Brancusian Creativity Workshop with Dan Acostioaei: The Art of Icons and Fresco Painting
between 10:00-12:00 / 16:00-20:00 on Friday, 16th of September 2016
Whose is Brancusi, and most importantly: does he have to belong to anyone?
Amidst the public donations campaign* aimed at acquiring the Wisdom of the Earth, in the centre of Bucharest the Government building is covered by a tremendous billboard conjoining the artist and the country, the sculpture and the national flag. This picture would have been a perfect cover for the book I published last year – Brancusi. An Afterlife (more precisely, I could not imagine a more appropriate illustration for the way national pride reshapes the way Brancusi is generally regarded in Romania.) At this time, perhaps not accidentally, the exhibition The Sons and Daughters of Brancusi. A Family Saga is on view in a town with a Hungarian majority. I recall now a situation imagined by a Canadian artist in a fictitious travel journal**: Attila the Hun and Brancusi are sitting face to face on a bench and argue over the Wood Cup (a reference to a work by Brancusi, a Mobile Group in which such a Cup is placed on one of the first versions of the Endless Column). A lost treasure that used to belong to both of them and which, in the authors’s view, betrays the modesty that was the characteristic of both of them. According to historical documents, Attila not only drank from a wood cup but he also wore undecorated, simple clothes and, like Brancusi, he also had a totem-bird (not a Cock or a Bird in Space but a goshawk).
But stepping beyond fiction transgressing the boundaries of cultures, ages and geographical spaces, I hope that in the context offered by Sf. Gheorghe there is a possibility to understand Brancusi beyond the rhetoric pervaded by national sentiments, and (at last) the public will not view the projects exhibited here as sacrilege but will understand them as gestures of ‘disobedience’ indispensable to critical thinking.
As artists educated in Romania, it was stamped in our conscience the image of a Brancusi as a paragon seated on the topmost step of the pantheon of the history of art, and this very over-exposure to this kind of homage-laden discourse eventually produced in us a need to deconstruct the Brancusi myth. Even the title of the project was inspired by a hagiographic work of this kind that also restates very clearly a certain type of local ‘artistic patriarchy’ – Brancusi. Our Father***. Children are disobedient from the outset and ‘civil disobedience’ is seen as a duty from the 19th century onwards.
The present exhibition brings together works presented in two earlier exhibitions in 2015. Both episodes were centred on the cult of Constantin Brancusi in Romania, discussing how his high-performance on the international art scene has become a Romanian high-performance, through connecting the artist predominantly with the nationalist discourse. As early as the inter-war years, Brancusi’s international reputation played a major role in his transformation into a national hero. This process, also observable some time later in the context of the ‘socialist-humanist’ rediscovery of Brancusi during the ‘60s – ‘70s and his protochronistic [that is, involving an anachronistic assertion of priority in innovation] rediscovery in the ‘70s – ‘80s, has continued to develop and be refined in the contemporary context, that of competitive advantage of nations. Nowadays, against a backdrop of globalization and of European identity policies, the Brancusi myth is tending to be significantly exploited even in strategic planning for the branding of Romania. The Brancusi cult has been kept alive over the years by an excessive number of works by Romanian experts on the sculptor, who have now even come to influence the attitude to the artist adopted in governmental and commercial communication strategies, in popular culture and in a range of forms of discourse, whether nationalistic, such as that of the experts on the Dacians and of Orthodox specialists, or trans-national, such as that of yoga practitioners and of the Freemasons.
The episode organized by Salonul de proiecte within the framework of Timișoara Art Encounters was developped around a series of workshop activities ironically entitled Brancusian Creativity Workshops, while the exhibition organized by Plan B Gallery in Cluj was rather of a documentary character, a ‘resource room’ which collected projects developped since the ‘90s. A great part of the works exhibited in Timișoara and Cluj can also be found in the present exhibition. These are projects centred on the ‘canonization’ of Brancusi among the cultural elite and pop culture, highlighting that a purely aesthetic response to Brancusi’s work is fully impossible in the context of today’s Romania. Our own response, which is continuously disturbed by nationalist pathos, leaves the realm of visual art to become a political gesture.
* Brancusi Is Mine is the title of the campaign supporting the national subscription for the purchase of Constantin Brancusi’s work The Wisdom of the Earth, launched in May by the Romanian Government and the Ministry of Culture.
**Robin Peck, SCULPTURE. A Journey to the Circumference of the Earth, Fredericton, Canada: BJ Press 2004
*** Paul Rezeanu, Brancusi. Our Father, Craiova, Romania: Autograf MJM 2012. In the meantime, in 2014, the author (former director of the Craiova Art Museum) published another book at the same publishing house, entitled Brancusi. The Last Dacian.