The questions cover a wide palette; some trigger instant connections with experiences we all had or with stories circulating in media, other are very niche and more hardcore. They also take numerous forms: from a poster commenting how magazines mimic transgender identity to celebratory and subversive confetti performances for the public space in Museums Quartier Vienna, from a set of alluringly poetic postcards on our experiences in South Korea to a workshop, etc.
Last but not least, there are works featuring complex narrative constructions – as in 7 Uncertain Scripts with its seven speculative scenarios scrutinizing the future of nature, or in the imaginary catwalk show Patterns of Aura or in the radio shows for The Hour Broadcast. We use narration to take the audience in imaginary worlds that become unique according to their power of imagination, their cultural references, and understanding of language. The fascinating challenge in working with narrative conversions and strategies is to play with expectations. The story is as important as the way in which it is told.
ES: Is your work site-specific towards the place of production? When working in a range of contexts, what is the balance between the ongoing themes in your practice and constantly changing input?
A22: We are driven by enormous curiosity and that translates into inquisitiveness in local stories, hidden or erased histories, in-depth layers. This is what makes traveling, living, and working in other places exciting for us.
But then we feel it is important to expand larger concerns from very particular contexts, meaningful beyond the very place that inspired us; something that is apparently untranslatable, but that has an enduring quality, a certain weight in the locality.
How we react to a certain place depends very much on where we are at emotionally, intellectually, physically, financially, and on what stimulates us there, etc.
For example in Korea, while traveling between an unfriendly island close to North Korea and Seoul, we decided to just immerse ourselves in the strange otherness of an unfamiliar world and let ourselves be surprised: from wandering through night markets and temples of consumption at night to watching the second biggest tidal wave in the world, from doing interviews with defectors from the north to encounters with shamans. The work based on the Korean adventure came some months later, yet most of our ideas inspired by that experience are still not produced for practical reasons.
On the other hand, we have our own interests and threads of research that we can follow, no matter the place we are in. As with everything, it is always a fine tuning between the ideas one has before arriving and the actual reality of the place.
ES: And did the time in Brussels play a part in your work?
A22: Alain’s kind invitation to live in Brussels for a while was almost life-saving as heavy depression loomed all around – Erika and Dragos lost their mother they were so closed to. Indeed Edesonyam was very close to all of us, always our most generous supporter. Bucharest felt unbearable, Brussels turned into a protective cocoon with supportive friends from here and home.
To live in a house that seems fit for a movie scene, filled with stunning art and books that keep you glued indoors for days has altered our reality in the most gratifying manner.
This amazing place and our trips to the enormous Palace of Justice were the perfect setting for lots of thoughts we transformed into works for An Archive of Longings: chapter one(Galeria Calina)– an exhibition looking at the emancipatory power of desires.
Our research for this exhibition started from the life of Maruca Cantacuzino, which challenged Romanian society norms and imagery in the first half of twentieth century. The invitation of curator Liviana Dan to work on something triggered by Maruca lingered for quite a while, but none of us was interested in illustrating her life.
So we postponed it, feeling blocked.
It was only in Brussels that we had the distance granted also by living in an almost otherworldly place to approach the exhibition with what we called »fractured fictional memories« encouraging and at the same time blurring identification (with Maruca or with us).
Luckily, there is a room in the house where we can experiment with materials and ideas. The outcomes of the most recent trials will be more visible in the second chapter of An Archive of Longings.
In retrospect, the reality of living in the vivid Schaerbeek, a truly diverse neighborhood (and not really the institutional rhetoric of the capital of Europe) made us reflect even more critically against racism and celebrate diversity in some of the works presented in the Several Laws. The Elastic Test exhibition. The need intensified following the horrible attacks in town (or in other places in Europe and beyond).