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Vătămanu/Tudor

Most projects by Mona Vǎtǎmanu and Florin Tudor read both as case studies—critical visualizations of or material interventions into contemporary equations of labor and value, ownership and dispossession, ideology and unrest—and as intricately coded allegories of economic war or environmental devastation. The pyramidal world map being pushed, shoved, and incinerated in their film The Order of Things condenses a reflection on geographic objectivity and the “striations” produced by economic value. Footage of children setting fire to the thick piles of poplar fluff that litter the streets of Bucharest during spring functions as a negative image of rejuvenation, as a stand-in for owned property—which is experienced only as destruction by those who own nothing. This game, the object of which is to obliterate the quasi-immateriality of poplar spores and reveal the nothingness that they temporarily concealed, functions as an extension beyond the specific history and circumstances of the filming location and into the dialectic of value and valuelessness: other projects, such as ingots made of rust, literally conflate the signifiers of worth and expenditure. And the industrial venom that has drenched the valleys near the Romanian town of Rosia Montanǎ, preparing the ground for an ecologically cataclysmic gold extraction project and forcing the population into an upward migration towards the mountaintops and away from submerged villages, lends the static shots in their All That Is Solid Melts Into Air a dream-like quality that is accentuated by these images’ synchronization with a reading of the “Revelation of St. John,” the Bible's final chapter. This text enters into a peculiar relationship with the despoiled landscape—word and image alternate in relation to each other, exchanging the functions of figure and ground: apocalyptic prophecy profiled against devastated habitat, or figures of devastation profiled against the post-historical horizon of the “Revelation.” A roughly similar destabilization of the tandem between soundtrack and image can be observed in their earlier film The Trial, in which the transcript of the mock legal proceedings that led to the 1989 execution of communist president Nicolae Ceauşescu—a text that, in its dizzying circumlocutions, functioned as the founding document and hazy cornerstone of the democracy to which Romania endlessly transitions—is monotonously recited against the backdrop of communist urbanism’s endless façade of apartment blocks, appearing here as barriers to political agency rather than as walls delimiting habitation and privacy. Sowing seeds for bread on a desolate plot of land that bears the remnants of an industrial complex and looks strangely like an abstract battlefield effects a metaphorical reversal of the course of vegetal growth and social healing. This piece, The Wreck of the Earth, is the poignant archaeology of a convulsed landscape onto which human presence seems to imprint itself only as detritus and obstacle. Symbols of space pitting cosmological imagination against the partitions that structure the “here and now” of neoliberal times, as well as temporal and topographic divides collapsed in dysfunctional systems of measuring the contemporary experience, also feature prominently in the artists’ installation works, which often suggest the function of idiosyncratic, “‘bipolar” maps or other tools for a disoriented sort of navigation. As suggested by this enumeration of visual and conceptual strategies, Vǎtǎmanu and Tudor’s practice meanders in and out of a singular modus operandi, one that inspects the fractures and disparities that articulate a political topography, the forms and modes of enunciation that animate the conflicted histories of the contemporary.

 

M.M.

Mona Vătămanu / Florin Tudor

(collaboration since 2000)

1968, Constanta / RO ; 1974, Genève / CH

 


 


 

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