Friday, February 7, 2014

The Separation: A February Story with Blacklisting, Longing for a Biennale and the Unbearable Weight of Belonging

On January 30th, 2014, Nicolaus Schafhausen, the appointed curator of the Bucharest Biennale 6 (BB6), released a public statement that he was withdrawing from the project, stating that : “The curatorial direction of BB6 developed in a direction inconsistent with that of PAVILION – the local organisers in the Romanian capital, Bucharest.” (Răzvan Ion & Eugen Rădescu, are the co-directors of BB6 and the co-directors of PAVILION)
Schafhausen had been appointed in the summer of 2012 and had attended the previous edition of the biennale (BB5) which opened in May 2012 in Bucharest. This current project was to be organised in close cooperation and collaboration with Kunsthalle Wien in Austria, and significant symposia in both Vienna and Bucharest had been planned. Schafhausen also stated that he contacted several sponsors to fund and support BB6, based on the curatorial direction and the theme of “Longing and Belonging.” This theme was to include international artists born in Romania. The curator and his concept had been also officially announced by the organizers of the biennale who supported it.
However, after a year and a half of work, the partnership between PAVILION and Schafhausen /Kunsthalle Wien fell apart, the curator citing that “irreconcilable differences” had emerged, so that “the curator and his partners cannot in good faith continue to support BB6 and PAVILION, and consequently must terminate any further commitments.”
Upon hearing the news, which was announced only via an official statement of withdrawal on the website of Kunsthalle Wien, the artistic community in Romania was left with a series of unanswered questions as to what exactly the “irreconcilable differences” were and in general, the details behind the dissolving of the partnership.  In a public note, Raluca Voinea, a curator based in Bucharest, wrote: “I think this decision has a negative impact upon the entire scene in Bucharest, which will be again judged as unserious and unprofessional. I don’t believe he was not warned what he’s getting himself into and he had enough time to figure it out in the meantime. [..] he was not to curate the Vienna biennale but the one in Bucharest, so I expected at least an open letter with explanations if not a press conference addressed to the professional community in Bucharest.” Voinea’s note received many comments from local artists, critics, curators, and gallerists. Artist Cristina David had this to add: “[…] I don’t think as you do, that the entire art scene of Bucharest will be judged as unserious, I do hope that the team of BB6 will be the one that supports the consequences.  […] I think people should not do compromises of getting along with all kinds of irregularities, because then they also give credit to the ones that don’t deserve it (BB6 people)”.  Mircea Nicolae, artist, also remarked: “Personally, I do not think BB6 internal organisational problems have anything to do with others than Pavilion people themselves. What they have been doing for a while now is well known and publicly available, not in the least on the ArtLeaks page. To start with, maybe we can lay the blame where it belongs, and leave it there for a while. […] I do not believe that the invited curator should have just accepted the problems, even if they menaced to completely alter the project. For one, it seems that Pavilion has a blacklist of local artists. So if you want to work with the local scene you have to make your way around that list, if you can. If the list is extensive and maybe even goes to the point of being exhaustive of the local scene, there might be a problem.”


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