Do the Mountains Know? / Statement

I arrived in Targu-Mures in the month of August 2017, being invited for an artist residency.

However, while reading through the B5 archive, I decided to function as a curator, in order to present a local group, formed by artists Ion Râmnic and Istvan Mihály. The archive contained only a brief mention of oral history, which, once researched more thoroughly within the local context, placed me in direct contact with the work of the two artists.

Why is Ion Râmnic and Istvan Mihály's art important today?
Because it responds to a series of contemporary civic, political and artistic questions.

Starting with the 1970s, Ion Râmnic and Istvan Mihály started to research the local artistic scene in Targu-Mures, as well as the more general problems of their town, from a queer point of view. On a political level, Râmnic and Mihály quickly realized that Hungarian and Romanian nationalism were complicit in trying to restrain certain people's civil rights.

Because of this, the two artists studied the idea of nationalism that took shape in the 19th century, and ended up supporting an idea of a national state based on the idea of citizenship, as opposed to that of ethnicity. From the historical revolts of Hungarian and Romanian peasants to the ethnic street conflicts of the 1990s, the long history of confrontations based on ethnicity in the region convinced them that only as citizens can people be truly equal in a given state.

Beyond this research, Ion Râmnic and Istvan Mihály thoroughly learnt each other's mother tongue, and then studied Hungarian and Romanian culture and history in great detail. As a culmination of this cultural identity exchange, during the 1990s, they legally changed names, Ion Râmnic becoming Istvan Mihály and vice-versa.

Artistically, the two have been profoundly influenced by the activities of the MAMU group that, over time, numbered around 60 members locally, being in fact a fully functional alternative cultural scene within which Râmnic and Mihály evolved, studied, and produced art.

Contrary to MAMU, Râmnic and Mihály kept working after the 1990s, based on a methodology closely related to the 'apartment art' model from the Soviet Union and the rest of the Eastern bloc.

To this end, while completely uninterested in art's public or commercial aspect, Râmnic and Mihály privately built their archive of works, and lived discreetly within an intimacy where neither ethnic differences, nor the sexual restrictions of an ultra-conservative society could reach them.

I consider their contribution to be decisive for our time and for their adoptive town, which has been placed under the pressure of all political initiatives aiming to limit civil rights: lengthy hate campaigns motivated by race, religion and sexuality, violent ultra-nationalism, xenophobia as well as misogyny.

Their life together, obviously useful to their community, as well as their personal dignity, maintained over a long time within a hostile environment, make me think, again, of a more Romantic sense of art practice, according to which the artist does not only create beauty and intellectual content, but is himself or herself, on a personal level, a model of social responsibility, cultural productivity and tolerance.

The curatorial project was exhibited at B5 Studio in Targu-Mures in August 2017, at the Art Encounters Biennial in Timisoara in September 2017, at Magma in Sfantu Gheorghe in December 2017, and at the Ivan Gallery in Bucharest in January 2018.

The following images are from the Bucharest edition of the exhibition, courtesy of Catalin Georgescu and Ivan Gallery. The exhibition itself consisted of a wall drawing, a biographical and historical timeline, an object, a series of maps installed under glass surfaces on two tables, a wall text and a photograph installed on a sheet of glass superimposed on a dark green piece of cardboard.

Because the exhibition is an attempt to re-introduce two historical artists into the current discussions within the field of contemporary art, and mostly because of its documentary nature, it is the biographical text which forms the core of the display. The text was presented in three languages. In order to read the version that interests you, please click on the appropriate link below. For some reason, this online platform does not support all special characters in Romanian and some in Hungarian, so the text in these languages is somewhat stripped down.