This website hosts a large list of youtube videos of transferred photofilm animations that were produced in the AnimaFilm Studio in Bucharest. It was initially a state studio was started in 1964, during the Communist period and had the animator figure of Ion Popescu-Gopo working there.
The exhibition organised together with the artists who formed subREAL (C?lin Dan, Iosif Király and Dan Mih?l?ianu) assembles for the first time a vast selection of conceptual works that cover the whole artistic journey of the group, from its foundation in the summer of 1990 to the present.
Founded by C?lin Dan (art historian at the time) and Dan Mihaltianu (artist), shortly joined by Iosif Király (architect and photographer), ”the group of action” appeared as a consequence of the political changes in 1989 in order to “exorcise the residue of the decades of communist oppression.”
Combining installation with the formal elements of performance and actionism, the works produced in 1990-1992 (East-West Avenue, Alimentara, Je t’aime, moi non plus ….) make a visual inventory of the remnants of the officially closed communist period, revealing a complex common background that was manifest at that time (and long afterwards) in the artistic world, in the political one and in society in general. Triggered by a reaction to the clichés of the western press when referring to the Romania of the 90s as well as to the autochthonous nationalistic discourse, the Draculaland series (1993-1995) combined fiction with reality by using multi-cultural and personal sources in complex installations which abounded in ironic references and cynical associations. “Although the hybridisation between Vlad the Impaler/Dracula and Mona Lisa was a spontaneous gesture, it instinctively sought to simplify our relation to a culture that had problems in its (Central/East/Balkan European) ‘regional’ integration in ways other than exotic.” In 1993 Dan Mih?l?ianu left the group opting for an individual artistic career.
Their one-year residency at Künstlerhaus Bethanien, Berlin (1995-1996) marked the beginning of a new stage for the subREAL duo, the distance from Romanian everyday life allowing them to initiate the Art History Archive series. 18 crates with photographic material abandoned by UAP (the Fine Art Union) after the disbandment of the Arta magazine – which had controlled the public image of local art between 1953 and 1990 – made their way to Berlin, where they were initially turned into dynamic sculpture by covering the walls and ceiling of the space of their dwelling with b/w reproductions of various dimensions. This headfirst introduction was followed by a series of events, installations and performances which had artistic press photography as their conceptual core. The Serving Art series (1997-1999) was next, in which a number of negatives of reproduction photos were deconstructed in installations that recovered the universe of the aura around the art object – objects, characters, events – following themes such as: the interaction between culture and politics; photography as a bridge between the public and private spheres; the ambiguous innocence of the photographic camera; social involvement versus social convention, etc.
In the Interviewing the Cities series initiated in Vienna in 1999, “the servants of art”, marginal characters who carried out the ritual of presenting the art work, were replaced by the members of the group. The re-enactment of the images in the archive had a double purpose this time: to analyse the artistic reality in various towns on several levels and to articulate a subjective journal of our relationships with people and places. “The project is made of three series of staged photographs: portraits produced in collaboration with the members of the local artistic communities; interviews with public space monuments; urban perspectives using the trompe l’oeil technique in order to underline the artificiality of urbanism and its good collaboration with mediatic tourism.”
subREAL is the first truly international group that originated in Romania after 1989. Belonging to a generation of transition, the members of the group took the first steps in establishing a dialogue with western art, transforming the closed culture from which they were coming into an open one. They initiated curatorial projects such as Mozart’s Sex (1991, Artexpo, Bucharest) or Nomadic (1994, Sao Paolo Biennale) and participated in major international events: the Istanbul Biennale, Manifesta 1 Kunsthal Rotterdam (1996), the Berlin Biennale (1998), the Venice Biennale – Aperto (1993) and the Romanian Pavilion (1999). They exhibited at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago (1995), Neuer Berliner Kunstverein (1996), the Institute of Contemporary Art in Philadelphia (1996), Akademie Schloss Solitude (1998), etc.
The participation of the subREAL group in most exhibitions dedicated to contemporary art in Central and Eastern Europe between 1997 and 2003 – Bukarest nach ’89. Kunst in Rumänien heute, Ludwig Forum für Internationale Kunst in Aachen (1997), After The Wall, Moderna Museet in Stockholm (1999), L’Autre moitié de l’Europe, Galerie Nationale du Jeu de Paume in Paris and 2000+. Arteast Collection, Moderna Galerja in Ljubljana (2000), In Search of Balkania, Neue Galerie in Graz (2002) or Blood and Honey, Sammlung Essl – Kunst der Gegenwart in Vienna (2003) – brings into bold relief the part played by the artistic duo in the reconfiguration of the international contemporary art world after the fall of the Berlin Wall.
