. Thus, in contrast to the usual Western view (as defined in the t wo e x hibitions), this stu d y offers an alter n ative perspective b y pushin g art to the f o refr o nt and pla y i n g down wel l -established North American cultural repre s entation of Easter n and Central Euro p e. Discussions of recent Romanian art usual l y i g n o red the distin g uished tradition o f satire, so it seems appr o priate to reveal some of the Romanian contributions to the art of satire before subREA L This chapter will first offer a b rief s y nt h esis of satire in the Romanian litera r y an d artistic tradition in order t o illustrate its lon g historical pre s ence. Additional l y this chapter will brief l y outline the workin g methodolo g y followed when discussin g the specific m echanics o f satire in su b REA L s works in the c h apters to come.
24 I n the g lo b al fra m ewor k of humor 59 satire is a ver y comple x manifestation an d has recei v ed a varie t y of e x planations and cate g o rizations throu g hout the histor y of literature. 60 I n the pre s ent stu d y satire is d efined a s the use of ridicule or sc o rn, ofte n in a humorous or wit t y w a y to e x pose human vices and follies and to be a m o ral criticism of social wron g s. T h e satirist s g o al is to point out the h y pocri s y of his target. I t m a y also contain wit t y jocu l ari t y or a n g er and bitter n ess. 61 Comic litera r y satires i n clude J onath an Swifts Gulliver's Travels a g reat satirical c r y o f protest a g ainst modernit y, and George Orwells Animal Farm (1945), a savage attack o n the misuse of political power in the Soviet Union. Charlie Chaplins g reatest film, The Great Dictator (1940) is a bitin g and satirical verdict on fasci s m and a spoof of Adolph Hitler. I n the Romanian litera r y tradition, satire as a critique of the social injusti c es of an oppressive domination h as a lo n g an d diverse h istor y For e x ample, in the e i g hteenth centu r y the Romanian writer I on Buda i -Deleanus epics used acidic satire to tar g e t 59 Hu m or h a s a central place i n scholar l y l iterature across a v a rie t y of discipl i nes, su c h as l i ngu i sti c s and langu a ge s t udies (Nash 1985), sociolog y (Mu l k a y 1988), po l itics (Basu 1999), philosoph y (Morreall 1987), ps y chol o g y (Goldste i n & M c Ghee 1972) and clinical ps y c hothera p y (F r y & Sal a meh 1987). Hu m or acco m pl i shes many t hings: relieves e mbarrassment, signa l s aggr e ssion, displ a ys cour a ge i n adversi t y, serves a s a coping mech a n i sm, functions as a n instrum e nt of social influ e nce, and l a st l y r e hearses a nd redesigns the cat e gories a nd concepts of serious discourse. See P aul S i m p son, On the Discourse of Satire: Towards a stylistic model of satirical humor ( P hiladelphia: John Ben j amins P ublish i ng Co m p a n y 2003), 49. 60 Despite the dive r se interpreta t ions on t he na t ure of sa t ire w i t hin l itera r y critic i s m a nd theo r etical ana l yses, t here has be e n a g e neral agre e m e nt about the pres e nce of t w o golden a ge periods of satirical production. One is present w i t hin t he cl a ssical satiris t s, such as Juv e nal, Horace, P ersius and A ristoph a nes, and the sec o nd period present in the neoclassical w ork of t h e Anglo-Irish satir i sts of t he la t e-s e venteen t h and eighteenth c e n t uries, such as A l e x a nder P ope, John D r yden and Jonath a n S w i ft. D uring the t w e nti e th centu r y, there are contradictory notions to w hi c h litera r y f i gures ought to be regarded as satirists. P ollards introduction to sa t ire, although published in 1970, hardl y mentions three t w e ntie t h-centu r y artis t s George O r w ell, A ldous H uxl e y a nd Oscar Wilde (Pollard, 1970). O n the o t her h a nd, Clark a nd Motto refer to a varie t y o f w r iters to be satiric a l, su c h as Franz K a fka, Gunte r Grass, S a muel Becke t t, Will ia m F a ulkner and Gabriel Garcia Marquez (Clark and Motto 1986). Ibid. 61 J. A Cuddon, A Dictionary of Literary T e rms and Literary T heory (C a m bridge, M A : Black w ell, 1993), 827-32.
25 feudalism and the Ottoman domination, as in his satirical epic Tigan i ada 62 I n th e nineteen centu r y one o f Romanias well-known litera r y f i g ures, I on L uca Cara g iale (1852-1912), was a pla y wr i g ht and prose writer of g reat satirical power. His satirical comedies such as Mr. Leonida (1879) and A Stormy Night (1880) e x posed the effects o f the has t y introduction of a modern w a y o f life in Romanian socie t y and the comical result of social and political c h ange. Romanian artists and writers made maj o r contri b utions to the satirical ar t of the twentieth centu r y but i ronical l y th e y di d so within a tradition in wh i ch Romanians become famous b y bec o min g e x patriates Th e y had to d eal with t h e di l emma of either becomin g e x patriates and workin g in the g reat stimulatin g art center of Paris, o r remaining a t home in a p rovincial setti n g Some of the Romania n artists and intellectuals who left the count r y became leadi n g E u ropea n m o dernist and avant-garde fi g ures : Tristan Tzara, Constantin Brancusi, Victor Brau n er, M arcel I ancu, E u gene I one s co, Emil Cioran, Mircea Elia d e and others. 63 The Romanian born Co n stantin Brancusi (18761 957), who had g one to Paris in 1908, was one of the foundin g f i g ures of modern sculpture and one of the most ori g ina l artists of the twentieth centur y His g roundbreak i n g carvi n g s introduced abstraction and primitivism into sculptu r e for the first time and were as important as Picassos paintin g s to the development of modern art. Tristan Tzara (1896-196 3 ) was the founder of t h e Dada movement (191 6 1 923) in Z ur i ch. Tzara a l on g with Victor Brauner, Marcel I anc u and other Dadaists shared a nihilistic attitude towards the traditional e x pectations o f 62 T iganiada ( T i m isoara: Editu r a Amarcord, 1999), 539; quoted in Literatura Culta. http://www.edu.ro/ rromanipen/continut/literaturaculta.htm. 10 Feb 2005.
26 artists and writers. The i r satirical and often ab s urd works protested against the social values and cultural tren d s of a contempora r y world faci n g a devas t atin g p eriod of war Eu g e n e I o n esco (191 2 1 994) was foun d er of t h e theater of t h e absurd. He was a fervent believer in human ri g hts and a lo n g time foe o f political t y ran n y His work conv e y ed w h a t he viewed as ma n s str u g g le to survive in a socie t y t h at he said forme d barriers b etwee n human bein g s. A militant anti-communist, he had lon g campa i g ned from e x ile against the authoritarian re g ime of Romanian dictator Nic o lae Ceause s cu, who ba n ned his pla y s. Ma n y o f his absurd l y satirical pl a y s have become international l y kn o wn, like The Rhinoceros The Bald Soprano and The Chairs The link betwee n Romanian literat u re and E u ropea n trends achie v e d b y the interwar g e n eration (i.e. Tzara, I anco, I o nesc o ) was abrupt l y cut short b y the onset o f Communism. The isolation of Romanian artists durin g the cold war wa s nt a matter o f personal choice and we n t a g ainst their participat i on in the international arena of earlier Romanian art. Misko S u vakovic questionab l y sa i d: Be g inni n g with the 1 960s Romania began its insular path t o ward Communism b y c o mbinin g socialist and nationalist ideas. I t thus beca m e isolated i n relationship to the E aster n bloc, a s well, a kin d of cultural void in the Europe of the sec o nd part of the twentiet h centu r y a coun tr y in the middle of nowhere. 64 Under the Communist re g ime several Romanian anti-communist writers, poet s and artists used satire as a dissident weapon agai n st the dictatorship. For e x ample, Mari n Sorescu (193 6 -96) was one of the most or i g inal voices in Romania n literature. Hi s 63 Misko S uv a kovic. A rt a s a P olitical Mach i ne, in Postmo d ernism and Postsocialist Condition, Politicized Art under Late So c ialism ed. A l e s Er j avec (Ber k el e y : U nive r si t y o f Ca l ifornia P ress, 2003), 126. 64 Ibid., 127.
27 mischievous poet r y and s atirical pl a y s ear n ed him g reat populari t y duri n g t he Communist era. His wit t y ironic parables were not direct l y critical of the re g ime, b ut Romanians used to a culture of do u ble-speak could rea d other meanin g s in his pl a y ful mocke r y o f the human condition. M a n y anti-communists di s sident writers, includin g Dorin Tudora n and Andrei Condrescu, left Romania and settled permanent l y in the US. Despite its o n g oing trad i tion, satire wa s not ack n owledged b y e x hibition curator s lookin g at Post-Cold W a r Romanian art. The argument presented here is that satire as a social critique was ve r y much present in subREA L s works and in general in art from Eastern E u rope. Furthermore, the artists aim was to attack both t h e ideo l o g ical power of the recent Communist past and the prese n ce and i nfluence o f the capitalist West. Satire was empl o y ed b y subREA L in v arious w a y s and for different purpo s es. F o r e x ample, in the ear l y n i neties (1989-1993) th e y used a bitter and ag g ressive satire i n order to cope with the Communist memor y and e x perience. Then durin g t he mid-nineties (1993-1996) soc i al satire was u s ed to ridicule the stereo t y pical Western views o n Romanias national identi t y B y the late ninetie s (1996-1999), their satire was meant to disarm the Communist ideolo g ical past and cr i tical l y dista n ce t h emselves fro m their immediate social realitie s As durin g the period between the world wars, P ost-Cold War R o manian artist s had to face the choice of sta y i n g at home and takin g in the international art scene a s outsiders or becomi n g e x patriates and outsiders in a n ew land. T h eir p li g ht was itself one of the objects of s atire. The present ana l y ses of subREA L s w o rks will reveal the artists full awarenes s of the Wester n e x pectation of a political l y s p ecific art. T h e ar g ument is that thi s
28 awareness forced a grad u al ne g otiation between t h e artists national identit y and Wester n demands. This stu d y s i n tent is to point out the s t rate g ies empl o y ed b y the artists in this ne g otiation. The artist collective subREA L came into e x istence in 1990 after the fall of the Ceausescu re g ime i n Bucharest. Tod a y its permanent members are Calin Dan (b 1955) who lives in the Netherlands and J osif Kira l y (b. 1954) who lives in Bucharest. 65 The name subREA L ev o ked the surrealist avant-garde movement o f the ear l y twentieth centu r y T h e old name Surrealism s u g g ested a world above the ordina r y in the realm of the o ccult or unconscious. B y contra s t, subREA L s u g g ested s o methin g below the surface, like a hidden under g round w o r l d. Additional l y it was a n ironic pla y on words echoi n g the s u b-reali t y of t h e ear l y 1 9 90s. Concomitant l y with the dismantlin g of communism the artists were emer g i n g as a collective. The artists work in diverse media like phot o g rap h y video, installation, and perf o rmance. As Calin Dan pointed out, the conte x t in which subREA L came into bein g is important: When subREA L took s hape in the d epressive Romania summer of 1990 it was hard to predict that it would be more tha n anot h er short-term survival o p eration. As lots of them have b een launched in the darkness of the ei g hties a n d killed immediate l y b y the no n -e x hausted political censorship. But this time we were luc k y : the oppressive s y stem in Romania was too bu s y elsew h ere after the big shake-up o f Decem b er 1 989. That is w h y ne x t J u l y we can cele b rate t h e amazing 5 th anniversar y o f when t he (old/new) Power all o wed us to e x ist. 66 Calin Dans reference to the failed e x istence of s everal other artist collect i ve durin g the 1980s calls for a brief o v erview o f the art scene in Romania under communism. Equal l y important is that subREA L had formed as artists durin g the 1980s g e n eration and reached maturi t y in the 1990s. 65 subREALs Files 66 Calin D a n, U ntitled Celebra t ion, Imago: Another Europska Photography (Bratislava, 1996): 31.
