- Are you allowed to express your political views in your own art?
- You are. Freedom of speech is the first thing that comes to mind when thinking of art.
- But what happens when an artist expresses his/her political views? What are the boundaries of political involvement for artists?
Bertolt Brecht: ”Art is not a mirror held up to reality but a hammer with which to shape it.”
Following this train of thought, the art you make will not be seen outside a certain context by your audience, it will never exist in a void but it will be interpreted according to what is going on in the world at that point in time. Are you creating art that contains elements of war but you are not specific about it? You will transport the audience's mind to the most active, most media-covered war zone of that time.
I got the idea of writing this piece while talking to a good friend of mine about a punk rock band that has played all year round at election rallies. My friend was disappointed by their choice to involve themselves in politics. The punk world is anti-system, anarchist, they are sell-outs for playing for a political party.
But what if they had remained silent? Would it have been better? They chose to associate with this party to contribute to a project of reshaping politics that has not seen in the past 30 years since the 1989 Revolution. To extend their support to all of their fans. To feel that they have done the best they could so that these people would get to become the new political class. The communist thorn is deeply planted and its gradual removal deserves to be aided by artistic involvement.
I wouldn't say that my art is entirely political but it is always reactionary.
Without a doubt, climate change, gender and class inequality, living in a society that no longer offers values because a clear reform is needed in all matters, are some of the topics that can be found in my artworks...
All of these say something about my place in society.
Among the political art projects I have been involved in is also a series of 3 illustrations created for a documentary made by Passport Productions about Belina Island in Teleorman county, Romania.
Mădălina and Paul filmed on the island and talked to the fishermen who were informed that they could no longer fish on several branches of the Danube. Left without a job (before being brutally and abusively removed from the area, around 70 industrial fishermen had been fishing for a lifetime on Belina), the dissatisfied fishermen showed them how Tel Drum Company had captured Belina Island. The three scenes that they selected for illustration include moments of great tension on the island, the thread running through all of them being fear, dread and helplessness.
In the first episode of the documentary, a man tells the story of how the boats of the fishermen were destroyed with a hammer over night by Dragnea's men, who had threatened the locals. They told them they could no longer fish in that area and if they would not stop, they had to face the consequences, while official documents by representatives of the national governing bodies stated that the fishermen were legally allowed to go about their business. I illustrated the boats that were destroyed, it appears at minute 12.
You can watch the entire episode 1 with English subtitles here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vTQf03kzon8
While I was carefully listening to the description of the unlawful act in the second episode of the documentary, I could almost see what had happened with my own eyes. Mădălina and Paul had selected the stories that needed to be backed up by my illustrations, I just had to find a way to empathize with those people and to faithfully represent their words. Much like a police sketch artist. It was not as easy as you would expect… This time, the story was about a tense moment between the fishermen and the Tel Drum bodyguards, "thick-necks" as they are called. Entering the captured territory, the three fishermen are met by 15-20 men who threaten to flip their car over. I have illustrated this, it appears at minute 37.
The entire episode 2 can be found here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JtehYg8HRTI&t=199s
The third installment in this documentary series has not been published yet, but when the Caracal murders of young women were uncovered earlier this year, Passport Productions shared a scene from the episode on social media that described the parties held on Belina Island with women who were brought to entertain politicians, among which there was also a famous singer who had to run away from Dragnea's house in the middle of the night. Not knowing exactly what had happened there, I had to illustrate her escape. Before starting to illustrate I thought about this for two days. What was that woman feeling at the time? How many other women had suffered? How many of them wanted to escape but could not?
The temporary art installation "where no one looks” made for Giants of Pantelimon tackled the landscaping of a city. How can the green spaces in the public domain be managed in a sustainable way? I revisited this project at Street Delivery Sibiu #1.
I took part in the 10 August 2018 protest in Victoriei Square, Bucharest. Tear gas, running, kids screaming, grandparents collapsing, water cannons, everything was suddenly collapsing in front of us. When I got back home, I thought about how this was a fully-orchestrated ballet play, choreographed by the Romanian Gendarmerie and the PSD Government. This sparked an idea for a pamphlet in which I have tried to incorporate my disgust for what had happened during the protest.
For A.L.E.G. (Association for Gender Freedom and Equality) in Sibiu, I created an illustration for their 2018 festival. Adi Oprea from SIBIO came up with the graphic design of the poster and I had the chance to write a few messages on Dan Perjovschi's art wall in Sibiu among which "gender equality is about access to resources".
I believe it is important to have the opportunity to intervene in what is happening in your society and if this opportunity disappears, you only have two options left: either you quit or you fight.
It is important to discuss the things that are not going well as it is equally important for artists to use their critical thinking to comment on what is happening around them and beyond. Not to make art just for the visual delight of the audience but to contribute through art in changing perceptions by planting questions in the public consciousness. And if you have this privilege, you must use it.