Art Guide East, 29 January 2015
The East bloc’s commercially channelled, historical soul-searching is getting a Sturtevantian twist at the recently opened Mureșan ‘retrospective’ at Ludwig Museum Budapest. With the haunting catchphrase ‘COMMUNISM NEVER HAPPENED’ jotted down with iffy handwriting as an homage to its own vinyl cutout original designates the turn in the artist’s practice from the dissecting room and opens the door to the copying studio. Ill-fated or not due to its underdeveloped economy, Romanian contemporary art did manage to break through the invisible walls and now score points at top galleries and museums in Western Europe and even transatlantic. It still preserved some of its brooding personality traits, for what we can feel at home when visiting the solo show of one of the Cluj collective’s main representative. Collectors’ pieces, video works and reinvented kinetic machines invite to catch up with the European traveller’s works since the Pepsi-Cola mix.
Szilvi Német: You make interventions with books and street fights with quotations, even when you shop you seem like to stop at the literary classics. Referentiality is so overrated that a respective workload is left for the translator. “Your survival is guaranteed by treaty” - that’s the title of the show. Where is it from?
Ciprian Mureşan: It’s a fragment from Elias Canetti's Auto-da-Fe. First I thought to make do without a title, just leave the exhibition unmarked, untitled. Then I recalled these series of photographs of street graffitis that I used to present at various shows since 2008 and started to search for a wording in this stock. You know, just the same way as the dadaist poets like Tristan Tzara did with ransom notes, when you cut out letters from newspapers randomly. I did something similar. The lines are taken from different places from Canetti’s book and juxtaposed. Initially I chose the texts myself, then sprayed around in the city with some help. The excerpts are about the declaration of war with all these arguments about why to start a war, how to defend yourself etc. I thought to insert what came to be the title in the end between quotation marks, however later I found the image of the wall with the text to be a better substitute for indicating the source.
SzN: On historical accounts “survival society” happens when the superimposition of certain imported procedures fail and in consequence the governance is maintained by unwritten rules more than formal laws. Painters and other groups of the intelligentsia traditionally had a strong say in the political culture in Romania (even so if we maintain that there was not a political culture other than the elite’s). How has it changed since being an artist does not necessarily designate a status position or domination monopoly?
CM: The situation is kind of twofold as I am living from my art, but my works are sold outside the country. I am a Romanian artist if you consider where I was born or am based, still economically I cannot declare the same. It is not like with the older generation anymore that they worked for the state and now they get pension. I will never have that support. Artists, as everyone else try to do their best and at the end everyone survives somehow. But that’s not easy. As for the scene in Romania, I might be too involved to articulate a sound analysis. My body is there, but I sell for the United States. I heard a story about someone visiting a Romanian artist in his studio before 1989, who was into making a big sculpture in a size so giant that it was impossible to get out. He started to work on it knowing that the sculpture will remain in the same place where it was made, he made it for himself or for friends who came by. He accepted that for the sake of a new work, he has to destroy the former one. Things have changed a lot since that time, now at least there is a system in which art can circulate. Corrupt or not, underground, official or mainstream, but it exists.
SzN: It’s not difficult to register the shift in your interest from the societal issues that are anchored in the post-communist conditions towards a more global thread. Namely the culture of multiplications; production-wise, strictly in an analogue way.
CM: I gave much thought to this myself. More often than not, I try to avoid being trendy. Then maybe I have fallen into this trend. Now I simply do what I most enjoy doing.
Your survival is guaranteed by treaty
solo show, 16.01 - 22.03.2015
Ludwig Museum - Museum of Contemporary Art, Budapest
*Photo: Ciprian Mureșan: I'm protesting against myself 2011, HD video (co-author: Gianina Carbunariu)