29 I n contrast with the other Soviet bloc nations, R o mania endured a particular l y harsh dictatorial s y stem t hat inflicted not on l y ec o nomic wounds but also profound p s y chol o g ical traumas o n its population. Despite the ti g ht l y controlled soc i e t y an under g round a v antg arde culture develo p ed there. Durin g t h e first period of Ceausescus rule (1965-1971), t h e pe o ple rejec t ed the Soviet Unions control and adopted international and domestic policies open to the West. Artists emer g i n g from the Fine Arts Academies in Buc h arest ful l y be n efited from the influ x of forei g n art publications, e x hibitio n s, even rock m usic and hip p y su b cultures, and succeed in de v el o pin g contacts abroad thro u g h the availabili t y of t ravel g rants. 67 After 1972, Ceausescu s t arted a n epotistic and d y nastic form of administration, g overned b y a stro n g cult of personali t y a r h etoric of nationalism and notions of buildin g a Greater Romania. I n this conte x t the diversi t y and liberalism in the arts of the 1960s was ne g ative l y affected. However, artists like Ana L upas in Cluj, Karo l y E l ekes in Tir g u Mures and Calin Dan in Bucharest were able to maintain unofficia l co m munication between n etworks of ur b an centers, and support i ndividual or g roup even t s and e x hibitio n s. A prolific example was the artist g ro u p Mamu (1978-1984), from the Tran s y l v anian town of T i r g u M u res, or in its old Hun g arian name M arosva s arhe l y A cohesive g roup o f artists (15 to 30) formed aroun d Karo l y Elekes and the p hilosopher Vilmos A g oston. Acc o r d in g to the artists own te s timonies, the emphasis within the g roup was on de v eloping e x perimental strate g ies that often involved outdoors, ritualistic, L and Art activities, g ro u p happeni n g s and actions, or concept u al, pr o g ra m matic forms of drawi n g sculpture and p hoto g ra p h y which e x pa n ded the traditional aesthetic canons of 67 To m M ull i g a n, H unga r y, R o mania, Yugosl a via: T he Fine A r t s and the Boundaries of Change, i n Europe without W alls: Art, Posters and Revolution 1989-93 ed. Ja m es Aulich a nd T i m o t hy Wilcox
30 composition and form. 68 Other important artist gro u ps included 1-1-1 and Si g ma both from Timisoara. T h e g roups addressed n eo-cons t ructivist concerns and the peda g og y inspired b y Bau h ausian methodolo g y combined with the photo-film e x periment as well as land art and p erf o rma n ce. 69 Additional l y contacts with other Eastern E u ropean artists were crucial in t he survival of the Romania n unofficia l avant-garde art. For e x ample, the Cracow g raphic biennales and the Polish avantg arde theatre of Grotowski and Kantor were important destinations for most Eastern and Central E u ropean artists. As Mulli g an po i nted out, in Romania, besides the A r ta ma g azine in which Ca l in Dan and other writers were able to make successful and meanin g ful inter v entions in between the obl i g ato r y p a g es o f praise of the Communist Par t y the art ma g azines Muve s zet from Hu n g a r y Szt u ka and Projeckt from Poland were at the t ime also available in Romania. 70 B y 1984, Ceau s escus m egalomania and x enoph o bic insecuri t y the base s of his polic y of n ationalist communismbecame so ac u te that international opinion rec o g nized serious abuses of human ri g hts in Romania. All the minori t y cultures felt the brutali t y o f a stea d y institutionalize d discrimination. I n his effort to erase minori t y cul t ure and homo g enize the m y thica l Greater Romanian n ation, Ceauescu bulldozed entire villa g es and placed t h e populations into concrete a g ro-i n dustrial comple x es. The second half of the 1980s was one of t h e most devastatin g periods in Communist Romania. The political and social situation reac h ed a critical point. Povert y fear, t h e irre v ersible d emolition of (Manch e ster: Man c hester Ci t y A rt Galle r y 1993). 68 Ibid. 69 A drian G uta, Riders on t he Sto r m P erfor m a nce A rt in R o m a nia be t w een 1986 and 1996, in Experiment: in Romanian art since 1960s e d. Irina Cios (Bucharest: Soros C e nter for C o nt e m pora r y A rt, 1997), 82. 70 Mull i gan, F ine A r t s.
31 Bucharests historical center, the dai l y f i g ht a g ai n st political oppression and international isolation dominated the nations conscience. Yet, despite the oppressive communist re g ime, the unoffic i al Romanian art scene was able to mainta i n varied artistic initiatives amon g artists and artist g roups especial l y in major Tran s y l vanian u rban centers, l i ke Cluj-Napoca, T i r g u Mures, Sfintu Gheor g he, Ora d ea and Timisoara. Ma g da Cirneci pointed out that followin g the mid1980s the artists respon d ed to their contempora r y social realities b y turni n g toward their inner world, comi n g t o g ether under the n ew e x pressionist artistic trend. 71 For e x ample, the Buc h arest ba s ed Te o dor Gra u r sta g ed his performances in his apartment in front of his closest friends. As I l i eana Pintilie pointed out he empl o y ed his own a t hletic bo d y to make satiric and s cornfu l reflections on social rea l ities of the late 1980s Communist Romania. I n his perfor m ance The Sports Center (1987) Gra u r illustrated the brutal and brainless virili t y of the s o cialist man, alludin g to the modernist ideal of the new man with its g lari n g mismatch of muscle and brain. A n other of his actions Remembrance of the Ship was sta g ed in t h e huge emp t y car g o-hold of a ship and dealt with the frantic desire to em i g rate which filed all y ou n g Romania n s under Ceause s cu to the point of obsession. 72 Amalia Perj o vschi also preferred her o wn apartment f o r her p erformances. I n h er 1988 bo d y action, The Test of Sleep she c o vered her bo d y with writin g and s h e then took pictures of herself, posin g b efore the camera motionless and pa s sive, an attitude that s y mbolical l y conno t ed the lack of communication of the Communist era. Another o f her performa n ce sta g ed i n her apartment, Annulment (1989) was directed a g ainst the 71 Magda Cirneci, Artele Plasti c e in Rominia 1945-1989 (Bucharest: Meridiane, 2000), 58. 72 Ileana P intilie, Problems in T ransit: Performance in Romania, http://www.artmargins.c o m/content/ feature/pintilie.html 14 Oct 2004.
32 social and political conte x t of the time. She let herself be tied up b y her hu s band, Dan Perjovschi, the on l y p er s on present. 73 Artists g roups organized e x hibitio n s in their apartments, such as the base m ent shows in Bucharest and Sibiu (between 1986 and 1989), the poc k et show s in Oradea (1988) and house p A RTY I (1987) and hou s e pA R T Y II (1988) the last two sta g ed in the house of the main or g an i zer Dece b al Scriba in B u charest. B y maki n g use of iro n y g rotesq u e quotations, ec l ectic combinations, withdrawal and p assive participation, these artists flouted the author i ties b y i g nori n g their ru l es and retreatin g within private spaces aw a y from the public e y e. 74 An important g roup was Studio 35 which organized e x hibitio n s for artists under thir t y -five. T h e g rou p functioned as an are n a for artistic e x perimentation, and ha d centers in ma n y cities in the count r y I n the cities in the western part of the count r y n ear Hunga r y the g rou p s art i stic activities were more e x perimental in nature due to the influ x of abundant information from outside the countr y. 75 Even from this brief o v erview, it is clear that alth o u g h behind the iron cur t ain Romanian art sce n e was not as Misko Suvakovic sa y s a void in the middle of nowhere but rather it g enerated v arious and comple x artistic initiatives. Their effect continued into the 1990s when, as it will be pointed out in the chapters to come, the local art scene was characterized b y a multitude of artistic trends, m o st in unison with contempora r y international artistic tre n ds, such as performance and video-installation ar t 73 Ibid. 74 Neo-Orthodox or NeoB y z a nt i ne art w a s ano t her artistic tr e nd that evolved dur i ng the 1980s as a spiritualiza t ion of t he exper i mental drive i nitiated b y artists su c h as P aul G heras i m, C a ns t ant i n Flondor and Horia Bernea. Cirneci points o ut th a t at the t i me of i ts appearance, the m o v e m e nt h a s been seen on t he intern a tional art sc e ne as a regression a nd a s t y l i stic bac k w ardness because it e m pl o yed an outdated religious iconography. H o w ever w i t h i n the R o m a ni a n local context, t he religi o us i ncl i nat i on of th i s artistic trend has been felt as a n alte r native orientati o n and w as c o nsidered as an act of m oral courage aga i nst the communist propaganda and i d eological l i mitation. Cirneci, Artele 58-62. 75 Guta, Riders, 82.
33 Chapter Three: Aggressive Satire in the Early 1990s Installations This chapter e x amines s o me of subREA L s ear l y works and e x plores the role of bitter satire as the w a y i n which th e y e n g age the l ocal audie n ce, and address themes from their socio-political conte x t. The aim is to decipher subREA L s motives b y conte x tualizin g their works within the Romanian artistic and socio-political realities. The icon o g rap h y o f Romanian art from the ear l y n ineties, and in general of other former Communist countries, was dominated b y C ommunist s y mbols and i cons. Artists workin g in all media referred to their Communist past with icons such as the hammer and sickle, the whole in the f l a g images of Ceau s escu Stalin and L enin, and t h e red star o f international socialism. Fallen and b roken Socia l ist statues were princi p al motifs for artists in the immediate l y post-Communist world. Artists were empl o y i n g Socialist s y mbols as the subject m atter of their w o rks in order to strip them of their former l y hi g h l y -c h ar g ed i d eolo g i cal value. F o r e x ample, Romanian political cartoo n s crea t ed b y students at the School of Fine Art in Bucharest such as Flag (1989) and H a mmer & Sickle / Swastika (1989), 76 and Tractorul b y the R o manian cartoonist Timotei Nadasan, featured in the You n g Artists Group E x hibition (1990), empl o y the n ational Socialist Par t y f l a g the Socialist workers facto r y s y mbol (the tractor), and the p rimar y Communist emblem (the hammer and sickle), res p ective l y. 77 The Communist icono g rap h y was divested of its ideolo g ical powers and ended up as emp t y si g ns b y bei n g 76 Both Flag and Hammer & Si c kle / Swastika w ere publ i shed in the Fren c h publicati o n Fonds National DArt Contemporain P aris, 1989.
34 aggressive l y and o v ert l y satirized. This was particular l y evident in the cartoon Flag crea t ed b y Romanian students at the School of F i ne Art, B u charest and p u blished in the Fre n ch publication Fon d s National DArt Conte m porain Paris, 1989. The cartoon mocked the communist emblem that used to be featured on the nations n ational fla g b y showin g it on as a b u ckle on a belt coveri n g the b el l y button of a g oo f y lo o kin g f i g ure. Furtherm o re, the f i g ure appeared to b e nude and t he fla g fu n ctioned as a cover which he holds up in front of him. The fla g had a whole cut out in the middle throu g h which could be seen the b u ckle featur i n g the communist emblem. Thus, the socialist s y mbol was emptied of its ideolo g ica l si g nifica n ce b y positionin g it in a trivial settin g (the buckle coveri n g up the bel l y bu t ton). I n the i r ear l y works, su b REA L a d dressed s o cial realities from within the local Romanian conte x t. The project EastW est A venue was realized in Au g ust 1 990 on what is now called Bule v ardul Unirii avenue (Union B l vd, in Bucharest). 78 This avenue leads to what used to be Ceau s escus g randiose palace, official l y called Casa P oporului (The House of the People). On each side o f the a v enue and surroundi n g the h u mon g ous palace, t h ere are s everal blocks of flats that were built durin g communism for hi g h rankin g Communist g o v ernment officials. Af t er 1 9 89 with the collapse of t h e I ron Curtain and continuin g i nto the present, Ceau s escus palace houses the R o manian parliament offices. subREA L s project contained one hundred and twen t y iron plates, 11.8 x 19.7 inches each, mounted on one hundred and twen t y stakes ap p ro x imate l y 19.7 inches hi g h. E ach pla t e was inscribed with a n ame of a deceased person a n d the words 77 Auli c h, Look i ng Glass, 52. 78 Before 1989 B-dul Unirii w as n a m ed Bul e vardul Victora S o cialismului or Socialisms V i c tor y Blvd. T o build Ceauses c us palace a v a st h i storical part of Bucharest had to be de m olished to m a ke roo m for the construc t ion and i t s surround i ng c i vic c e nter. See subREALs Files
35 Odihneasca in pace ( Re s t in peace ). T h e plates were sta k ed out alo n g the avenue at intervals that allowed them to be read from a car d rivin g at medium speed. The plates were reminiscent of sma l l shrines erected at the s p ot where a violent d eath occurred, in order to ap p ease the v i ctims lin g eri n g haunti n g s oul. I n the nine t een-e i g hties, the workers used t h em for t h eir collea g u es who died i n accidents duri n g the c o nstruction of the Palace. 79 I n East W est Avenue pro j ect, subREA L s portr a y al of a past social e x perie n ce was primari l y bitter-aggressive. The artists bold l y attracted attention to the recent p ast b y composin g their pro j ect as a public work on the a v enue known to the Romanians as the Socialisms Victor y Blv d B y choosi n g a public l o cation for the pro j ect, s u bREA L established a direct contact with the Romanian a u dience. The multitude of inscribed plates mounted alon g t h e hi g hw a y o p en l y paid h o mage to the ma n y that lost their lives under Ceause s cu, and to the painful demolition of a great p art of historical Bucharest. Representation of the atrocities caused b y the C o mmunist dictator was realized with bitter satire des i g ned to bri n g comfort and allow copi n g with the memor y o f a pa i nful e x perience. T h e work, h i g h l y c h ar g ed s o cial l y b r o u g ht t o g ether t h e artists and the Romanian audience who shared a common past. A second l a y er of s i g nif i cance in subREA L s Ea s tW est Aven ue could be understood b y t h e ju x tapositionin g of the recent communist past with the u nstable sociopolitical contempora r y s i tuation in Romania. I n order to e x plain the social implications of subREA L a b rief accou n t of the political and social cha n g es that o ccurred i mmediate l y after 1989 in Romania w i ll be helpful. 79 T hese plaques w ere considered revision i st b y t he unoffic i al communist o fficials i n t he ear l y m o nth o f the n i neti e s and w ere qui c k l y r e m oved. See subREALs Files 17.
