Appointment with History
installation, painting (Series of 29 paintings, various sizes), red canvas
With the kind support of Magda Radu & Ștefan Sava and Daniel Ștefănică collection
Location: Ștefania Palace
The Appointment with History series of paintings was initiated in 2007, and the first painting in the series depicts an anti-WTO demonstration in Basel that we witnessed, an encounter that triggered this process of reflection through imagery on current social unrest. The paintings realistically document moments of social unrest - protests, demonstrations, political action, climate protests, refugees, and war.
Appointment with History functions as an attempt to recover the medium of painting, to return to and question the political meaning of the artistic act, and the realism of representation trying to respond to the idea of the image that mirrors the world. The paintings are articulated together like a timeline, a diary evoking the ongoing social struggle to imagine another future. What emerges from the series of images is crowd dynamics, a collective body invoking another possible world.
The paintings have so far been installed in different ways, such as in relation to an audio reading of the Communist Manifesto, in an installation that also included a podium with a lectern on which the microphone was left open (free speech) thus becoming a political agitation chamber or presented in dialogue with the supporting structures imagined by artist Celine Condorelli, like utopian assemblages. For the installation at the Stefania Palace, we decided to suspend the paintings in the central space of the hall, associating them with a series of red canvases evoking an abstract geometry beyond the idea of a protest sign or flag, so that they could be perceived simultaneously - the realistic representation and the abstract form together become a crowd-demonstration floating in the space of the hall.
The Tree of life/ How do we read signs we cannot understand?
installation of kilims, tree, wooden Euro pallets
With the generous support of Cosmin Costinaș collection and Mihai Pop collection
Location: Corneliu Miklosi Public Transport Museum
The intervention at the Corneliu Miklosi Public Transport Museum is an installation imagined as a place to sit together, and a space for reflection built from the idea of a school under the tree, a school close to nature. The installation consists of a modular structure of wooden Europallets, objects commonly used for transporting goods, a platform-support covered with old hand-woven carpets, and kilims with archaic motifs on which the public can sit.
The kilims on the platform generate a vernacular space populated by a multitude of abstract signs and symbols of renewal, the tree of life, nature, immortality, fertility, feminine, masculine, marriage, animals and plants, many of the signs also having an apotropaic character, which wards off evil spirits. Even if these weavings come from different geographical areas - Oltenia, the Balkans, Anatolia, Bessarabia, the Caucasus, Persia/Iran, they evoke a common, archaic cultural heritage that transcends spatial and temporal boundaries, a heritage that now, when we walk or look at them, brings us closer to the other finite entities that once looked or walked on these kilims imagined by the wonderful weavers.
The installation will contain a central element, a living tree through which we want to invoke the idea of nature's renewal and relate this archaic motif – the tree of life – to the present moment, to the increasingly complicated years we are all going through, of pandemics, war and climate change. The tree presented in the installation, a birch bought from a nursery near Timișoara – the commodity tree – is freed from its economic meaning, it becomes a tree that symbolically mediates with natural forces, a tree that speaks to us about nature and nature's rights. At the end of the exhibition, in spring, the birch tree will be planted, and become part of the natural cycle again.
This space will function as a place for discussion, not just an art installation. Oana Mateescu, researcher in the anthropology of work and Ovidiu Țichindeleanu, philosopher and cultural theorist, will activate the idea of school by giving presentations followed by discussions on February 18 (link). In their presentations, they will talk about decolonisation and the possibility of a pluriversal political project, about the problem of industrialisation, economic production, and how the economy articulates with the reality of climate change, but also with the social, political and social resettlement and fractures that define the present. A further activation of the space will be made possible through collaboration with the artist Harun Morrison and the presentation in the context of the installation of his work Environmental Justice Cards, a series of playing cards with questions that can activate and animate discussions about climate throughout the exhibition.
