Laughter and Forgetting

BAW poster

Download newspaper featuring week’s program (a special insert in 22 Magazine): ZIAR_BAW2015_BT

The second edition of Bucharest Art Week presents,
“Laughter and Forgetting”
Curated by Olga Stefan
October 9-16, 2015
Opening Exhibition: Hanul Gabroveni, October 9, 7-10pm

Curatorial Statement
I recently saw an image of my grandfather I had never seen before. It appeared in a newspaper article. It’s a grainy black and white photograph of him walking on the street – captured in motion. He is as I remember him: fit and handsome. On his shoulder hangs the same purse that I saw him wear throughout my childhood. He holds a (note)book to his chest with both hands and looks to his left somewhat bewildered. This photograph was taken by an agent of the Securitate in 1985, while my grandfather was under surveillance before his arrest and ultimate murder in prison for his anti-Ceausescu stance.

Seeing this photograph in the newspaper, in that context, shook me. It was indeed my grandfather, whom I had loved passionately, and yet it was also someone foreign…Seen through the eyes of someone who meant to harm him. The image proved that he had indeed existed, but he remained in my memory as mere fragments, images and stills without continuity, and who with time became someone I didn’t know anymore. I was filled with enormous sadness, love and remorse. The photograph was an object that brought him back to me, while it also testified to his imminent demise. It also reminded me how I had in so many ways forgotten him, the unfortunate condition that we will all be subject to with time.

The photograph, and its relationship to memory and nostalgia, and by extension time, is at the core of Laughter and Forgetting, as Milan Kundera, by whose 1979 novel the exhibition is inspired, analyses throughout his oeuvre. He was not the only one to be preoccupied by this relationship during this decade. Susan Sontag’s On Photography from 1973 described exactly how the photograph changed society, while in 1980 Roland Barthes’s Camera Lucida meditated on the reasons for the pain that the photograph stirs. How the photograph serves as a medium for the construction and alteration of history, how it elicits affective responses, or how it functions as actual document of past experience are explored throughout the exhibition, a seven-day journey that takes us back in time and through the space of the city of Bucharest itself. Mirroring the construction of the book, Laughter and Forgetting unfolds in seven autonomous presentations of expanded photographic work, moving image, works on paper, and performance, each with its own protagonists and narratives, connected together much like a musical score by the repetition and variation of the themes established by Kundera, thus creating a kaleidoscopic composition from different perspectives. Through repetition, which functions also as a way to blur the lines between meaning and nonsense, – that which we remember or forget , – and variation, the exhibition develops incrementally attempting to “shed light on human existence” from multiple angles. “When things are repeated, they lose a fraction of their meaning. Or more exactly, they lose, drop by drop, the vital strength that gives them illusory meaning.”

The border, that fragile line between categories that threatens to throw our world view into chaos if disturbed, totalitarianism, which manifested itself in the form of angels in this Kundera work, along with love, laughter, forgetting, and regret/humiliation (litost in Czech), features innate to human existence, are addressed in various modes by artists, filmmakers, historians and other researchers. “It takes so little, so infinitely little, for a person to cross the border beyond which everything loses meaning: love, convictions, faith, history.”

Some treat the themes of love and laughter as instruments of resistance in the face of oppression (“Love is a constant interrogation.” ), while others tie them to the act of forgetting: with time, memories even of those we once most loved begin to fade, and laughter helps trauma wane – it is both a weapon and a medicine. “…in this ecstatic laughter he loses all memory, all desire, cries out to the immediate present of the world, and needs no other knowledge.”

Political and historic forgetting are confronted by revealing or articulating past episodes inconvenient to our present national or personal image. One type of image is challenged by another, more physical one.

The struggle for power that fuels most human action plays out in the interpersonal, as well as on a political and global level. It is the thread that connects the exhibition together. We see it manifested in amorous relationships when we try to avenge our humiliation (“…When the illusion of absolute identity vanishes, love becomes a permanent source of the great torment we call litost.”) , or in totalitarian regimes that also use humiliation as a means of control, along with historic forgetting, and the prohibition of free thought. But it also exists in our refusal to conform or to accept given truths, thus reclaiming power from Power – it is present in our “NO”.

In the exhibition that follows, we try to reveal how “the struggle of man against power is the struggle of memory against forgetting”.

* all quotes from The Book of Laughter and Forgetting, Milan Kundera

Laughter and Forgetting agenda:

—October 9 – Hanul Gabroveni, Main exhibition opening and launch of the week-long event.

—October 10- CEREFREA, Vila Noël, str. Emile Zola nr.6 (Piața Dorobanți)
Dan Perjovschi solo exhibition and “Drawing Criticism: The Limits of Freedom of Speech” – Discussion between Dan Perjovschi and Nedko Solakov
Facebook invite:

—October 11 – Cinema Studio si Cinema Corso
Screenings Part 1 (Part 2 is scheduled for October 15)
An hour and a half-long program of short documentaries from the Sahia Studio – selected by Tereza Barta (CA/RO)
Cinema Komunisto, dir. Mila Turajlic, Reconstituirea/Reenactment, dir. Lucian Pintilie (RO)

Cinema Corso – Panel Discussion: The Image of Jews in Romanian Culture, and why is there fear of the anti-legionar law? with Adrian Cioflanca, Oana Giurgiu, Dan Acostioaei, Alexandru Florian, Moderated by Andrei Cornea
Cinema Corso
Aliyah Dada, dir. Oana Giurgiu, Women Art Revolution, dir. Lynn Hershman-Leeson
Facebook invite:

—October 12 – Galeria Orizont/Atelier 35 basement – October 12-16
Atelier 35 Oradea- curated by Laszlo Ujvarossy and Olga Stefan and “The grey zones of experimental artistic production before 1989”, Panel discussion with Adrian Guta, Caterina Preda, Copel Moscu

—October 13 – Performance in various locations of the city:
Mihaela Dragan/Mihai Lucaks, Alex Fifea/David Schwartz, Xandra Popescu/Larisa Crunteanu/Irina Gheorghe/Alina Popa/Florin Flueraș/Veda Popovici/Richard Pettifer

—October 14 – National Library
Claudiu Cobilanschi on DIASAHIA – 6pm. RSVP only
Kinema Ikon –curated by Calin Man and Olga Stefan

—October 15 – Museum of the Romanian Peasant
Valley of Sighs, dir. Mihai Andrei Leaha, Andrei Crisan, Iulia Hossu, A Song for Argyrys, dir. Stefan Haupt, 105 min, documentary, 2006 –ROMANIAN PREMIERE!  Panel discussion: “Reconstructing History: What the Securitate Files Tell Us About the System of Surveillance before 1989”
With: Germina Nagat, Andrei Ursu, Andrei Muraru and Iraqi Odyssey, dir.
SAMIR, 163 min, Documentary – 2014 – ROMANIAN PREMIERE!!!

—October 16 – Presentations at the National Library and Odeon Theater
4:00pm-5:10pm – Sarah Sweeney lecture on Digital Forgetting
Teatru Odeon, Tipografic Majuscul – Gianina Carbunariu, 2014