36 When the cement and c o ncrete blocks o f the Berl i n Wall were bro u g ht down, it s y mbolical l y lifted the I ron Curtain that separa t e d the two parts of Euro p e for almost half a centu r y But the euph o ria that followed the 198 9 revolutions had started t o disappear alrea d y b y the ear l y 199 0 s. Citizens of the new l y freed coun t ries and outsi d ers alike e x pected and hoped f o r radical c h a n g es on all le v els of socie t y and some countries, such as Poland, Hunga r y the Czech Republic and Slovenia, have in d eed g one t h rou g h maj o r restructuri n g eliminating old Communist s tructures as fast as possible. Romania, on the other hand, followed a m uch slower transitional process, in which socie t y continued to function alon g Commun i st lines and structures. I n Decem b er 1989, w h en the revolutiona r y cr o wd in Bucharest inva d ed the C o mmunist par t y s headquarters, I on I lie s cu, the Communist with liberal attitudes and the leader o f the NSF ( T he National Salvation Front Par t y ), t o ok over the count r y s leadership. His speec h es al o n g with scenes from the street re v olution were transmitted live from the former Communist television buildin g s, which surprisin g l y remained unharmed duri n g se v eral terrorists shootin g s, while all other Communist buildin g s in the area were destr o y ed. I on I l i escu won both the 1990 and the 1992 free e l ections. 80 He personal l y appointed people and to o k control of the for m er C ommunist ke y positions. I lie s cu crea t ed a netw o rk of pe o ple, ma n y former Com m unist par t y members and former informers for t h e Secret Police (called Sec u ritate). This network of people supported 80 T here w ere s e veral m a in reasons for Ilies c us success on t he public scene. He w as t he on l y one w ho had authori t y and open l y ben e fite d fr o m the support of the A r my, the fo r m er c o mmunist Secre t P olice and the w ork i ng class fr o m factories. (T he latter groups support w as ex e m pl i fied b y t he m i ners from the coa lfields w ho w ere summoned b y Iliescu to c o m e to Buchar e st and reinstate order and d e m ocrac y w hi c h had been endangered b y t he i ntell e ctual ant i -c o mmun i st d e m o ns t rators). A no t her sign i fic a nt detail is t hat beginn i ng w i th Janua r y 1990, Iliescu, along w i t h h i s subordinates o fficial l y took over m ost of the fo r m er communist par t y ( P CR) m ate r ial goods (45 farms, 55000 h e ctares of land and 22 hunt i ng l and). B y transfo r m i ng t he state goods i nto their o w n person a l goods i nclud i ng the nation a l televisi o n, FS N s victo r y
37 I lie s cu main l y b ecause t h e y did not want to lose their fresh l y gained social positions. Even with a g rowi n g op p osition b y 1995 and 199 6 PDSR ( I liescus p ar t y which cha n g ed its name from NSF to PDSR in 1992) and its members succeeded i n creati n g a ti g ht network occu p y i n g all the k e y positions in t h e financial and economic institutions, thus g ivin g the impression of an invisible networ k. 81 Accordi n g to the Center for Securi t y Polic y in the 1990 election, I liescus p ar t y the National Salvation Front received e i g h t y five p ercent o f the vote while t he two opposition candidates fr o m g enuine l y d emocratic parties, Radu Campeanu and I on Ratiu, recei v ed ele v en and fo u r percent respective l y I t h as been shown that I lie s cus par t y did not permit the democrat i c opposition parties to have a fa i r opportuni t y to compete for votes durin g the election campa i g n. He compromised Romanias first free election. His par t y ful l y e x ploited the resources o f the g overnment and had unlimited use of public funds in its campai g n; it intimidated and attacked opposition supporters throu g hout the campa i g n and the "Free Romanian Television" -which pl a y ed an important anti Ceausescu ro l e duri n g the violent events of 1989 -ran pr o grammin g stro n g l y fav o ri n g the Front re g ime and g iv i n g ve r y little covera g e t o the democratic oppositi o n parties. 82 Si g nificant l y as of la t e Decem b er 1990 no inde p endent commissions had investi g ated Securitate (The Secret Police) abuses. Moreover, the NSF had established the Romanian I ntelli g e n ce Service, wh i ch empl o y ed ma n y former Securita t e members. I t could be conclu d ed that b y compromisin g a free election, b y appointin g f o rmer w a s c o m plete l y assured. See A l i na M ung i uP ippidi, Politi c a dupa Communism (Bucharest: Hum a nit a s, 2002), 34-42. 81 Ibid. 82 Not Free Nor Fair: An Assess m e nt of t he 20 M a y 1990 El e ctions i n R o mania, 14 Jun 1990, Center for Securi t y P oli c y Wash i ngton, DC, in The Center for Securi t y Policy http://www.cent e rnterforsec u ritypolicy.org/index.jsp?section=paper s & code=90-59 23 Jan 2004.
38 communist secret police members to k e y instituti o nal positions, b y p romotin g fundamentalist rel i g ious views 83 and ultimate l y op p osin g democratic c h a n g es, I liescu and his par t y were not on l y s abota g in g Romanias journ e y towards d emocra c y but his policies ve r y much resembled the former communist re g ime. I t is relevant here to note that on l y si x months followin g the violent 1989 revolution, several stude n ts and intellectual anti-commu n ist demonstrators were a t tacked and killed b y sec u ritate and c o al miners called upon b y I l i escu (who iron i cal l y b ecame the presi d ent). 84 subREA L created EastW est Aven ue in A u g ust 1990, just a couple of mo n ths after the Ma y 20, 1990 (supp o sed l y ) free elections. I t i s ar g ued here that the arti s ts attempted to make visible the clash between an offic i al co m munist re g ime and t h e c o ntinuation of an unofficial or actual p ersistence of an almost identical Post-Communist r eg ime. The recent p ast was still a powerful presence in the ear l y nineties Romania, a n d subREA L recalled it thro u g h the o n e hundred twen t y plaq u es seen as little shrines rememberin g some of those who lost their life under t h e Ceau s escu dictatorship. 83 After 1989 there w as a rev i v a l of orthodox fund a ment a lism supporters of traditional and c onservat i ve valu e s, characteristic of t he P re-World War II p e riod. T he orthodox fund a m e ntalists opposed P ro-Western, de m ocratic t e ndenci e s, such a s R o m a ni a s i nt e gration i nto t he EU. 84 A ccording to Lucian Boia In A pril 1990, protesters occupied Universi t y Square in Bu c h a rest. For a l m ost t w o m o n t hs t he s q uare w a s the scene of mara t hon de m o nstrations; speech e s w ere made and songs w ere sung a ga i nst t he Ilies c u reg i me. P ro m i nent a m o ng t he people w ere i ntellec t uals a nd studen t s. T he national t e lev i sion w a s carefu l to bro a dcast the least favorab l e i m ag e s (i.e. groups of G yps i es) g i ving t he i m pressi o n th a t th i s w as a ga t hering of t he dregs of R o m a n i an socie t y: golani (louts) w a s w hat Ili e scu called th e m A golan hymn w a s c o m posed. T he chorus conta i ned the l i nes Better a go l an t h a n an activ i st (an al l usi o n to the C o mmun i st, activist past of Ili e s c u and h i s c o m rades) and Bet t er dead than a C o mmun i st. Upon Ilies c us c all, on June 14, 1990, thousands of m i ners fr o m t he Jiu vall e y arrived in Bucharest dressed i n black overalls and a r m ed w i t h clubs, i n order t o dissipate the ant i -c o mmun i st intellec t ua l s and s t uden t s d e monstrators. For t w o d a ys terror reigned in Bu c harest. T he he a dquarters of the opposition parties, the Un i versi t y and t he Insti t ute of A rchit e cture w ere ransa c ked. Intellec t uals w ere particular l y singled out, beaten w i t h clubs a nd bundled i nto vans b y t he police (the fo r m er securitate, Ilieescus al l y). T he second incident in w hi c h the m i ners w e re called upon again oc c urred j ust before the 1992 election w h e n Ilies c us al m ost appointed pr i m e minist e r, the y oung a nd d e m ocratic, P etre R o m an, decided to leave the part y A d istance i ncreased be t w een t he conservat i ve Ilies c u a nd the r e fo r m i st R o man, ending w i t h Ilies c u call i ng u p on the mine r s, w ho appeared i n the streets of Bu c harest a sk i ng for R o m a ns dis m i ssal. See Lucian Boia, Romania, Borderland of Europe trans. Ja m e s Christi a n Bro w n (L o ndon: Reak t ion Books Ltd, 2001), 156-8.
39 I n the i r work the artists also referred to the inscri b ed plaques lined up alo n g the path leadi n g toward the Communist palace, as both a reminder and a war n in g of still stron g soc i alist remnants. Thus, the genus of the satire in EastW est Aven ue was identified b y the s o ciop olitical crossroads of the ear l y nineties Romania, where o n e direction points towards the recent Communist past and the other toward a Western influenced re g ime. The i mpetus and what created the satirical tension in this work lied in subREA L s intention to leave the conflict of the t wo world views unresolved. The artists thus presumed to question, visualize and overt l y attract attention to k e y issues from within the local conte x t. Alimentara or Food Store is another e x ample of s ubREA L s ear l y w o rks in which the y use d an aggressive s atire. The artists tar g eted Romanians Communist re g ime as responsible for the lack o f food in the past and present. The installation mounted at the Orizont Gallery 85 in Buc h arest, in Februa r y 1991, s imulated a food store di s pla y composed of si xt y stacked jars of pickled vegetab l es (tomatoes, beans, cab b age, eg g plant, spinach, carrots, horsera d ish) placed in a p y ramid-like formation. The installation also featured twelve bottles of wine, twen t y kilo g rams of smoked pork bones scattered on the floor, twelve heads of le t tuce, si xt y eg g s, b acon, a spoiled chicken, three h ot skillets, two tra y s, a refr i g erator, a po t a toilet basin and plastic curtains. Two of the hot skillets were used to prepare g rilled bacon and another one f o r boilin g water and the vis i tors were invited to taste from both. 86 85 Orizont Galle r y i s a public space and is a m o ng t he art galle r ies pertain i ng to V i sual A rt i sts Union ( i n R o m a ni a n U n i unea A r t istilor P lastici) that w as fo r m ed i n the 1950s under C o mmunist ru l e. Current l y t he A rt i st U nion is under R o m a n i as M i n i st r y of Culture. 86 See subREALs Files
40 I n Alimentara subREA L wanted to establish direct communication with t h eir audience, both on a p h y s i cal and a conceptual level. The artists actual l y in v ited the viewer to consume and consequent l y b e part of t h e work. This role o f the v isitor to enga g e with the w o rk b y consumin g a piece o f bacon, an act which in the conte x t of the recent p ast assumed a sa t irical si g nificance, g iven the pover t y and de v astat i n g scarci t y of food under the p revious dictatorship. 87 Now one c o uld enter a g alle r y and f i nd an abundance of food to eat for free. A further iron i c touch was the smell of cookin g bacon which penetrated the g al l e r y space, and p erhaps even stimulated the appet i te. I n the Beyond B elief ca t alo g ue, in her ess a y Ro x ana Marc o ci red u ced the works deeper implications b y sa y in g that it mirrors the n ational obsession with food supplies and ethnic networki n g p revalent in the last twen t y y ears of virt u al famine. 88 She fell short in considerin g Alimentara as simp l y mirror i n g the scarci t y of food i n Romania. Her discussion echoed the e x hibitions g eneral framework that considered the art works to be literal l y b e y ond b elief d u e to the artists devastati n g e x perie n ce under the communist re g ime. B y contrast, the ar g ument pre s ented here is that rather than pl a y i n g the role of passive victims, the artists used bitter satire to co p e with a painful e x perie n ce and active l y e n g aged their a u dience in the pr o cess. I n subREA L s installation, the visual reminder of the recent f o od shortages could be p erceived as a mode of disarmin g of the pasts moral l y op p ressive power. Both the artists (satirist) and their audie n ce (addressee) reac h ed a rappr o chemen t throu g h a shared past u n der Ceause s cus Communist re g ime 87 T he political and social situa t ion in t he last t w o to t hree y e a rs of Ce a uses c us dictatorship reached a critical point. P overt y fear, the irreversible d e m olition of B ucharests h i storical center, t he dail y f i ght against political oppression and internati o nal isolati o n d o m i nated the nations c o nsci e nce. 88 Roxana Marcoci. R o mani a n D e m ocra c y a nd Its Discont e n t s, in Welsh, ed., Beyond Bel i ef 18.