Bags of flour
Paper bags, flour
Locations: Corneliu Miklosi Public Transport Museum, Stefania Palace, Garrison Command, Bastion Maria Theresia
Bags of flour, a consumer good that refers to a basic need, a human food, are overwritten with textual fragments of articles from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights translated into different languages. Therefore, the meaning of a consumer good and of the text are hijacked by their hybridization in a text-object assemblage. The flour that feeds the world thus becomes the material support that calls into question the implicit legal power of the text of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This declaration reveals its utopian character when confronted with the realities of production, the market economy, labour conceived as servitude, and the world of things. In recent history, somewhat independently of the ideological context, the increase in production capacity has not led to a fairer, more egalitarian society, but, on the contrary, the mechanism of supply and demand has fuelled greed and by no means eradicated hunger. The human need to create an egalitarian society has remained a utopian project; we live in the world of things, production and war. Even the natural world can no longer be understood outside the order of the world of things; nature is as disenfranchised as most people.
Hannah Arendt, in her book The Human Condition, makes this distinction between work and labour. In her analysis, the biological process of life is part of the cyclical movement of nature, and the labour that sustains this process is subservient to it and always moves in the same circle prescribed by it, unlike work, which is rather linear in character and ends when the object is completed and added to the world of objects. Labour maintains the premises, sustains existence and the continuation of life, and belongs to the natural realm, whereas work creates an artificial world of objects, imagined and fabricated by man, in which he places himself at the shelter of the natural world.
Cultivating the land is one of the situations identified by Hannah Arendt for which a distinction between work and labour can be proposed. This cultivation, closely linked to the biological cycle and entirely subservient to the cycle of nature, constitutes one of the most elementary and necessary labours of man in order to sustain and reproduce his life, but it leaves in its wake products that go beyond the domain of labour and belong rather to the domain of work. There is a 'real reification' of the cultivated land year after year, without ceasing, it becomes an 'object of use', and it is necessary for man to constantly reproduce the object in order not to allow any regression into the realm of nature. Even if land is not 'strictly speaking an object of use' for man, it can be said that he not only 'provides the means of subsistence but, by providing them, prepares the land for the construction of the world'.
Mona Vătămanu and Florin Tudor live and work in Bucharest. Solo exhibitions (selection): Omnia Communia Deserta, La Loge, Brussels (2020); Prăpădenia terraântului, Salonul de proiecte, Bucharest (2016); All that is solid melts into air, Extra City Kunsthal, Antwerp (2013); Powerlessness a Situation. Revolutie, Frankfurter Kunstverein, Frankfurt (2013); The order of things, daadgalerie, Berlin (2012); All Power to the Imagination!, Secession, Vienna (2009). Their work has been included in group exhibitions such as Kathmandu Triennale 2077, Patan Museum, Kathmandu (2022); Baltic Triennial 14: The Endless Frontier, CAC Contemporary Art Centre, Vilnius (2021); A Biography of Daphne, ACCA Australian Centre for Contemporary Art, Melbourne (2021); Borderlines, Talbot Rice Gallery, Edinburgh (2019), The Street. Where the World Is Made, Maxxi Museo Nazionale delle arti del XXI secolo, Rome (2019); Windswept: Art Encounters Biennial, Timișoara (2019); Gaudiopolis - Attempts at a Joyful Society, GfZK Galerie für Zeitgenossische Kunst Leipzig (2018); Social Factory, 10th Shanghai Biennale, Power Station of Art, Shanghai (2014); A History, Centre Pompidou, Paris (2014); Something in Space Escapes Our Attempts at Surveying, Württembergischer Kunstverein Stuttgart (2014); Untitled, 12th Istanbul Biennial (2011); Call the Witness, Roma Pavilion Collateral Event, 54th Venice Biennale, Venice (2011); Over the Counter, Mucsarnok Kunsthalle, Budapest (2010); Shockworkers of the Mobile Image, 1st Ural Industrial Biennial, Yekaterinburg (2010); Art as Gift, Periferic Biennial 8, Iasi (2008); 5th Berlin Biennial, When Things Cast No Shadow, KW Institute for Contemporary Art, Berlin (2008). In 2011 they were DAAD Berlin fellows in the Berliner Kunstlerprogram.