Very long process

with Razvan Ion

During the evolving 1st Tbilisi Triennial forum at Goethe institute, CaucasusArtMag met with the co-founder and the director of Bucharest Biennial, one of the most rapidly growing East European art events since 2005, Razvan Ion to share his observations and experience to our reader.

Razvan Ion: It’s a very long process of changing which takes a lot of time to modify the mentality of the people and to make them raise questions. Even now artists should take this burden on themselves… as much as possible, I think. For me as for the curator, the exhibition space is a discussion space as well. Artists put the questions, we write theoretical part, and the beholder who comes inside, turns in to the part of the debate. Public is not outside of the contemporary art field any more. It’s somehow involved by these kinds of practices. So I strongly believe that, though at the moment we don’t have the answers, the raised topics will any way reach their addresses and finally politicians will have to search for the solutions. Our job is to make people think about the certain issues not to change the world. To underline what is important on individual or public level. For Rainer Ganahl it’s important to have fewer cars in the city and it’s his artistic practice since I know him. He proposes to make half of the street for the cars and half for the bicycles. And in this case he is actually modifying the entire structure of the city and the way it goes around. Of course it cannot be permanent and lasts only for the period of the time… But when you face that, maybe you… Your question about the particular town… Maybe you ask yourself, if is it possible to live better because of less cars in the city, or to move faster and have more interaction by driving the bike?  Why not? People on bicycles are like communities, people in the cars never get in touch with each other. So there are different questions and Ganahl’s practice is just an example. And even if someone says that the artists from the former eastern bloc are hunting the opportunity to show the works it’s normal to be like that. Because they have an idea and they think that this idea deserves to be shared. An artist doesn’t want to be on exhibition, I mean… I know artists as I work with them… They just wish to show the work, to share the ideas. And in this case this is from where the political activism comes. They want to be in the public and to have the discourse. You have to search for your possibilities to make known your ideas and you have to find the proper channel of distribution.

CaucasusArtMag: How do you think, what was the precondition for Bucharest Biennial to become probably one of the most important art events in Eastern Europe?

R. I.:  I think Bucharest Biennial is becoming so important in Europe right now because of the position; first of all Bucharest was the city not so well known and people wanted to know more about, to have a reason to explore what’s going on in the capital and Romania in general. Even Bucharest does not represent the whole country, as Tbilisi is not Georgia, or Berlin – Germany. So it doesn’t make the whole sense what’s going on. People wanted to come not only to see art, but to see the city. That was one of the points. And at the same time, I think we started in a very good moment. Even we didn’t choose it by force. It just happened. In the moment when the Western part of Europe was, let’s say, tired of so many biennials in the same way, seeing the entire international pubic scene in Bucharest was quite attractive. And now it’s still growing because it’s normal to grow until one point. We will see about that… The main idea was to put Bucharest on the art map. To make people know where it is and what is it. That’s very important for us. This is why we extended the whole biennial around the city and tried somehow to make people visit the city during the event. So the biennial contains not only the conferences and exhibitions, but the city itself with full of layers of history. It’s not the city like Tbilisi, with the beautiful, old untouched places. The entire old part of Bucharest was destroyed by Ceausescu. You can pass through the old historical center in five minutes. That’s just a very small area… Everything was demolished. You can cross the boulevard and meet the houses from 1800’s and suddenly blocks of flats kind of Khruchov apartments appear. So we tried to include the city full of architectural layers. Our concern is to appoint the curator who will choose the artists. But before assignment we think very strongly about his/her position in the professional field, what kind of exhibition s/he did before. Generally we appoint the curators which are interested in discovering new layers of the city and not just to drop the exhibition.

CAM: On our first meeting I’ve asked you about Felix Vogel, a quite young curator of Bucharest Biennial. It’s interesting to hear your attitude, why did you appoint him in such more or less young age on this position?

R. I.: Not even more or less but he was twenty three. We tried something. We try to promote young curators and theoreticians not only from Romania, but internationally. And our position now internationally has some role to place this people in the middle of the attention. And in this case his biennial was very good and deserved lot of attention, what is very important. Our idea is a mediational purpose all the time. So we try to promote young people and to create opportunities. It’s about the production of openings for these people who are at the start of their career and are very good. Everybody should do it in every space or on any event. And intend to do more and more because we need the changes in the art field. We need the changes in terms of different discourses and different things are adapted to the recent political or economic situations. So I think it’s a moment of changes even in the cultural field. This is why we support very young people. Usually we appoint curators who are not very famous. But the next curator is an exception, as we like his way of working very much.

CAM: And who is the next one?

R. I.:  Nicolaus Schafhausen, the director of Kunsthalle Vienna and former director of Witte de With. And it is interesting because Berlin Biennial appointed Juan Gaitan who was the curator under the directorship of Nicolaus Shafhausen, so there will be a dialogue between Berlin and Bucharest, I hope.

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