41 the satirical target. B y o v ert l y b rin g i n g p ast e x periences to the surface in Alimentara subREA L e n ga g ed the l o cal audie n ce in an emoti o nal pena n ce . 89 Contempora r y with subREA L t h ere were other R omanian artists e n g a g ed i n the idea of moral cleansi n g from the Communist past I n the street perfor m ance The State with no Title the artist L i a Perjovschi carried on h er back two l ar g e ob j ect s (one larger than the artist herself, t h e other a lo n g er ob j ect that had to be drag g ed on t h e ground and both made of paper and cloth) s y mbolizin g her penance and purification from the Communist past. 90 The perf o rmative as p ect of the works crea t ed in the ear l y nineties h ad a specific meanin g in Romanias socio-political conte x t. I f o n the international sce n e performa n ce art was popular in the 1960s and 70s, in Romania, performa n ce art had on l y e x isted under g round duri n g that period. On l y after 1989, after a lon g p eriod of iso l ation, the Romanian public was be g inni n g to open up to the e x perience of p erf o rma n ce. Accordi n g to the Timisoara based, Romanian curator and cr i tic, I leana Pintilie, at the be g inni n g of the 1990s, performance became a kind of civic attitude for several Romanian artists who felt that the y h ad to ope nl y partici p ate in the cons t ruction of a new socie t y b y public l y testif y i n g to the truth. For e x ample, Constantin Flondor (who did most of his work in the 1960s and 1970s) create d in 1991 an installation titled The Blind Man's Su n day His work was a bitter satirical acc o unt of the results of the f i rst free elections organized in Romania after the collapse of co m munism. He used apples as s y mbols of the voti n g process, 89 Ileana P intilie, P roblems. 90 Guta, Riders, 86-90.
42 paintin g some of them b l ack. Flond o r s public performance met with a violent response from the audie n ce which did not receive well the artists critical attitude. 91 subREA L s East W est A venue and Alimentara emerged from this conte x t. Their installations function not on l y as reminders of p ast atrocities, but also as warnin g s against stron g political Communist remnants that mi g ht possib l y compromise Romanias transition process to a democratic socie t y T h ro u gh their works subREA L active l y enga g ed and direct l y c o mmunicated with the local audience. The artists intended audience p la y s a s i g nificant role in future discuss i on of some of their later works. As it will be pointed out in the ne x t chapters, subREA L will g rad u al l y dista n ce t hemselves from their local aud i ence as the Western influence becomes prevalent. subREA L s artistic strate g y to interve n e in their conte x t was not unique, and can be compared to AIDS Timeline a 1991 w o rk b y the American collaborative Group Material which follows a similar strate g y T h e installation AIDS Timeline included in the 1991 Whitne y Bien n ale, was formal l y composed i n the s t y le of an ele m enta r y school project, where the galle r y space was transf o rmed i nto a kind of schoolroom with posters and displa y s advanci n g t he theme. The the m e wa s the incremental increa s e of the epidemic that ra v a g es the art world. The work aggressive l y blamed an indifferent soc i e t y for the illness it aimed to repre s ent. I t is an activists work, Arth u r Danto ar g ues, in that it provokes the socie t y into doin g somethi n g . 92 Similar l y subREA L s Alimentara transmitted throu g h the v isual lan g uage of the ins t allation, the theme of scarci t y that Romanian socie t y h ad e x perienced not too lon g ago durin g the last y ears u n der Ceausescu. Rather than d irect l y b l amin g their s o c i e t y as Group Ma t erial d i d in their 91 P intilie, P robl e m s.
43 work, subREA L ironical l y e n ga g ed the audience b y invitin g them to cons u me actual food. Thus, as this comparison revealed, subREA L was aware o f the artist i c strate g ies empl o y ed b y western art i sts. Other works b y subREA L that e x tracted vis u al themes from their immediate local conte x t included 1000 Artists in Europe installati o n mounted in the 3/4 Galler y d u ri n g Decem b er 1991 and J an u a r y 1992, B u charest, in Romania. The thousand emp t y condom wrappers each labeled E UROPE were nailed in a re g ular g rid on a black square with each wrapper containi n g a piece o f paper with the name of a livi n g Romanian artist on it. 93 One of the ironical references of the w o rk was t he theme of Romanias i nte g ration into the European Union Communi t y Additionall y the installation ech o e d the idea of standardization which is part of EU poli c y Standards helped to make life easier for consumers all over t h e world. 94 For e x ample one t hin g that the EU attempted to standardize was the size of condoms thro u g hout the European Union nati o ns. However, the proposed EU stan d ard condom size of 17cms in len g th and 5.6 circumference provoked contro v er s y a m on g some of t h e EU cou n tries. German d o ctors re p orted that the EU has overestimated the size of the avera g e p enis b y almost twen t y millimeters and insisted other countries would discover the same Urolo g ist Gunther Ha g ler, head of t h e team compilin g the research, said: B y checki n g h undreds of patients we f o und German 92 A r t hur D a nto, The W ake of A rt: Cr i ticism, Philosophy and The Ends of Taste (A m sterdam: A rts Internati o nal, 1998). 93 subREALs Files 21. 94 Eve r y a spect of socie t y is r e flected in t he draft i ng of a n e w standard. T herefore, experts representing indust r y consumers a nd othe r interes t s, like t he environm e nt or s m all and medium sized e nterprises, sit around the table to discuss a n e w standard. Standards are decided upon b y consensus to t a ke into consideration all i nteres t s. St a ndards can achi e ve w hat is d i ffi c ult for market i ng experts a nd busin e ss consultants: t h e y i ncrease consumer trust in t he s a fe t y of a product and enable cheaper production . http://www.cenorm.be/cenor m /news/standardsmyths/condo m s.asp?wai= 1 & close=1 March 12, 2005.
44 penises were too small for standard EU condoms. 95 Similar l y the I talians protested that the size was too bi g ; while in Sweden people op t ed for a b i g g er size. 96 Whil e the debates over the EU stan d ardize d condom size were taki n g place, Romania in the m onths followin g the 1989 revo l utions was content to even have access to condo m s at all, especial l y since d u rin g communism condoms were absent from the Roma n ian market. subREA L s installation 1 000 Artists in Europe of 1000 condoms was an ir o nic pla y on their participation within the contempora r y international discourse. 95 Ge r man penises too small for EU condo m s, i n Anan o va, http://www.ananova.com/ne w s/story/ sm_358876.html 12 Mar 2005. 96 What i s the a verage E uropean size, i n Peoplesite, http://www.people.hojoster.dk/SEEEMS/2320.asp 12 Mar 2005.
45 Chapter F our: Social Satire in the Draculand Series This chapter will e x amine three o f subREA L s works from the Draculand Series b y first conte x tualizin g them within the Romanian socio-political and arti s tic conte x t of the mid-nine t y nineties. Second, the works will a l so be read within the North American stereo t y pical perception of the count r y s n ational identi t y Followi n g this dual conte x tualization the aim is to reveal how the artists ne g otiated b etween t h eir national identi t y and the N o rth American de m and for a s p ecific t y pe o f art. 97 More o ver, the ar g ument pre s ented here is that subREA L empl o y ed a bitin g soc i al satire t o address both the local and an internat i onal audience. I t will be specifical l y discussed the News from Dracula installation, e x h ibited in the Beyond Bel i ef e x hibition, in order to recover the works satirical dimension that was lost in the g e n eral framew o rk of the e x hibition. When a n y o n e thinks of vampires, or more s p ecifical l y Dracula, what come s to mind is an ima g e of a dark, under g round, c o rrupt and deca d ent world. A deep iro n y was that subREA L became famous b y satirizin g the Dracula stereo t y p e, there bei n g no alternative Romanian tradition that could stir interest within the American art sce n e, where the ob s essive e x amination of cultural and ethnic stereo t y pes are a major aca d emic enterprise. For subREAL, Dracula b ecame an inde x to how Romania was si g nified in Western thou g ht, as the l and of Dracula ro m anticized b y Bram Stoker, and then 97 For ex a m ple, to fea t ure fo r m a l qualities o f an art i nstall a tion pro j ect -pro m i n e nt artis t ic trend w ith i n t he intern a tional art sc e ne in t he e ar l y to m id-n i nete e n-n i neti e s -but to retain visual el e m e nts of the nonw e stern artists ethnic backgr o und.
46 Hol l y wood. At the s ame time the artists also visualized Dracula in their h o meland in the political and artistic ter m s of the ear l y and mid-nineties. Political l y Romania wa s a problematic instance o f post-Communist societ y First of all, an eradication of t he former Soc i alist political structures h ad produced a stro n g survival of the Communist network, and allowed a dis g uised Communist ideolo g y a le g itimate place. Up until 1996, ke y positions in a varie t y of economic institutions were still occupied b y f o rmer Communist par t y mem b ers; as a result the econo m y has s u ffered tremendous l y. 98 The num b er-one g o al of the postC ommunist elite was to st o p the implementation of a free market econo m y and havin g succee d ed in maintainin g an electoral b ase th e y were able to transfer private p roper t y to the i r political clientele. Accordi n g to Romanian political ana l y st Alina M un g iu-Pippidi, durin g the ear l y 1990s, several publicati o ns, such as I liescus p ar t y official news p aper AZI or the nationalcommunist week l y publ i cation Romanian Mare were special l y created to tr y to rehabilitate the commun i st ideolo g y ; a situation which has affected t h e le g al culture and the moral health of soc i et y since p eople did not believe that truth will win in the end. F o r e x ample it was well known that the terrorists wh o were shooti n g civilians durin g the 1989 Revolution were still free and no o n e bothered to lock them up. The postCommunist network, with I lie s cu as its leader, managed to create a public s y s tem with little or no responsibili t y of the people. T h e Romanian Constitution g uaran t ees the 98 Its hard to believe, as t he R o m a ni a n political ana l yst Al i na MungiuP ippidi expresses, t hat over night the c o mmun i st par t y success o rs disappeared c o m plete l y on l y b y ch a nging t heir n a mes. T his is especial l y hard to believe w h e n w e r e m e m ber t hat 31% (4 m illi o n people) of the entire R o m a nian a d ult citiz e ns w ere part y m e m be r s, a triple percentage in c o m par i son w i t h P oland and Hunga r y T his rais e s a significant question mark r e garding the i ssue of t he c o mmunist heritag e It is m o st i m probable that t he fo r m er communist par t y m e mbers l e f t their positions i n t he un i versi t ies, acad e m ies or in a n y o t her ins t itution. Politica 34. Lucian Boia as w ell questi o ns t he real transfer of p o w er that supposed l y took place in Dec e m ber 1989. He attracts a t tention t o w ards t he ex i st e nce of the s a me c o mmunist e l ite i n the pos tC o mmun i s m decade of t he n i neties. See Romania, Borderland
47 immuni t y of a n y member of the Parliament, no matter what the nature of t h e accusation (criminal or political). T h e J ustice s y s t em was d o minated b y Communist ma g istra t es in positions of hi g hest aut h ori t y (Superior Courts a n d The Superior Committee of the Ma g istra t es). 99 Despite the still stron g c o mmunist remnants, the presence o f Western influences and most important l y the need of post-Socialist Romania to inte g rate into the bi g h ap p y European Union fami l y h ad an acute impact on the countr y in general. Within the arts, the e x hibitions were perceived as means o f active involvement of art in socie t y There were two cultural and in t ellectual orientations tha t divided Romanian art discourse, forci n g each artist to belon g to one group or the o t her. As the Arad (a nort h -western Romanian ci t y ) b ased, R omanian curat o r and art critic J udit An g el pointed out in her article Romania Exhib i tion Practice in the 90s two major tendencies c o uld be distin g uished in the e x hibition practice in Romania promotin g two differe n t artistic manifestations. On one h and, the e x hibition Filo c alia (1990) in Bucharest curated b y two Romanian curators Ale x andra Titu and Sorin Dumitrescu, initiated a retrospective of the New Orthodo x reli g ious tenden c y that later became an important event in providin g the base for an ideol o g ical program. T h e spiritual-aesthetic model promo t ed b y this movement sou g ht to offer a stabilizin g uni t y and t o transcend the conflicts of a destructured socie t y un d er g oi n g a full identi t y cris i s. 100 Duri n g the e i g hties t he New Orthodo x tendenc y was percei v ed b y the Roman i an artists as a f o rm of re s istance to Communist official ideolo g y and artistic manifes t ations. The Communist r e g ime 99 P ippid i Politica 61. 100 Ileana P intilie, R o mania Exhibi t ion P ractice in the s. in Experiment / in Romanian art since the 1960s ed. Irina Cios (Bucha r est: Soros C e nter for Cont e m p orar y A rt, 1997), 114. T he art inc l uded in th i s t y pe of exhibiti o ns w as he a vi l y inspired b y rel i gious orthodox iconography.