MNAC parteners: BRD Groupe Societe Generale, illy
Sponsors: Murfatlar, Chocolat, Chainsaw
Media partners: Igloo Habitat & arhitectura, Zeppelin, 24Fun, Radio France Internationale, feeder.ro, Cocor MediaChannel
But what is the fashionable art now? Possibly still hanging somewhere in-betweens, as consensual mellow political art of Europe and sharp activist art of Eastern Europe, depending on the respective curatorial or cultural framing.
Full forward text by Ruxandra Balaci from the magazine Artelier no.8/ 2003 via mnac
“ARTELIER 8 and the pros and cons of Balkanness
Foreword by Ruxandra Balaci
Why are ‘the Balkans’ so (or still) fashionable at the moment? Why do we all keep switching on Balkan issues…Will the “Balkan-trend” subside after the sudden spread of an overwhelming interest in it…? What will be next fashionable item after all these Balkan scenarios to spend euros on?
‘Balkanness’ (as belonging to a certain area and to a certain range of mentalities) is, again, under definition. It is of certain actuality the political correctness of questioning Balkanness vs. globalization vs. ‘europenization’ - although globalization implies the nightmare of losing cultural identities.
Identification is, in a way, enclosing, in another way, disclosing…but what about neo-identification, re-identification, self-identification… and so on?
Do new generations (so globalized) feel the Balkanness anymore? Do they try to escape this temperamental and somewhat neurotic, bordered reality? Young auto-exiles from Balkan countries - enacting a real exodus -, do they still identify themselves with this area, or do they mostly want to escape their ephemeral Balkan capitals, or at least to act as nomads, in between… For them national vs. international is less than an issue…
Is the West trying to culturally (and not only) colonialize/ integrate the Balkans and the ‘Wild East’? Or to ‘implement’ a kind of new, subtle “Kultur-rassismus” after the fall of the Iron Curtain, as my Balkan friend Uros Djuric put it? Or is it just a friendly approach to meet differentia? To meet the Other?
It seems that we have to assume this label… to be ‘ghetto-ized’ and wait to be discovered as Europe enlarged… we are a territory that should be explored. That should be researched upon. That should be Westernally contextualized. (The Balkans are interesting only if (re-)discovered by Western curators or theorists - of course always with the backstage, more or less overt help of Eastern curators and theorists.) The Balkan information is ingurgitated and digested mainly through or with Western filters and labels.
Most of the time, searching for and buying mainly clichés, (everybody is seemingly astonished and disappointed that Balkan art is sometimes so ‘similar to European art’), curators invent bazaar-like displays, meeting the expectations of their audiences.
Westerners are PR-izing and advertising the Balkans and in a way we feel ashamed, in a way grateful… Important is the corpus of information and analysis built up about the Balkans, under the umbrella and within the context of Western research, a warrant of earnest and efficient effort. Paternalist attitudes towards Easterners are also commonplace.
The Other is considered - and obviously it is from a certain point of view -, clearly inferior…But this is euphemistically hidden under cynically polite formulas… (Sometimes they do force one to become a nationalist, à rebours).
Do Balkan “patterns” & “clichés” still stand for real common ground or are they useful mainly for the cultural discourse of nowadays Western approaches? (Helpful in mentally appropriating the Other, before physically doing so).
Balkanness has been already transcended by globalization or by absorption into the cynically euphemistic label “former Eastern block”…
Histories and temperamental peculiarities are concocted in the mythical melting pot of the Balkans, this dark side, mysterious, incongruous - an ethnic and religious puzzle-like area of Europe…
Intriguing and exciting, for the outsider, the real vs. the virtual Balkans is an issue to be re-clarified, sorting among many hypotheses, metaphors and bits of folklore.
Bound/less Borders, Balkania (In Search of), Blood & Honey, In Den Schluchten des Balkan, Cosmopolis… A similar discourse was formerly extended to all Eastern European countries, (but not anymore as the Central Northern part of it seems to have more or less reached the Western Europeans standard - remember After The Wall, L’autre moitié de l’Europe?). That discourse belongs to the past, as those areas are now peacefully gliding toward globalization.
The Balkan spirit so much spoken about seems to be standing still at the dawn of 21st century, as the ultimate outpost of the dark/ deep Europe…
Stability/ permanence/ pacification, being imposed from outside (in fact this sudden spread of interest toward the Balkans is mainly sustained and financed by the Stability Pact), as opposed to instability/ transience/ the ephemeral/ uncertainty of inside. Idiosyncrasy and destabilization (as inner behaviors) are to be studied, concluded upon and possibly eradicated for a future pacific co-existence.
