Romanian action group front and center at SALT

Romanian action group front and center at SALT

ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily News
Romanian action group front and center at SALT

Through photography, film, installation, and performances, the exhibition ‘subREAL’ is examining the ramifications of the 1990s on artists working in Romania.

A new exhibition from SALT Beyoğlu subREAL is showing off a selection of works from a retrospective exhibition that took place at The National Museum of Contemporary Art Bucharest (MNAC) in 2012.

The artistic practice of the “action group” subREAL undertakes political, social and cultural criticism with a sharp sense of humor while creating a vigorous visual language.

subREAL was formed in Romania in 1990, right after the “television revolution” that ended the dictatorship of Nicolae Ceauşescu in 1989, by artist Dan Mihaltianu and art historian Calin Dan in order to “exorcise the residue of the decades of communist oppression.” The group soon drew architect and photographer Iosif Kiraly.

subREAL investigated the culture of late-communist Romania, its transition into a form of liberal capitalism and the floundering establishment of democratic institutions during the 1990s. Through photography, film, installation, and performances, subREAL examined the ramifications of this period on artists working in Romania.

In their works that focused on myths and clichés of Romanian culture, they explored issues around high modernism; the increasing marketability of art from Eastern Europe; the fetishization of communism; and the problem of independent artistic expression in the post-1989 world.

Investigation of the relationships

For subREAL, the investigation of the relationship between production and consumerism and their effects on artistic production remained crucial. In addition to producing their own works, in which they combined installation strategies with elements of performance and actionism, subREAL undertook curatorial projects. The works subREAL produced between 1990 and 1992 reveal the layered social, political and artistic setting of the communist period and its subsequent transformation.

In 1992, their pivotal installation for the third Istanbul Biennial brought together the rapidly transforming cities of Bucharest and Istanbul. The following year, Mihaltianu left the group to pursue an individual career. Now a duo, subREAL’s installations of the Draculaland series (1992-1997) were triggered by a reaction to the clichés of the Western press in reference to the Romania of the 1990s, as well as to the rising nationalistic discourse; the series combined fiction and reality utilizing multicultural as well as personal sources in complex installations abound with irony and subversion. The one-year residency of the group at Künstlerhaus Bethanien in Berlin, marked the beginning of a new stage for subREAL.

Their distance from Romanian everyday life allowed them to initiate the Art History Archive series (1995-1996), for which the archival photographic material of a disbanded art magazine became the core material. This introduction was followed by a series of events, installations and performances; “The Serving Art” series (1997-1999) examined the aura and the universe around the art object, while
The “Interviewing the Cities” (1999-2005) series focused on the characters and support structures needed for presenting art, articulating a subjective but telling register of personal relationships with people, places and objects.

The exhibition will continue until Aug. 11.