48 tolerated to an e x tent an d even supported the Ort h odo x Church, y et it forbade the laic and fundamentalist Orthodo x reli g ion. T h e New Orth o do x movement initiated b y the Filocalia e x hibition was rooted in cultural tende n cies after 1989, when s o me Romanian intellectuals 101 rediscovere d Orthodo x fundamentalism in pre-World War I I writin g s, via the works b y authors such as Nae I onescu and Mircea Vulca n escu, specifical l y supporters of traditional and conservative values, whose works were republished in e x tensive editions. Durin g the ear l y 1990s, the influence o f the fundamentalist r i g ht was not limited on l y to political and intellectual discourse, but e x tended to the visual arts, as was the case with the Roman i an National Peasant Mu s eum. At the be g innin g o f the nineties, the museum benefited from anti-Communist currents b y displ a y i n g Romanian folk art objects. Howe v er it did not reflect the Romanian p easants life and ima g e, b ut rather the Orthodo x traditions e x pressed b y the pre-World War I I intellectuals. 102 On the other hand, there were the artistic tende n cies initiated b y The State with no Title e x hi b ition curated b y I leana Pintilie (Timisoara, 1991). I t was the first e x hibition organized after t h e revo l ution and showcased a series of installations and performa n ces in which the artists commented on the latest political developments, dis g uised communism, the heroes of December 1989, the violence and contrasts of the moment, and e x plored common attitudes and mentalities. E x amples of other e x hibitions that were promotin g such tendencies i n clude: two e x hibitio n s curated b y I leana Pintilie The Earth (Timisoara, 101 T heoreticall y a nt i -c o mmun i s t dissiden t s. T hrough o ut the 1 9 90s, in R o m a nia t here is a fu z ziness about w ho is or is not a c o mmun i st or w ho is or isnt pr o m ot i ng communist ideologi e s. Initia ll y i mmediate l y foll o w ing t he collapse of t he communist r e g i me, the pre War World II revival of the N e w Orthodox y religious tend e n c y has been p r o m oted b y t he an t i-c o mmun i s t intellec t ual dissiden t s as a w a y to oppose the dictatorship. But b y mid 1990 this t e nden c y ( w hich i niti a l l y w a s se e n as an t i-c o mmun i st) opposed the prow e stern, d e m ocratic t e ndenci e s, su c h as R o m a ni a s i nt e grat i on into the EU, a nd its pr i m a r y supporters n o w are the r e m n a n t s of c o mmunism. 102 Irina Cios, ed., Experiment / in Roman i an art since the 1960s (Bucharest: Soros C e nter for Cont e mporar y A rt, 1997), 114-6.
49 1992) 103 and The Eastern E urope Zone (Timisoara, 1 993), 104 and a series of e x hibitions organized b y Calin Dan such as Mozarts Sex (Bucharest, 1991); Ex Oriente Lux (Buc h arest, 199 3 ); 01010101 Exhibition (Bucharest, 1994). 105 B y m akin g u se of new technolo g i es, promotin g art that was social l y inv o lved, and attemptin g for a s y nc h ronization of art w i th local needs and international requirements, the s e e x hibitions went a g ainst the con s er v ative attitude of the New Orthodo x y t endencies. s u bREA L s works were part o f the a n ti-conservative move m e n t. subREA L s Dr a culand s eries was b e g un in 1993, and it repre s ented an e x tensive project composed of t en separa t e installations. I n t hese works subREA L empl o y ed satire as social critique. T h e ar t ists j u x taposed the icono g rap h y of the two w o rlds, e x plorin g the Western stereo t y pical p erception of Romania as t h e land of Dracula in an a t tempt to attract attention on the i n ternational art scene. Dracula functioned as a two fold si g nifier. On one hand the installa t ions addressed a v arie t y of aspects from within the local Romanian conte x t of the mid-nineties. Dracula i c o no g rap h y became a s y m b ol for the contempora r y political and cultural sta g nation with still stron g Communist remnants. At the same time, the Drac u la s y mbol was p art of the Balkanist fan t a s y which as Z izek and Todorova pointed out, was invoked b y the West when re p resenti n g Romania. 103 Ibid. 104 T he 1993 international performance festiv a l The Eastern Europe Zone w a s organized i n T imisoara and fea t ured both local artists as well as artists fr o m o t her sever a l Eastern and C e ntral E uropean countries. R o m a ni a n artists e xplored geo-political issu e s related to post-C o mmun i st Eastern E urope and the visible and invisible i mped i m e n t s th a t block communication be t w e en R o mania a nd the rest o f th e w orld. Besides perfor m a nce art, local R o m a n i an artis t s explored video insta l lation as w ell. For ex a mple, the artist Geta Bratescus video titled Automatic Cocktail w a s c o m posed of short episodes of a perfor m a nce int e grated into a fi l m ess a y w here t he cont i nu o us creat i ve effort w as protracted b y the dai l y aut o mat i s m See G uta, Riders, 88. 105 Judit Angel, R o m a ni a Exh i bition P ractice in the 1990s in Experiment / in Romanian art since the 1960s ed. Irina Cios (Bucha r est: Soros C e nter for Cont e m p orar y A rt, 1997), 114-6. T he l ast t w o exhibi t ions c urated b y Cal i n D an w ere staged w i t h t he Soros Center f i nanci a l support.
50 Thus, via the Western stereo t y p i cal perception of Romania, subREA L attempted to make sense of the pos t -communist reali t y for t h e Romanian audience. On the other hand, the artists mocked and took as a satirical tar g et the Western stereo t y p ical perception of Romanias national identi t y as the d ark land of the le g en d ar y Dracula . 106 I n re g ards to the Dracul a nd series, the Turkish art critic Erden Koso v a r i g h t ful l y e x pressed: The g roup was combinin g various stereo t y p es on bei n g a Ro m anian in utter l y subversive sarcasm, or i n their words, in a c y nici s m (operati n g as) an international trend in a nationalistic conte x t Furthermore, acc o rdi n g to Kosova, subREA L h ad two tar g ets to displace: the risin g n ationalism and the negative e x oticism of the European and American gaze in re g ard to Romania. 107 To illustrate this, as e x ample it will be close l y ana l y zed three o f the installations: Draculand 2 Draculand 3 and News from Dracula Draculand 2 was installed in four rooms of the Art Museum in Bistrita, Romania in March 1993. I n the first room, the artists satirical l y empl o y ed elements from the Dracula re p ertoire. For e x ample, black-and-white photo g raphs representi n g the buttocks of the then three members 108 of the group were pro j ected onto the ceilin g and b eneath 106 Historical l y P rince Dracula (1431-1476) w a s a t y pical Rena i ss a nce despot possess i ng c r ue l and m orbid i m pu l ses. H i s inf a mous tortu r es and atrocities w ere directed against t he Sax o n c o mmun i t i es liv i ng w i t h i n T ransylv a nia. T hese S a xons c ommuniti e s, besides being th e m ain producers of w eapon r y i n the r e gion, w ere also i n tight connecti o ns w i t h t he Ge r m a n print i ng h o use in N r nberg and t hus had a m o nopo l y over the circul a tion of printed mat e rial. A s a fo r m of atta c k a nd revenge ag a inst t he cruel actions geared t o w ards th e m b y P rince Dracula, t hese Saxon T ransylv a ni a n c o mmunities c o m posed and circulated fright e n i ng a nd evil stories about t he prince, which o ver t i m e ga i ned h i m the fantastical a ssociati o n w i t h being a v a m pire. T he m odern Dracula e m e r ged fr o m Br a m St o kers nov e l, and fi l ms b y Ge r manys M urn a u and others. See subREALs Files. V a m pires are kn o w n i n many w orld cul t ures i nc l uding Indi a Ch i na, and Indonesia, but is t y pic a l l y a S lavic concept associated w ith Russ i a, P oland, Bulgaria, Croatia, S lovenia, Greece, R o mania, A l bania and Hunga r y 107 Erden Kosova, The Problematic of National Id e ntity and Social Engagement in the Contemporary Art Practice in the Balkans (Dissertation m a nuscript). 108 Mihai M i halte a nu l e ft t he gr o up in Ju l y, 1993. subREALs Files
51 them ironical l y poki n g t h em were o n e hundred w o oden stakes 109 with the accompa n y i n g sound of rel i g ious Turkish music. 110 I n the s econd and fourth room, subREA L e n g a g e d the local audience b y makin g reference to specif i c aspects of the Romanian con t e x t. For instance, the artists featured traditional Romanian dishes such as mujdei (peeled g arlic mas h ed with salt and diluted with warm water), place d in a wooden tro u g h in the middle of the floor. Surroundin g it, projected on the walls there were slides of news h eadlines from local Romanian newspapers, commenting on Romanias economical, cultural and political problems. Another traditional dish mititei (literal l y mean i n g t h e small ones, and are actual l y minced meat of main l y b eef and l amb, spices and g arlic) was featured in t h e fourth room. 111 Each piece of meat was pierced with a toothpick for a n y o n e interes t ed to consume. The entire settin g was lid b y spotli g hts which were connected to a timer re g ulatin g t h eir alter n atin g e x posure pattern. The i nstallation was accom p anied b y b rass music performed b y rai l w a y strikers in front o f the g o v ernment buildin g and recor d ed live b y the artists. The use of traditional dishes, slides with local news headlines and the so u nds of a brass band specifical l y referred to the Romanian conte x t. Draculand 2 was shown in March 1993, thus its co n ceptualization must had be g un s everal months earlier. 112 This was the time short l y after I on I l i escu, one o f who s e main g o als was to stop western influence and t h e implementation of a free market econo m y was elected t h e nations 109 Sev e n t y-e i ght point s e ven i n c hes high ea c h. Ibid., 39. 110 subR E AL pur c hased t his music tape in Istan b ul, the T urk i sh ci t y w here P rince Dracula spent h i s y o u t h as a guar a ntee of his fa t hers faithfuln e ss t o w ard the T urkish sult a n. Ibid. 111 T he m eat d i vided into one hundred ten pieces, w a s placed on three c hes t s arranged i n a ro w a nd covered w i t h w hite fabric. Ibid.
52 president. At the same t i me, ironical l y within the art sce n e, Western influence ap p eared within the arts with the Soros Foundation sta g i n g t he first art e x hibitions. I n their works, subREA L s u s ed of new s papers headlines for e x ample was a w a y of co m mentin g on Romanias current socio-political and economical problems. The artists went further and close l y involved the aud i ence who was invited to consume the food e x hibited on tables. The third room of the in s tallation featured two floor maps: one of Romania (appro x imate l y 70.9 x 78.7 inches) made o f g arlic and the other of t h e United States (appro x imate l y 38.4 x 118.1 inches) made o f corn flour. The US map was positioned above and adjacent to Romania, as if th e y were n ei g hbori n g countr i es. On the maps there were p rojected t h e name s of four cities: B u charest Bistrita, New York and Hol l y wood. The choice o f the cities and their iconographic s i gnificance in the installat i on provides a deeper un d erstandi n g in t o subREA L s u s e of satire. Buc h arest is the capital ci t y of Romania. Historical l y Bucharest h ad been a cos m opolitan ci t y with abundant and varied cultural, political and social activities. Since the late 19 th centur y and ear l y 20 th centur y Bucharest had b een kn o wn as the L ittle Pari s o f Eastern E u rope, complete with its own Arc de T riomphe. A lot of the ci t y s architecture and recreational parks, such as Cismi g iu, retain French architectural desi g ns. Fur t hermo r e, Romanians con s ider French culture and la n g u a g e as p art of their own cultural herita g e. T h at was w h y Ion L uca Cara g iale, the famed la t e 19 th centur y pl a y wr i g ht, mocked the middle class Romanians emulation of French cus t oms and lan g u a g e. For e x ample, several of his pla y s s atirized the pretentious appro p riation of Fre n ch words wi t hin eve r y d a y Romanian conversation, which in a snobbish w a y was considered a s i g n of intellectual sophistication. Besides its 112 A l t hough I have not the video m aterial or the slide pro j ections according to subREALs Fi l es an account published b y t he artis t s w hile i n residence i n Berlin w i t h su p port fro m P hili p -Morris Foundation, the artis t s
53 cultural assets, B u chares t has been well off econ o mical l y I n subREA L s i nstallation, Bucharest was positione d to be the equivalent to New York, a contempora r y replacement for Paris as a s i g n of R o manian sophistication and worldliness. The ci t y o f Bistrita on t h e other hand h ad a different function. The coun t y of Bistrita-Na s aud encom p assed some of the most beautiful, untouched mountain scene r y in the entire Car p athians. I t was the place where m y t hs and superstitions abound and were passed on from one generation to the ne x t. Bistrita is a town of about 50, 0 00 in northerncentral Tran s y lvania, es t ablished in the 12th cen t ur y I t was on the main rail line from Vienna and Buda p est, a n d was the route that J onathan Har k er ta k es in the f i rst chapter o f Bram Stokers novel. Harker st a y s at the Golden Crown Hotel before tra v elin g eastward to meet Count Dracula. While there was no hote l b y that na m e in Bistrita when Stoker wrote the novel, one h as been built to accommodate the interests of visitors who come to the area havi n g read the novel. Tod a y it is possible to drop in at the resta u rant and ha v e the ve r y meal that Har k er has in the novel the "r o bber stea k ". Built in the late 1970s Hotel Castle Dracu l a re s embled a real medieval castle and stood on the Bor g o Pass where Bram Stoker situated the Vampire Counts castle in his novel. While this hotel catered to tourists lookin g f o r the vampire Count (it even had a c r y pt comp l ete with coffin), it had the advan t age of bei n g in the "r i g h t fictional location, and the view of the Pass was ma g nificent. T h e hotel also featured the White Apartment where the former communist dictator Ceausescu spent some of his h olida y s. 113 The fact that thi s hotel catered main l y to tourist s could be considered in the lar g er socio-cultural and political conte x t of the time. Wh e n the hotel was built in the late 1970s h i g h level contacts address their surrounding real i ties. 113 Travel in Romania (2), http:/ / www.ucs.mun.ca/~emiller/tours2.htm 11 A pr 2005.
