The Dissidents' Travel Guide - Straja 2011 - 2014
Straja, which literally means the guardian, was a farmers village of 900 people, along Nicolae Ceausescu's most infamous Gulag, the Danube - Black Sea Canal. It existed until 1988. One night that year, the villagers were forced out of their houses, while bulldozers dug holes and burried the entire village. The operation took less then three days to complete, leaving behind only the cemetary which still exists today because, as one villager relates, "Ceausescu's men were more afraid of God, than of the Communist Party". The video follows the stories of former inhabitants of Straja, as they relate the happenings of 1988 and their lives afterwards. Until today the illegally obtained land has not been returned to their rightful owners, a situation which is symptomatic of Romania's refusal to deal with and face its Communist legacy and past.
Straja is part of the project The Dissidents' Travel Guide, which functions as a fragmented and fragmentary rendering of the contemporary nature of the traditional documentary form, while engaging a study of the post-ism identity in dealing with a globalized non-ethics, which is proposed to govern social spheres worldwide. The project, consisting out of photography, essays, an artists publication, and installation, mimics travel guide logic by briefly showcasing real life situations in an impartial way, while proposing the nature and core of dissidency to be reached only through experience by proximity, i.e. through a conscious documentary approach.
Thanks to the Mondriaan Fund, Amsterdam, NL, Lecturis, Eindhoven, NL, Lokaal 01, Antwerp, BE, the Materiaalfonds, Amsterdam, NL, and Gallery Joey Ramone, Rotterdam, NL. A special thanks to those who contributed to the project.