Friday, 18 November 2011

Towards Post-Re-Construction - Young Artist Biennial Bucharest, 2008, Exhibition Review, 2008

Text by Mihaela Varzari, written as part of the Workshop for Young Art Critics run by Adam Budak, Contemporay Art Biennial for Young Artists, Bucharest

October 2008 Dalles Hall Bucharest - this year Contemporay Art Biennial for Young Artists’ venue - presents one space of multifactious artworks under the umbrella term, Re-Construction, chosen by the internationally renowned French curator Ami Barak. At its third edition, the biennial is confronting and translating into contemporary art domain, the issues raised by the intense and radical economical and political transformations that Romania has been undergoing during the, by now, “never-ending” period of transition started in December 1989. During its struggle to become internationally visible, Romania is running the danger of a cross-cultural normalization in the form of cultural homogenization. The feeling and searching process for a 'normalization' is part of the necessity to enter and integrate within the processes of contemporary post-modernization. The necessity of being part of the world stage is sought by embracing experiences which are culturally different without developing a critical understanding of the cross cultural implications.

   The biennial invites the viewer to meditate on the multiple possibilities of interaction between local and global. The curatorial statement reinforces the idea that this years’ main slogan “think global and act local” does not deliver anything if there is not an international recognition of the artists as well as a relationship between the objects of visual representation displayed globally and the local community.
Film still by Olivia Mihaltianu
Courtesy the artist
Fifty five international artists’ works, representing twelve countries, cover entirely the whole space, which becomes somehow insufficient, when dealing with such a high volume of art. In an attempt of trying to subtly induce the transitory road of the - once popular idea - market, which now has become super-market leading towards - under the well known path followed by the heavily capitalized countries- excess, as a future-vision as the state. Is Romania already leaving in the era of excess of production and consumption, as a path towards normalization? The problem of contemporary post-modernity and deconstruction processes, particularly when applied to Eastern countries, is principally grounded in a discourse of total acceptance. The reconstruction of a new society is made according to visual deconstructive parameters in the attempt to refute the failures of the past in their totality as a rejection of a failed cultural identity.  
   The personal stories in this context are the stories of the individuals' struggle to reconcile this transitional process. In this sense the video work of Olivia Mihaltianu, reminding of Cindy Sherman, is examining the influence of the western look and life style by the means of cinema from the late ’50 till recent days. Also, the impact of the western culture on the former communist countries is being investigated in Dan Acostioaei’ video work, this time on spirituality. Both examples introduce the idea that by moving from national cultural identities to global cultural identities in a an-critical manner, the individual feels the reality of contemporary globalizing processes and supranational institutions as a form of local cultural de-evaluation. The stories therefore necessarily become personal stories that address the difficulty in merging into a globalized lifestyle, into supranational networks, in forms of alienating exploitation of work and skills.
Film still from Crossroad by Dan Acostioaei
Courtesy the artist
   The artists move between the local and global and then back from the global to the local in search of the lost identity, having experienced the failure of a deconstructive normalization which is a forevermore alienation of the individual from its local roots as well as alienation of the individual by the post-modern global corporate frameworks. Lost in spaces, in between identities, torn apart and deconstructed, the artists try to dialogue. Bora Petkova’s work in progress occupies the main area of the exhibition, marking thus the biennial’s statement, in a more than obvious way. The works seem to be divided under different themes and deal with different issues like violence, religious problematic, cultural translation, globalization, border, national identity and history.

   The problem with choosing Re-Construction as a title is that it becomes too general and broad, too easily approachable and adaptable to and for any historical space. At the same time it illustrates the idea that Romania like other countries from East European but not only is undergoing a necessary process of re-construction. Thus, Fernando Sanchez Castillo is reconstructing imagines dipping into Spain’s recent history in his epic video Architecture for the horse, 2002, shot at Autonoma University in Madrid, where the artist is ridding a horse inside the building. The building was constructed after May 1968 in such a way that it would allow a policeman ridding a horse to enter and stop any revolutionary form on behalf of the students. Three old coats are hanging on a cloth hanger having the Romanian flag sewed in. It is Victor Man’s installation Untitled. Epic and evocative and perfectly installed on the exposition site but greatly misrepresented and misunderstood in the biennial’s catalog, Man chooses to represent the idea of nationality as something personal, intimate, which becomes very interpretable when seen in respect to collective memory.
Victor Man 'Untitled'
  The exposition seems crushed under the multifactious and versatility of the concept Re-Construction, too general to be pinned down. If the new economical and political context is demanding a re-writing of history, a rethinking of the national identity, the biennial explores and represents successfully all the possible variations, connections and dynamics that may arise.

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