54 e x isted between the United States and Romania t h rou g hout the d eca d e of t h e 1970s, culminatin g in the 1978 s tate visit to Washin g ton b y Nico l ae Ceau s escu. 114 Thus, if Buc h arest was equivalent to New York, t hen Bistrita was t h e Romanian equivalent to Hol l y wood I f we considered t h at B i stritas Castle Dracu l a Hotel was built because o f the tourist demands g enerated b y Bram Stokers novel, it could be said that Bistrita was one o f Hol l y woods most fantastical creations. subREA L was s tressin g the tension between m y th (Hol l y wood/Bistrita) and reali t y economic and politic(New York / Buc h arest). Besides the s atirical view on cultural affinities be t ween Romania and t h e US, the installation satirical l y a d dressed the nations stri v in g for rec o g nition within the cultural and political international scene, i.e. the NATO i n te g ration. I n this sense it is relevant to brief l y discuss the political relationship between Romanian and US in the ear l y 1990s. After welcomin g t h e re v olution of December 19 8 9 with a visit b y Secretar y of State Baker in Februa r y 1990, the U.S. Government e x pressed co n cern t h at opposition parties had faced discriminato r y treatment in the M a y 19 9 0 elections, when the Na t ional Salvation Front won a sweepi n g victo r y The slow progress of subseq u ent p olitical and economic reform increa s ed that concern, and rela t ions with Romania cooled sharp l y after the J une 1990 intervention of the miners in Universi t y Sq u are. An x ious to cultivate better relations with the U.S. a n d Europe, and disappoin t ed at the poor results fr o m its g radualist economic ref o rm strate g y the Stolojan g overnment undertook s o me economic reforms and conducted free and fair parliamenta r y and presidential e l ections in September 1992. Encouraged b y the cond u ct of l o cal elections in Febr u a r y 1992, Depu t y 114 Background Note: R o m a nia ," Feb 2005, US Depart m e nt of State: Bureau of E uropean and Eurasian
55 Secreta r y of State Ea g l e b urger paid a visit in Ma y 1992. Con g ress restored Most Favored Nation (MFN, the J acks o n-Vanik amendment that links MFN to a count r y 's performa n ce on emi g ration). This status was re n ewed y ear l y after Con g ressional rev i ew of the presidential election in November 1993 in rec o g n i tion of Romania s pr o gress in institutin g political and economic ref o rm. I n 199 6 the U.S. Con g ress vote d to e x tend permanent M FN g raduation to Romania. 115 Additio n al l y it is rele v ant to note that Romania was admitted as a full member of the E u ropean Council in Octo b er 1993 and on 1 Febr u a r y 1995, Romania beca m e an ass o ciate member of the EU. I n J une 1995 Romania submitted its f o rmal application to bec o me a full member. Alth o u g h e x plicit l y set as the prime g oal, R o mania was, and still is unlike l y to enter t h e Euro p ean Union before 2007. I n J anua r y 1994, Romania became t he first count r y to join the Partnership for Peace pr o g ram. France, I t a l y and Ca n ada sup p orted Romanias bid to become member of NATO in the first wave of accession. However, in the first ro u nd in March 1999, Poland, Czech Republic, and Hu n g a r y joined NATO, so Romanias NATOmembership could take p lace in a later round of NATO-enlar g ement. 116 subREA L s installation gained a deeper m eani n g when seen within the lar g er socio-political conte x t of the time. As seen abo v e durin g the ear l y 1990s, Romania ea g er l y aimed toward NATO and EU integration. Additional l y despite the relative g ood Affairs, Washington, D C, in R omania (02/05), http://www s t ate.gov/r/pa/ei/bgn / 35722.ht m. 11 A pr 2005. 115 Ibid. 116 The Political Landscap e in Romania Ju l y 2000, European Foru m http://www.europeanforum.botconsult.se/cup/romania/develop.htm 11 A pr 2005. T he count r y s h i gh e st foreign polic y goal, N A T O m e mbership, w as atta i ned in N o v e m ber 2002, w h e n R o m a nia received an i nvitati o n to j oin the Alli a nce. R o m a n i a officia ll y bec a me a m e mber of the North A tl a ntic T rea t y Org a nizati o n on March 29, 2004 after depo s iting its i nstrum e nts of trea t y r atificati o n in Wash i ngt o n, DC. P resident Bush helped c o mm e m orate Romanias N A T O accession w h e n he vis i ted Bucharest i n Nov e mber 2002. On t hat occasion he congra t u l ated the R o m a ni a n people on building de m ocratic i ns t itutions a nd a market ec o n o my foll o w i ng the fall of c o mmunism. P resident Iliescu paid a
56 diplomatic relationship between US and Romania followin g the local elect i on in 1992, the work satirized the impossibili t y of the two n ations actual closeness. Furtherm o re, the real cultural and g eo p olitical distance between the two countries was vi s ual l y manifested in inconsiste n t material of the two ma p s one made of garlic and the other of corn flour, wh i ch can di s inte g rate at the smallest j ostlin g Garlic was part o f the Dracula icono g rap h y and as see n in Hol l y wood movies of Dracula and vampires, it was used to ward off vampires. sub R EA L m ade use o f g arlic t o draw the map o f the c o untr y on the g all e y floor as if to f u rther ridicule the Wester n stereo t y pical view of the geographical location of Romania as t he land of Dracula. T h e corn of the other h and wa s associated with the US. American Indians cultivated corn, which later in 16 th centur y was imported into Europe. Traditionall y and historical l y corn was a s y mbol o f Western wealth and prosperi t y I t is ve r y much present in the contem p ora r y American culture u nder different forms, ra n g i n g from po p -corn, corn on t h e cob, c o rn do g s, corn muffins a n d cornbread at Thanks g ivi n g subREAL is e x pressin g the m y ths about both cultures. The presence of corn and g arlic m a y ha v e also s y mbolized the confrontation between life (corn prosperi t y s y mbol of t h e US) and death ( g arlic the world of the dead vampires Romania). Final l y the t wo maps, one re p resenti n g the West and the other the East satirical l y invo k ed the p o litical confrontation e x istin g in Romanian local c o nte x t. As previous l y discus s ed, the conflict was manifested between the traditionalist g roup with conservative v alues and t he more pr o g ressive g ro u p with Western orientations and supporters of Western v alues. return visit to t he United Stat e s in Dec e mber 2003, per m itt i ng both heads o f state to re e m p hasize comm it m e nt to shared political and econ o m ic goals. See Background Note: R o mania.
57 I n summa r y in Dracula n d 2 subREA L empl o y ed the visual lan g u a g e of installation, performance, photo g rap h y and video, media manifested on the international g lobal art sce n e. The c o mple x i t y of this work e m anated from the tri-facet satirical tar g et chosen b y subREA L I ts satirical social mocke r y was created b y the ju x taposition of the stereo t y pical Western view of Romania as the lan d of Dracula and the s atirical g e o graphical closeness b etween Romania and the US. Additional l y t h eir s o cial mocke r y enga g ed the conflict ma n ifested within the local conte x t between the conservative, traditional view and the v iews open towards t h e Western international cultural discourse. Draculand 3 (1993) was the first installation from the series to be e x hibited in an international e x hibition. Between J une and September 1993, Dracula 3 represented Romania at the Venice Biennial, Aperto, Corderie dellArsena l e. The w o r k consisted of a TV monitor showin g an appro x imate l y twelve m i nute video. Around the monitor (with the volume turned to ma x im u m), there were fif t y stakes mounted on fif t y metal stands. For the Western audience, familiar with Dracu l a movies based on Bram Stokers novel, the prese n ce of the s t ake s was a rec o g nizable s y m bol of embodiment of the sadistic nature of the ki n g v ampire, or i g inati n g in Romanian national histor y. 117 Accordi n g to an account 118 of subREA L s works, the filmed material featured public spaces in B u charest, a ci t y de v astated b y f o r t y -five y ears of communism and invaded in the nineties b y W estern consumerism. The rapid cuts alternated with lon g sequences t aken from an old emp t y troll e y car tra v elin g at n i g ht, and with i nserts from Romanian newspapers, Bram Stokers Dracula movie and Sa x on chronicles about the 117 A s i n Br a m St o kers book Dracula or v a m pires i n general a re killed w ith w ooden st a k e s t o the heart. 118 subREALs Files T his account w as c o m posed b y t he artis t s in collaboration w i th K unstle r haus w here th e y w ere i n a y ear long resid e n c y A l t h o ugh I persona l y contacted the artis t s, I w as not able to obtain and
58 Prince. 119 As e x hibited at the Venice Bienn i al in Draculand 3 the relationsh i p between the artists (or the satirist) and the addressee (or the audience) was indirect, mediated throu g h the filmed material seen on the TV scree n The local realities appeared distant as the y unfold in the filmed material and the audience became less e n ga g ed and less disturbed b y its viewi n g subREA L s bid f o r international rec o g nition as seen in their mid-nineties works was further e x emplified b y the video installation Draculand 9, with the subtitle News from Dracula This wor k was included in Beyond Belief or g anized at the M useum of Contempora r y Art, Chica g o, 1995. News from Dracula was a video installation with the TV monitor placed within a g y mnasts pommel horse (alludin g to the Romanian O l y mpic c h ampion Nadia Comaneci, a stereo t y pical western s y m bol of the coun tr y ) a n d covered with a woolen bed cover. The Romanian word for po m mel horse is ca p ra and is a verbal pun in Roma n ian referri n g to both the g y mnastic dev i ce and the animal sheep. T he pommel horse was s u rrounded, as in a protective shield, wi t h a hundred woo d en sta k es (two hundred centime t ers hi g h ) in wooden stands, mounted aggressive l y f o rward, at an a n g le of for t y -five d egrees. The monitor showed a thir t y minute color video tape with sound. The video is looped with three minute clips of so u nds and images of dioramas from the National M useum of Militar y Histo r y in B u c h arest. The four diora m as on the museum walls featured cr u cial historical battles: two against the Ottoman Empire, one episode from WW I and one from WW II T h e frozen full-sized fi g ures, p roper l y dressed and hero i cal l y po s ed, were ma d e vi e w t he video m aterial bc a use, according to Calin D a n ( m e meber of su b R E AL) it is not yet available on tape for public vi e w i ng. Base d on a personal e-mail convers a tion (Nov e m ber 10, 2004, 9:28 A M). 119 Ibid., 54. T here is no evidence of w hi c h Dracula movi e s based on Stokers n o vel is used b y su b R E AL in their installa t ion.
59 d y namic usi n g sophisticated li g htnin g t echniques and sound tracks, wh i ch combined memorable so n g s, speeches and poems recited b y famous actors. 120 Thro u g h the aesthetics of historical d o cumentaries, subREA L b rou g ht f o rth images of R omanias recent atrocious Communist past as seen thro u g h the three minutes clips of sounds and ima g es o f the dioramas from the National Museum of Militar y Histo r y Yet the recent past became distant b y i t s simple association with historical events from R omanian national histor y such as the two battles a g ainst the Ottoman Empire fo u g ht more than three hundred y ears a g o. The artists critical l y distanced themselves b y plac i n g their memories of the Ceau s e s cu dictatorship within the historical conte x t. These historical ima g es were intercalated amon g images of current TV news, reflecti n g the constant and rapid cha n ges within the local Romanian conte x t under Western presence and influence. I n Draculand 3 and Ne w s from Dracula both e x h ibited international l y the artists had in mind Western European and A m erican au d iences. Si g nif i cant is the fact that their works have E n g lish titles; the y were not translations from Romanian. As an art medium, the y empl o y ed the visua l lan g u a g e of the vi d eo-i n stallation, popular during the midnineties within the international art sce n e. At the s ame time, the artists pre s erved the specifici t y of their n ational identi t y for t h e Western e y es, b y appro p riatin g universal l y rec o g nized Dracula image r y Thus, subREA L s works were determined b y the conte x t in which the installations were e x hibited and conse q uent l y b y the viewin g a u dience. I n Draculand 2 e x hibited in Romania, there was a d irect involvement with the local audience. I n Draculand 3 and Draculand 9 both e x hibited outside Romania, the direct 120 Ibid.