To be labeled ‘Balkan’ artist - a label imposed by a ‘neo-colonial’ wave of curators -, and accept it implies self-irony, painful contradictions and acceptance of complexes that permeate the subconscious… (“The surest sign of Balkan identity is the resistance to Balkan identity”, someone said.)
Visual culture products - intended rather like a complex venue for awareness and interpretation of national/ regional identity, through which people come into consciousness as members of a particular community, are still insufficient in the majority of Balkan countries (after years devoted to bad taste and thus, according to Kristeva, lacking the coagulation of civic identity) and seem to need implementation from civilizations of the visual coming from Outside.
Balkan search/ find/ and finally press Enter by the Outside user.
In counterbalance, there is a spread of ‘against’ stances/ to subvert/ to shut down the Balkan label by Inside users.
Boundlessly bounded/ still exotic/ a black hole to be explored/ an European gap? Or a positive Alterity/ as a source (seemingly freshly discovered) of European culture…?
The Balkans are considered the classical bridge between East and West, but also, a kind of paradoxical periphery of both… a hybrid.
Seclusion and exposure to dramatic events made considering the future more positively a strange utopia.
But we’re still hoping that maybe not… that maybe we hide a lot of potentialities… (Balancing between nostalgic hope and defeatism is maybe another cliché to be explored here).
One thing is sure: the Balkan second-hand European area is producing a first-hand intello network striving to improve their condition… and trying hard to escape the second-hand complexes and fatalisms by establishing contacts with first-hand intello networks of the first-hand Western European area…
Are we witnessing the last attempts to define the monster next door, the gap, the borderline, to draw the line before finally integrating and melting with… toward a NEW Europe…(Another cliché. But clichés is what we really have the more reliable and sure… and relaxing and useful, and in clichés we want to invest and in clichés we trust and we can sell also, much easier, clichés).
For Westerners it is an actual task to approach and afterwards maybe cautiously appropriate the dangerous zone, the derelict zone, the ugly zone (see Kristeva’s geo-aesthetics), the suffering zone (Europe’s still suffering zone). Waiting to be diagnosed and cured. Or to be taken advantage of, because weak. To normalize it or better to preserve it like an exotic/ abnormal item, still suscitating the zoo effect, as the still mysterious side of Europe… to be ‘clarified’ (another cliché) and helped to (re)-emerge.
Dismantling the myth or feeding the myth? What would be more suitable? Maintaining differentia or striving towards an osmotic Europe seems to be, at the moment, the Hamletian question of new geopolitics.
Because, paradoxically, everybody is tempted to do both…from Inside and from Outside.
‘Ghetto’-ized or not, ‘cliché-ized’ or not, approaching this area is surely approaching another valuable area of art.”
Under the curatorship of Anne Barlow and the title ‘Strategies for the Here and Now’, BB4 has announced the list of participating artists:
- Abbas Akhavan (IR/CA)
- Marina Albu (RO)
- Haris Epaminonda (CY/DE)
- Klas Eriksson (SW)
- Ruth Ewan (UK)
- Aurelien Froment (IE/FR)
- Ciprian Homorodean (RO/B)
- Iman Issa (EG/USA)
- Janice Kerbel (CA/UK)
- Jill Magid (USA)
- David Maljkovic (HR)
- Marina Naprushkina (BY/DE)
- Ahmet Öğüt (TR/NL)
- Vesna Pavlović (Serbia)
- Anahita Razmi (DE)
- Wael Shawky (EG/FR)
- Alexandre Singh (FR/USA)
- Mounira Al Solh & Bassam Ramlawi (LB)
- Rinus van der Velde (B)
On this occasion, I have found and added two more Romanian artists working with moving images to the archive associated with the research project.
Press Release available here.
It is so interesting to note how a lot of my peer first year PhD students have been either taking or planning to take a trip ‘back home’ mainly for research purposes. They have contacted people in their country, set up meetings or are planning to dig up the archives. I am no different: my next trip home will double as a research journey. There is a specific feeling or rather, a mixture of feelings between going home and going to where you know or hope to get more insight for your work. As I was keeping an eye on the events, I have two flagged specifically for research purposes:
The Last Analog Revolution, a Memory Box (Ultima Revolutie Analogica, O cutie a memoriei), which I missed in Venice this summer and is showing in Bucharest at the studio-project space Make a Point.
Marturii XXI- Revizitand Trecutul (Confessions XXI- Revisiting the Past), a collection of filmed interviews with artists, critics and art historians who played a major part on the Romanian artistic scene before 1989. Showing in Bucharest at PLATFORMA, a MNAC (National Museum of Contemporary Art) project space.