Current: The Day After Tomorrow
Tudor Bratu, Momu & No Es, Iratxe Jaio & Klaas van Gorkum, Harm Weistra, Cihad Caner, Ilke Gers, Fotini Gouseti, Thijs Ebbe Fokkens, Yasser Ballemans, Roi Alter. (1.07 – 21.09.2020 Gallery Joey Ramone)
5000 black/white photographs, 12×18cm, PE and FB print.
Collection of approx. 5000 images from various cities in Europe and Asia, installation variable.
Photographic truths, by which I mean documentary evidence cast in concrete form and assembled from objective and tangible traces, compose the matter and fabric of things that have been, are now, and sometimes, of things that are yet to come. The existence of these kinds of truths, or facts, whether directly expressed through photography or entirely unrelated to the medium, precedes any understanding of whatever is or is not the case. In other words, it is documentary facts that invite us to form opinions and it is an objective real (instead of a representation or interpretation of a real) that precedes us.
Today however the so-called post-truth condition threatens a proper understanding or evaluation of documentary facts and in doing that, threatens the very foundations of human history and future development. Our lives and daily existences are not, as so often proposed, a matter of passively enduring a post-truth world. Instead, I believe the facts of today present us with an accurate reflection of who we are and what we have done and are doing. It suffices to look at the concrete we live in and call home, at the waste and garbage we produce and are surrounded by, at rising temperatures, at the colour smog fills the air with. Enduring, as we do, our own construction, means enduring the truth of what we have done, accepting the guilty-verdict brought about by the documentary.
Archive was conceived as a mirror of post-war accomplishments: of that so-called humanist modernism which August Sander implicitly recorded in his project Humans of the 20th Century. But Archive also stems from a peculiar kind of nostalgia, which W. G. Sebald described best in On the Natural History of Destruction: “I spend my childhood and youth on the outskirts of the Alps, in a region that was largely spared the immediate effects of the so-called hostilities. At the end of the war I was just one year old, so I can hardly have any impressions of that period of destruction based on personal experience. Yet to this day, when I see photographs or documentary films dating from the war I feel as if I were its child, so to speak, as if those horrors I did not experience cast a shadow over me... I see pictures merging before my mind’s eye – paths through the fields, river meadows, and mountain pastures mingling with images of destruction – and oddly enough, it is the latter, not the now entirely unreal idylls of my early childhood, that make me feel rather as if I were coming home...” The nostalgia of the desolation whence we came and towards which we are heading.
Since 2003, using a Minox 35 mm camera with black and white film, I have recorded streets, buildings, city vegetation, architectural structures, and details such as lampposts, parked cars, an occasional passer-by, letter boxes, or parts of the sidewalk. The current archive, which continues to expand and develop, is an always incomplete work about the city understood as residue and reminder of human existence and about the city lived and felt as the often empty stage of humanity as a whole. Focussing mainly on what I felt as similarities of places otherwise far apart culturally, politically, and socially, the Archive as a whole shows Brussels equal to Bucharest, Berlin, Seoul or Tallinn, and in these similarities serves to efface cultural, social, and political boundaries. What is left is an image and experience of one enormous city and of countless lives lived in similar fashion, with similar results. In this sense, I intended Archive to be the mirror of the times, the reminder and archive of what is yet to come.
Archive is an ongoing project.
Four or eight channel video, photography, text.
Total runtime: 45 minutes per screen.
Developed for Europalia Biennale 2019 in collaboration with Salonul de Proiecte, A Factless Biography functions as a spatial artists book; each screen shows a selections of photographs and texts, slowly alternating, and allowing time for reflection and contemplation. The texts are quotes from works by authors as Zygmunt Bauman, James Baldwin, Mina Loy, bell hooks, and Fernando Pessoa, and focus on topics as alienation, discrimination and racism, and the break down of the ethical values that had played an important part in the post-World War 2 reconstruction. The photography shows desolate landscapes, most often urban areas, in which states of construction and demolition constantly alternate, as they have, historically, for millennia. Each screen shows approximatively 70 images and 15 texts.
More information here.
Installation view at MARRES, curators Claire van Els & Laura Mudde.