60 relationship with the audience and the themes co m mented upon became distant and were indirect l y man i fested throu g h the filmed material Under the all e n compass i n g umbrella o f Eastern E urope, Beyond Belief wa s structured on a count r y b y count r y basis, with the artists identified b y their ethnic bac k g round. For instance, the Bu l g ar i an artist L uchezar B o y adjiev made d ense use of the reli g ious icon o g rap h y s p ecifical l y illustratin g Bu l g arias traditional identit y The curatorial approach in the e x hibition posited subREA L s News from Drac u la as emblematic of Romania. Within the American cultural perception, Romania, particular l y its north-western re g ion called Tran s y l v ania, is s y no n y mous with Dracula and medieval haunted castles. I ronical l y the phot o g raph of the work in the e x hibition catalo g ue was not an image of how it was installed at the Chicago Contempora r y Muse u m of Art. On the contra r y t h e photograph appears to h ave been t aken in a different v enue This photo g raph was importa n t because it retained an e x otic settin g with the arched windows and ceili n g columns, a n d aged walls. This re p re s entation of the work in t h e catal o g u e further emp h asized the e x hibitions g eneral struc t ure that manifested t h e western e x pectation of an e x otic and ethnical l y spec i fic art. B y contrast, the ar g ume n t presented here is that News from Dracula was a ne g otiation between the American d emands for a national identi t y based art and the artists desire to enter the international sce n e. subREA L was ful l y aware o f the international desire and the y capitalized on it in order to enter t h e g lobal ar t market. The success in fulfillin g A m erican e x pectations could be seen in the artists presence in international e x hibitions and several artist reside n c y p r o g rams. On t h e other end of the spectrum, contempora r y with subREA L there were other artists, who pur p ose l y i g nored
61 the tren d y issue of i d enti t y . For e x ample, Roza El-Hassans Untitled (1 9 93) resembli n g a piece o f ordina r y sto n e and Z uzan n a J anins Untitled (1991) feat u rin g a s heet of silk with a lamp illuminatin g from underneath it were abstract and conceptual works, which were be y ond a n y n ational narratives. I n s p eaki n g of black or n on-European artists and t he Western desire for an e x otic other, J ean Fisher said : The e x oticized artist is marketed not as a thinkin g subject and individual innovator in his or her o n ri g ht, but as a b earer of prescribed and hom o g en i zed cultural si g ns and m ean i n g s. To be l o cked into the fra m e of ethnici t y is al s o to be locked out of a r i g orous philosophical and historical deba t e that risks crip p lin g the works intellectual de v e l opment and e x cludin g it from the g lobal circuit of ideas where it r i g htful l y belo n g s. 121 Similar l y the intention o f the Beyond B elief e x hibition was to represent the artists and their art as bearers of prescribed and hom o genized cultural si g ns as is the case with subREA L s News from Dracula Howe v er, as t h e above ana l y ses had sh o wn the artists were ful l y aware of the mainstream international apprec i ation for the e x otic, and thus the y entered in a ne g otia t ion between their n ational identities and the North American interest in an ethnical l y s pecific art. Furt h ermore, the artists used satire to j u x tapose the icono g rap h y of two different worlds and to ad d re s s both a local and a Wes t ern audie n ce. 121 Jean Fisher, T he S yncretic T urn, Cross-Cul t ural P ractices in the Age of M ulti c ul t uralism in Theory in Contemporary Art since 1985 ed. Zo y a Ko c ur and S i mon Leung (Malden: Bla c k w ell P ub l ish i ng, 2005), 235.
62 Chapter F ive: The Art History Archive Series and Satirical Critical Distancing subREA L s y ear lo n g re s iden c y, 122 from 1995-1996, at Kunstlerhaus Bethanien, Berlin, Germa n y initiated a new pha s e in their w o rk: the Art History Archive ser i es. I t was based on five hundred twen t y -si x and a half k i lo g rams o f photographic material (black-and-white photos and slides) from the pho t o archive o f the Romanian art journal Arta the on l y art publication (1953-1989) that a p peared d u ri n g Communism in Romania. The state controlled art magazine was published b y the Vis u al Artist Union (in Romanian Uniunea Artistilor Plastici, UAP), acc o rdin g to a well known Soviet pattern of institutionalized culture, imported in all the countries of the Eastern bl o c d u rin g the ear l y nine t y fifties. T h e Arta p ublication featured pompous propa g anda art, heroic statues of hea v y indust r y wor k ers o r posters statin g Victor i e Socialismului (Socialist Victor y ). Heavi l y surv e y ed b y the authorities, the artists had to succumb to the par t y officials demands. As Geert L ov n ik sa y s: This art is not mere l y e x pressin g t h e Will to Po w er of a few s econd c l ass par t y individuals, this art tends to disappear and can no l on g er distract our attention, let alone subvertNo e x pression, no pain, no desire. I nstead, we h ave ta k en o n an endless journ e y thro u g h blurr y impressionist landscapes, ad v anced forms of meritocra c y from which we will never kn o w wha t is perhaps hidin g b ehind these masks of oppression. 123 The ma g azine collapsed after the political shifts i n 1989, and the archive, accumulated since 1953, remained a floati n g de p ositor y o f photographs. 122 T he residen c y w as founded by P hilip Morris Foundation. S ee subREALs Files 123 Geert Lov i nk, N a v i gat i ng t he Nor m al c y: A social h i sto r y of art reproduction, in Blast t he Bots Praise the Databases, http://www.thing.desk.nl/bilwet/Ge e rt / Essays/re v iew.html. 12 Mar 2005.
63 How did subREA L e n g a g e t h e photo archi v e, a s i g nificant reposito r y of t h e communist past ? The varie t y of installations and p erforma n ces, revealed a multi-la y ered understandi n g and e n gagement of the artists with the archi v al material. An i n-depth ana l y sis o f their works will illu s trate w h y and how the artists approach their Communist past throu g h the phot o g raphic archive. F u rtherm o re, it will be ar g ued t h at the artists make use of satire as a w a y to critical l y dista n ce themselves from their Romanian conte x t and to address a primari l y W estern audie n ce. subREA L s first installation, titled Art History A r chive. Lesson 1 with the subtitle How to Change Y our W a ll Paper Daily was co m posed of about ten thousand black-an dwhite photo g raphs of various sizes that completel y co v ered t h e walls and ceilin g of a room. The artists took this photo archive from its ori g inal con t e x t (i.e. as evidence of the e x istence of a powerful Communist re g ime) and simp l y utilized it as wall paper in their installation. Wall paper is a trivial (and political l y harmless) form o f dec o ration that is usual l y not considered a serious artistic medium. The complete l y co v ered walls and ceilin g created a claustr o phobic feeli n g both on a p h y sical and emotional level. The reali t y and p h y sicali t y of the room dissolved under the multitude of the photo g raphs and became o n e with the arc h ive. Also the artists became part of the archive b y actual l y livin g in the room for two months. I n this work, t he archi v al material was meant to be percei v ed from a dista n ce rather than b y a close e x amination of each photo g raph on the walls. The title as well, How to Change Y our W a ll Paper Daily, indicated the artists conception of the phot o graphic archive as a whole b y com p ari n g it to wallpaper. The satirical target was announced in the installations title, comparin g t h e re g imes e x istence ( s een in the accumulated evidence of this photo-archive) to mundane
64 wallpaper that required t o be cha n ged. Thus, th e y re-visited and re-repre s ented the Communist past out of its ori g inal con t e x t. How did subREA L e n ga g e the conceptual meanin g o f the archive ? Did subREA L re-visit the past to inquire whats l eft after somethin g as powerful a s the Communist re g ime d isinte g ra t es ? Or did the artists empl o y the archive to comment on the current political situatio n ? Or rather e n ga g ed the archive as fashionable strate g y p art of the mainstream? 124 Accordi n g to Derrida the concept of archi v e was o n one hand p h y sical, historical and ontolo g ical, there w h ere thi n g s commence a n d on the other hand it was nomolo g ical, in the se n se that the archive had a legalistic status, commanded and e x ercised b y an authori t y institution or a social order. 125 When considerin g s u bREA L s work, the nomol o g ical sense of the archive applied. The authori t y that c o ntrolled or commanded the archival material that the artists empl o y had dissipated. T h e Communist structure, which created t his archive and t h erefore controlled it, was no longer in power. B y maki n g use of this m aterial in different forms in their installations, su b REA L became the new controlli n g aut h ori t y over this accumula t ed photographic archive, similar almost to a transfer of power fr o m the Communist re g ime into subREA L s hands. The artists power of selection over the photo-arc h ive was re v ealed in another installation created a co u ple of months later, titled W hat d o es a project me a n? For this work, the artists selec t ed on l y certain phot o g raphs The installation consisted of nine t y black-an d -white photo reproductions of sculpture s cut and pasted on p l y w o od. The life size sculptures were placed on nine t y p edestals, and thus e x hibited in an illusionist wa y 124 I believe it is i m portant to r e m e m ber t hat t he artists w ere a ctual l y a w a y fr o m R o m a nia when t h e y e m barked on this pro j ect. T h e y must h a ve been f a m i liar w i t h w h a t has be e n go i ng on w i thin the ma i nstre a m internati o nal art scene.
65 as if th e y were real three-dimensional objects, g iv i n g the impression of an o ut-of-sca l e solo art show. On a wall there was a portrait of the sculptor, I on I rime s cu, whose work was e x hibited, surrou n ded b y ot h er phot o g raph s documentin g his social and political activities as an artist fav o red b y the Communist par t y officials. A comprehensive bio g rap h y an application letter addressed to the d i rector of Kunstlerhaus Bethanien and a recommendation from subREA L was also posted on another wall of t h e e x hibition space. 126 The sculptor I on I ri m escu (b. 1903) was an offic i al fi g u re of the Roman i an art scene f o r more than si xt y y ears before and duri n g Communism. 127 I n subREA L s installations, I rimesc u s sculptures were seen as i n de x for the Communist p ast. The visual repre s entation of the installation was satirical l y b oth pla y ful and critical. T he artists mocked I rimesc u s scul p ture b y d e g radin g t h em to flat photo g raphic repr o ductions, which were further empt i ed of a n y s u g g estive p o wer b y bei n g mounted on cut p l y wood, like mere t o y s. subREAL ridiculed I rimescu thro u g h the posted d o cuments which instead of honori n g him, actual l y satirized him. The artists wanted to bri n g him down from fames pedestal, as the re i g nin g Communist sculptor, whose name e v e r y Romanian knows well. The documents on the wall provided further infor m ation to the viewer so that the satirical target was identifiable. The artists control the archi v es representation and their cen t ral purpose was to mock the oppress i ve Communist past. The y did this b y 125 Jacque Derrida, Archive Fev e r, A Freudian I m pression (Chicago: T he Un i versi t y of Chi c ago P ress, 1995), 1-6. 126 subREALs Files ,107. 127 He e m braced artistic s t yles t hat w ere i m posed b y t he g o ve r ning C o mmun i st ideolog y B et w e e n 1978 and 1990, he w a s the president of the Nati o nal A rtists U nion, the publisher of R o mani a s official art maga z ine Arta T his publicat i on covered his act i viti e s ext e nsive l y, both as a n artist a nd as a political figure. T he biograph y o f the s c ulptor is reproduced fro m one o f the m o n o graphs dedicated to Ion Ir i m es c u, an elaborate co m parative s t u d y which plac e s the art i st in a n int e rnational context. Ibid.
66 both associatin g it with worthless wall paper and ridiculin g a well know c o mmunist sculptor b y representin g his sculptures on two dimensional surfaces of banal p l y wood. The artists appr o ach to t he archi v e was also to brin g f o rth insi g nificant de t ails and ano n y mous individuals from within the photo reproductions. I n S erving Art, 1999, e x hibited in the After the W a ll e x hibition, subREA L chose to reproduce two thousa n d black-an d -white negatives showin g on l y the la t eral, insi g nificant de t ails. E x a mples were the assistants who, while helpin g with the process of photo g raphi n g the art works b y holdi n g dark backdrops, were also captured in the photo g raph even tho u g h the y were not meant to be seen. T h ese negatives were meant to provide repr o ductive ma t erial for p rintin g (in the Arta ma g azine) and relied complete l y on the final croppi n g in o rder to eliminate these p eripheral insi g n i ficants a n d concentrate on the art re p roduction themselves. What saved t h ose images from bei n g j u st flat reproductions of uninterestin g art w o rks was prec i se l y the fact that th e y all framed the subject in a wro n g man n er. B y this process, art b ecomes just a centered e l ement, dominated b y an aura of events, objects, and p eo p le all speaki n g about the flu x of histor y percei v ed as a flu x of data. What subREA L did is to print these for g otten n egatives, but the y were p rintin g on l y t he mes s y d etails. 128 The photo g ra p hs were visual l y powerful because o f their lar g e size, multitude and mode of presentation, recalli n g large billboards ads that one mi g ht find alon g h i g hw a y s o r subw a y s. B y re p roduci n g on l y the peripheral aspects of t h e negatives, subREA L re m oved these workers from their ori g inal con t e x t (seen onl y as ano n y mous helpers i n a Communist re g ime) and placed them in a n ew co n te x t that allowed them visibili t y and 128 subR E AL, Se r v i ng A rt, i n subREAL, http://www.plueschow.de/fellows/subreal/ frame_serving_03.html. 14 O c t 2004.
