Giants of Pantelimon

Giants of Pantelimon marked my first participation in a collective exhibition in Bucharest, a community street art exhibition organized by Make A Point, which is a NGO located in the neighborhood of Pantelimon in Bucharest, Romania. The event was organized over a period of three days (13-15 October 2017) at the headquarters of Make A Point, inside the Postavaria Romana complex. If you haven’t heard of the Art Tower, consider this an invitation for you to discover it in Bucharest and if you go all the way up you can see the entire rooftop street art exhibition.

 

For me, it all started with a Call for Artists launched by Make A Point who were looking to find artists to illustrate the rooftops with creative renderings of the stories gathered by anthropologist Andreea Drăgan from the people living in the neighborhood of Pantelimon.

I read them all and story no. 14 struck me the most:

”Each time I crossed Șoseaua Pantelimonului I was amazed by the tall grass that has grown on the tram tracks, where trams haven’t been going for years due to some project of rehabilitation of public transport in the area that just doesn’t seem to end. If there was wind, you could lean and change perspective, so the blocks of flats would float over the green blanket. And then, one day, it was gone. Man has once again tidied up.”

 

I got the idea of making a living-installation that would spell out the message “where no one looks”. The initial plan was to set up the installation on the rooftop of Make A Point but I had to re-adapt it on the ground level because it would have been really hard to maintain a plant installation on the roof.

The message would be spelled out with letters made out of styrofoam, cut out with a jigsaw, fixed on the cement and filled with soil and lawn seeds.

 

This is how I motivated my choice:

”My project seeks to continue the story of the tall grass on the tram tracks by revitalizing this space that has not suffered human interventions. The grass that will spell out the message is meant to convey what the urban weeds can only suggest: the need and, at the same time, the chronic lack of green spaces in the city. The heavily-charged message is meant to make the viewer aware of the lack of lucidity in handling the public space: “where no one looks” is that site that is ignored although it is hidden in plain sight. The grass is overgrown in these places – the most sturdy urban invader that activates the cleaning mode in the authoritarian householder and sparks the weeding instinct of the “asphalt gardener”.

The use of styrofoam is meant as a reference to the current trend of polystyrene building envelopes that are meant to isolate the grey blocks but also to make them more esthetically pleasing.”

After finding out that I have made the cut and my project was among the five chosen I started to experiment to find the best version of creating the message. There were many rounds of stenciling, cutting and planting before deciding on the final version of lettering.

I made the letters on our balcony and I packed them in a suitcase for Bucharest where I layed out the letters on the ground, I glued them to the asphalt with a bituminous adhesive and the volunteers helped in filling them with soil and planting lawn seeds under a scorching sun.

A week later, I returned to Pantelimon to install some large stickers on the garage doors that where next to the installation and to take part in the 3 day festival, which included special guests from the world of international street art: Ella & Pitr (France), the creators of gigantic roof paintings, Moose (UK), the artist who invented reverse graffiti, Martha Cooper (USA), world-famous street art photographer, Victor Ash (Denmark), the creator of iconic pieces of wall from his anti-apartheid mural of the 80s to the kosmonaut in Berlin.

The grass seeds did not sprout completely in a week so I had to fill in the gaps with plants that I gathered from the surrounding area.

The next three days were marked by lots of interesting discussions with the fellow artists of Giants of Pantelimon, participating in workshops and presentations, making party playlists with Moose and dancing in the courtyard of Postavaria Romana at the end of the event. I even won third prize based on a public vote. It would be wonderful if every street art festival was so well organized and interdisciplinary as Giants of Pantelimon, with guests that can share their experiences.

 

The project of “Giants of Pantelimon” was meant to be long-lasting and the Make A Point team wanted to organize it every year but this is where we are again confronted with the incompetency of the local authorities, the cutting of AFCN funding and the lack of coherent governmental structures that would efficiently manage the state budget. This project remains an exception on the map of similar cultural events in Romania and I am left with the impression that for a few days I was part of a street art dream-team.

I used the styrofoam lettering with soil and lawn seeds once again during Street Delivery Sibiu in 2018.