The Seductiveness of the Interval

Hamza Walker, 2010

In 2006, Romanian President Traian Basescu organized the Commission for the Study of the Communist Dictatorship in Romania. Conducted 17 years after the fall of Nicolei Ceausescu’s regime, the commission’s goal remains unclear. Was it prompted by the pursuit of justice? Was it simply a matter of historical record? Or was it to acknowledge a painful chapter in the nation’s history, which in turn would serve as the basis for healing à la South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission? In any case, the report calls into question the perspective and time frame needed to construct a national narrative in the wake of revolutionary change as Romania transitioned from a communist dictatorship to a democracy. Making up for all that was left unknown and unexpressed is a task for the last generation of artists and intellectuals bearing an imprint, however faint, of life under Ceausescu’s regime. Such is the case with the artists Stefan Constantinescu (b. 1968), Adrea Faciu (b. 1977), and Ciprian Muresan (b. 1977) participating in Seductiveness of the Interval.

Curated by Alina Serban, and initially shown in the Romanian pavilion of the 2009 Venice Biennale, Seductiveness is a group exhibition conceived in terms of theater, where the works are installed in an architectural structure amounting to a stage set. Designed by studioBASAR (Alex Axinte and Cristi Borcan), this structure will be reconstructed in its entirety in The Society’s gallery. Seductiveness is less directly concerned with Romania’s communist past than it is with how that past inflects considerations of current sociopolitical affairs. Whether it is a story of exile and displacement as in Constantinescu’s video Passenger, a first person account of a small group of Chilean political refugees who, after fleeing one dictator (Pinochet), are given asylum by another (Ceausescu); or Muresan’s video, Dog Luv, whose screenplay, by Saviana Stanescu, is a cross between George Orwell’s Animal Farm and reports of torture at Abu Ghraib; or Faciu’s EXUBERENTIA suspended, which uses a garden as metaphor for the fleetingness and frailty of life, these works are reflections on moral progress from the perspective of a generation of artists with vivid memories of life under a highly repressive political regime.

Over and above the works’ shared sociopolitical backdrop, studioBASAR’s elegant structure literally and poetically unifies them, eliciting an existential resonance between the works. The rooms housing the works are separated by open areas, or intervals, interspersed throughout the structure. Set within an overarching structure, the experience is one in which the viewer becomes an actor aware of themself in the role as viewer. In this theater of self-reflexivity, the works become parts of a much grander narrative that for want of a better term goes by the name “the human condition.” However relative the terms are from one country to the next, hope and despair nonetheless remain universal. In the era of globalization, grave acts of inhumanity and courageous acts of humanity know no national borders. Our perception of the rate at which the human condition could be said to improve not only depends on the headline events but on whether or not there are indeed roses to stop and smell.