67 individuali t y E ach individual was visual l y repro d uced in one si n g le billboard panel. Concomitant l y subREA L s reprod u ction of these ano n y mous w o rkers p r o vided a behind the scene visual tour int o the constructive mecha n ism of how the Communist re g ime delivered its ideol og y (t h e Arta magazine). One facet of the s atirical target was ma d e visible in this behind the scene t o ur into the world of the past re g i me. I n S erving Art as well as W hat D o es a Project mean? 129 subREA L disinte g ra t ed the re g imes p o werful ideolo g y b y bri n g i n g forth i t s actual indoctrinatin g mechani s m. The prese n ce of ano n y m ous assistants holding up backdrops for the art w o rk transmitted a reali t y that was not meant to be seen. Thus, o ne facet of the satirical tar g et was identified in the artists intention to mock the past re g i me b y revealin g part of its hidden mecha n ism in individualizin g ano n y mous wor k ers that were meant to fade aw a y Another facet of the s atirical tar g et ma d e itself visible in the visual repre s entation as billboards of the edited photo g raphs. I n Servi n g Art subREA L ju x taposed the icono g rap h y of two w o r l ds: the Western consumerist world made visible t hrou g h t h e visual presentation of billboard-like pa n els, and t h e Socialist past recalled t hrou g h t h e edited and re c y cled images. Each of t h ese w o rlds became t h e satirized target, seen almost as the two sides of the same coin. I n the first instance, the Socialist ideolog y was satirized b y subREA L featuri n g t h e insi g nificant workers and thus g ivin g them ind i viduali t y I n the second instance, the Western world became t he satirical target in that the vertical panels recalled the str u cture of h u g e billboards a n d was in visual consona n ce with one another. The effect was a uniform mass of images I n this repre s entation, the fi g u res each 129 In W hat Does a Project Mean subR E AL sa t irical l y r e mov e d fr o m the f a mes pedestal th e e m bl e m a t ic f i gure of t he C o mmun i st s c ulptor Ion Iri m es c u, se e n as an i ndex for the C o mmun i st ideolog y
68 within one panel lose their individuali t y and once again mer g ed into a un i form mass. Thus subREA L tar g eted the ideolo g y of two wor l ds seen in an open confr o ntation, one cancelin g the other within the same work. After the W all g rou p ed t o g et h er one hun d red and for t y four artists under the all encompassi n g label of A r t and Culture in Post-C o mmunist Europe The c u ratorial approach followed a str u cture ba s ed on four the m es, with subREA L s work fittin g under the histor y theme. Bri n g i n g f o rth an archive of fif t y y ears of histo r y was a p pealin g for the Western European v i ewer in that it g ave t h e illusion of insi g ht into a worl d that had been kept locked for almost a half of centu r y Thus, as in the After the W all e x hibition, a PostCommunist Eastern European artist was e x pected to deliver political art mirrori n g the post-communist conditi o n. However, subREA L was ful l y aware of the interest in such art, aware n ess that was n ot acknowle d g ed b y Nor t h American and Western European curators. For e x ample, t h e artists embar k ed on the Art History Archive ser i es while in residen c y in Berlin, and aimed to enter the inter n ational art discourse. Als o the artists were ful l y aware of the mainstream artistic tren d s. The use of the photoarchive is fashionable and empl o y e d b y well known artists, like Gerhard Richter, Chr i stian Boltanski and others. I n S erving Art the artist s reproduced the commu n ist archive b y focusi n g o n l y on the side details, as if satirical l y alludin g to their o wn condition as artists. subREA L and in g e n eral the post-communist Eastern European art i sts were the minori t y an d the peripheral, just like the ano n y mous wor k ers that i ronical l y were ele v ated from ano n y mi t y and individualized in the billboard like panels. Satire was vital in subREA L s works because it allowed the ne g otiation to happen. Thu s in contrast with the homo g enizin g
69 tenden c y of the Western curators, as s een in the t wo e x hibitions, m y readin g of subREA L s w o rks offered an alternative v i ew. B y conte x tualizin g their w o rks within the Romanian conte x t as well as within the Western stereo t y pical p erception this stu d y was able to reposition these artists works from bei n g a simple political mirror to a comple x process of n e g otiation. subREA L s awareness of a specific Western demand, and their subsequent ne g otiation with it, was general l y used b y artists in minori t y o r perip h eral communities. For e x ample, Cuban, African, Middle Eastern o r Asian artists, for reasons of artistic visibili t y and economic s urvival, were determine d to question and find a c o mmon g round between their o wn identit y as artists and what is e x pected from them in a g lobal conte x t.
70 Conclusion This stu d y attempted to find answers to questions like the followin g : Was it sufficient to posit Eastern European art as simple visual mirrors of the local political conte x t ? Practical l y s p eakin g how and b y what s t rate g ies could the artists critical l y distance and deal with their surroundi n g realities and national identities ? F or the dissemination of a cer t ain work, how did curator i al and institutional frameworks transform and manipula t e critical views ? Maria Todoro v a, Slav o y Z izek, L ar r y Worlff and Andaluna Borcila pointed out that the Balkanist fanta s y of remote and b arbaric cultures was constant l y i n voked to emphasize bina r y contra s ts between the n o rmalit y o f the West and the t raumatized Post-Communi s t Eastern Europe. Consequent l y t h e curat o rial appr o aches i n both Beyond Belief and the After the W all manifested he g em o nic perspective on art b y artists ori g inati n g from former Socialist nations. The exhibitions frameworks a l on g with their financial supporters were structured in unison with the overarchi n g Wester n cultural repre s entations of the idea of Eastern Europe. I n this sense, the identi t y a n d diversi t y of each n ation was g rouped to g ether under t h e g eneral Post-Commu n ist Eastern and Central Europe g eopolitical trope and the artists were con s idered as p assive l y mirr o rin g their local socio-political con t e x t. I n an indirect w a y these e x hibitio n s could be see n as emer g i n g from the curatorial approach initiated b y the 1989 internat i onal show Magiciens de l a Terre or The W hole Earth Show, on view at the Grande Halle a t the Parc de la Villette a n d the fifth floor of the Centre Pom p idou, in Paris. I n this co n troversial e x hibition, the leadin g
71 curator J ean-Hu b ert Martin ambitious l y g rou p ed f i f t y Western artists or of t he centers, (includin g J eff Wall, Da n iel Spoerri and Richard Lon g ) and fif t y non-Western artists or of the periphe r y , (incl u din g Cheri Samba, Bowa Devi and Eflam b elo) in an attempt to establish a dialo g u e am o n g different cultural trad i tions. 130 Yet, the e x hibition reinforced the superiori t y and centrali t y o f the West over the mar g i n alized and roman t icized other. Despite the obvious difference from the 1989 sh o w, Beyond B elief and After the W all had a ve r y similar outcome. Rather than initiatin g a d i alo g amon g artists of var i ous nationalities, the y maintained the powerful and l o n g standi n g bina r y oppo s ition between the sophisticated West and backward East. This stu d y s close ana l y s is of the two e x hibitions furthers the n eed to e x plore different curator i al appr o aches w h en sta g i n g e x hibitions of art from specif i c cultures. Furtherm o re, it is even m ore important to initiate alternative readin g s, especial l y when we consider t h at recent l y sta g ed e x hibitions like I n Search for Balkania (curated b y Eva Kernba u er at the Neue Galerie am L andesmuseu m J oanneum, Graz, Austria, 2002); Blood and Honey Future in the Balkans (curated b y Harald Szeemann at T he Essl Collection, Vienna, 2003); and In the Gor g es of the Balkans, A Report (curated b y Rene Block at Kunsthalle Fri d ericianum, Germa n y 20 0 3) were still based on the structure and approach d eveloped b y B eyond Belief and After the W all b y maki n g u s e of the all inclusive y et too g e n eralized g eo-political la b el of the Balkans. As alternative approaches, it would be fruitful to avoid all encompassin g s o ciopolitical framin g s, s u ch the Post-Communist Eastern Europe or Art fr o m L atin 130 Ben j a m i n H.D. Bu c hloh, T he Whole A rt S h o w An Interv ie w w i th JeanH ubert Martin by Ben ja m i n H.D. Buchloh, Art in Ameri ca (Ma y 1989): 150-159.
72 America as well as possib l y initiatin g comparati v e studies emphasizin g s p ecific artistic strate g ies empl o y ed b y artists with varied national bac k g rounds. The appr o ach followed i n this stu d y d emonstrated that satire was empl o y ed b y the artists as a w a y to cr o ss ri g id stereo t y pical ca t e g orizations and national boundaries. Furtherm o re, this paper i l lustrated that subREA L t ook for g ranted Western e x pectations and delivered works loa d ed with visual iconogra ph y easi l y rec o g nized and understood b y American and Western E uropean aud i ences. T h e b est e x ample is News fro m Dracula especial l y since Draculas ima g e h as been immor t alized in the West thank s to Bram Stokers novel and ma n y film versions of the stor y The discussion of subREA L s installations revea l ed that the artists were ver y much aware of current North American and Western European artistic tre n ds. The y realized that, in order to enter the inter n ational mainstream art circuit, th e y were to empl o y con t empora r y t echniques embedded with a local or ethnic icon o gra ph y easi l y deciphered b y a non-s p ecific audience. Subseque n t l y the artists enter a c o mple x process of ne g otiation between t h eir own identi t y and the Western perception of that identi t y Satire as an artistic strate g y was vital for the ne g o t iation to happen. The worki n g methodol o g y followed in this stu d y was to address subREALs works b y conte x tualizin g them, first within the Romanian socio-political a n d artistic conte x t of the mid-nine t y nineties, and second, the y were also read within the North American stereo t y pical p erception of t h e count r y s national identi t y Foll o win g this dual conte x tualization, the differe n ces between the v ar i ous installations conditi o ned b y t h e different addres s ed audiences have b een pointed o ut. For instance, if in the ear l y installations, such as Alimentara and EastW est A venue subREA L e n g a g ed specific local
73 themes and addressed the Romanian audience, in l ater works s u ch the Draculand series, which ironical l y have E n g lish titles, the artists had in mind an international audience. subREA L s installations were more deep l y un d er s tood when appr o ached i n corre l ation with the Romanian socio-political con t e x t of the ear l y to mid-nine t y -ni n eties. Unlike several other co u ntries from the for m er Soviet block, Romania followed a much slower transitional process (from a totalitarian regime towards democra c y ) in which socie t y continued to function alon g Communist lines and structures. For t h e most part of the nine t y -ni n eties, in the local Romanian art sce n e, stron g Soc i alist structures functioned, which were resisted b y subREA L and few other artists. The art aca d emies were still dominated b y fi g ures with old Pre-World War I I mentalities and teachi n g methodolo g ies. The g o v ernment and the state fun d ed Artists Union provi d ed limited or no support for the local arts. There was no commercial g alle r y s y stem or grant program supportin g the arts. The l ocal commercial art market was obsessed with acquirin g works b y dead painters from the Pre-War World I I perio d As Matei Bejenaru poi n ted out no Romanian artist livin g in Romania is represen t ed b y a p rest i g ious contemp o ra r y art g alle r y abr o ad. Moreo v er, I p ersonal l y ha v e no record of a Romanian g aller y participatin g in an inter n ational art fair . 131 I n s u ch a situation, the presence o f peer fina n cial fi g ures s u ch as Geor g e S o ros was seen as a divine sal v ation. Durin g the ear l y and mid-nine t y -nineties, t he local Soros Center promoted the artistic scene b y fundi n g the s ta g i n g of s everal e x hibitions includin g : The State with no Title (Timisoara, 1991), The Earth (Timisoara, 1992), The Eastern Europe Zone (T i misoara, 1993), all c u rated b y I leana Pintilie. I n a d dition, there 131 Matei Be j enaru, N o w a nd Then i n Perif e ric 6: Prophetic Corners ed. Anders Kreuger (Suce a va: Musa t inii P ubl i shing House, 2004), 13.
74 was a series of e x hibitio n s organized b y Calin Da n : Mozarts Sex (Buc h are s t, 1991), Ex Oriente Lux (Bucharest, 1993), 01010101Exhi b ition (Bucharest, 1994). 132 Without a doubt, this was a positive influence on the local scene with artists beneficiatin g from its financial support. On the other hand, however, not supportin g alter n ative g a l ler y s p aces or not initiatin g critical cultural discourses within aca d emies or conferences be y ond t h e g e o -political borders o f the capital ci t y and the c o untr y itself, the Soros Centers limited its funds to safe and critical l y invisible interventi o ns. Coordinated from a h ub office in New York, George Soro s funded a comple x netw o rk of Soros Centers f o r Contempora r y Art (SCCA) in virtual l y eve r y capital in Eas t ern a n d Central Europe since the fall of the Berlin Wall. These centers represented the on l y m ajor port of ent r y for the Westerner into the local contempora r y art activi t y and thus th e y contributed to the per p etuation of unilateral re p resentation of the Post-Cold War nations. This was especial l y visible when for the most part, e x hibitions sta g ed in the US and Western Europe feature d the same artists over and over a g a i n. I nteresti n g l y eno u g h, artists such as subREA L o n one hand empl o y artistic lan g u a g e s and techniques manifested within the international art circuit like the site specific installations of the photo-arc h ive and on the other h and the artists address themes from the i r local conte x t, so that the y m aintain their ethnic s pecifici t y appeali n g to an American and West European a u dience. Future e x hibitions ou g ht to challe n g e clic h d notions on Post-Cold War Eastern Europe and f o cus more o n initiatin g comparative s tudies as well as on addressin g specific artistic themes and techn i ques shared b y artists of varied nationalities and geopolitical 132 See Magda Cirne c i, T he 80s in R o mani a n A rt, in Ir i na C i os, ed., Experiment in Roman i an art since the 1960s (Bucharest: Soros Center for Cont e mporar y A rt, 1997) 62.
75 locations. For instance, a future e x hibition concept could include a c u ratorial investi g ation into video-based art as empl o y ed b y various artists worki n g within different conte x ts. The artists could, for e x ample, address universal ideas such as s ocio-political violence and individual o r personal obsessions. T h us, b y g roupi n g artists workin g within different conte x ts, y et a p proachi n g the sa m e issues throu g h the visual la n guage of vide obased art, their artistic a n d cultural specifici t y wil l be evident. Within this c uratorial approach t h e e x hibition would become a s p ace a b le to initiate and sustain both a visual and critical discour s e on specific c u rrent issues amon g artists with varied national bac k g rounds.
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