Scale model: 250 cm × 80 cm × 30 cm, concrete, wood, sand, metal, pigment.
Photography: one framed inkjet print, black & white, 100 cm × 70 cm.
Slide projection: 36 black & white and colour slides, chair.
Leaving communist Romania I moved to the Netherlands in 1986. As a first generation migrant I was frequently confronted with racism and xenophobia, manifested as physical violence and extremist discourse. At the height of the so-called ‘migrant crisis’ of 2015 a strong sense of deja-vu took over: instances of othering, blatant racism, violence and fear mongering resonated not only with my own experiences as a 9-year old foreign boy, but also with the darkest parts of European history – parts that are best not forgotten.
In the summer of 2015 I travelled to Budapest and boarded the migrant trains heading into Austria and Germany. I had wanted to document the inhumanity that was unfolding, but I soon found that I could not bring myself to use photography. It felt demeaning to the people I met – it felt dirty somehow to photograph that much desolation. Instead, from what I believe to be a moral responsibility to bear witness at the very least, I documented the conversations I had during my travels in small, handwritten notes.
A year later these notes turned into the narrative slide projection The Brutality of Fact Part One, in which I juxtapose the stories I witnessed in 2015 with history of migration of my own family at the end of 1945 and at the height of Romanian communism in 1986. The scale model presented shows some of the walls of separation build worldwide after the fall of the Berlin Wall: the Israel-Palestinian border, the Hungarian-Serbian border, the wall dividing the USA from Mexico, are but a few. More than a photograph could, the tactility of the scale model functions as both witness and accusation.
Article by Zoë Dankert.
400 black & white and colour slides with texts and photography.
Continuation of Part One, see text above.
Installation view: Hotel Mariakapel
Publication download here.
Slide projection narrative, a continuation of The Brutality of Fact Part One, dealing with the idea of Otherness following ideas put forth by bell hooks and James Baldwin amongst others.
Interventions with text in public space, dimensions variable.
Understanding literature and philosophy as a cultural heritage under threat from contemporary superficiality, Public Archive is an attempt at reactivating meaning within public space. Towards this end I have highlighted parts of texts which focus on the ethical construct of society, enlarged them, and placed them in public space, covering posters with commercial advertising, in the hope of keeping at least some ideas alive.
Artists publication in two parts, ed. 700, 180 pages, duo tone and full colour.
Printed at Lecturis Eindhoven, with the kind support of the Mondriaan Fund.
The result of three years’ research, the artists’ publication The Dissidents’ Travel Guide includes photography, essays, transcripts of documentary videos, and the series Commissioned Drawings (2015). The material has been gathered, found, made, or commissioned, during different travels, most notably in Romania (2010-2012) and China (2011).
The publication includes four main essays which deal with first, the idea put forth by Derrida, that the future is to an extent predictable according to current developments and as such, our responsibility; second, with language as the only truly democratic tool in politics, and with the relationship between linguistic meaning and linguistic form; third, with an idea of ethics as action, as put forth by Alasdair Macintyre and Peter Winch, in connection with contemporary crises in morality and with a critique of the idea of individualism; and fourth, with the notion of accountability, focussing on the history of Romania during, and after, the 2nd World War. The full publication PDF can be downloaded here.
Material: Concrete, wood, plaster, metal. Size model building: 60 cm × 40 cm × 20 cm
Size model highway: 20 cm × 18 cm × 12 cm
Size baseplate: 100 cm × 100 cm × 10 cm
A few months after Mussolini’s conquest of Ethiopia, in 1936, one of the founding fathers of Modernism, Le Corbusier, wrote Il Duce offering his services towards the construction and modelling of the Africa Orientale Italiana. The architect considered Addis Ababa a tabula rasa void of any significance and culture, and as such, his plans included erasing Ethiopia’s capital and replacing it with his own design, which Le Corbusier included in his letter to Mussolini. Prior to the proposal for the construction of a new Addis Ababa under Fascist rule, in 1925, the architect drew up plans to erase the entire historical centre of Paris and replace it with a skyscraper city—the famous Plan Voisin, which was never carried out. Le Corbusier’s ideas of a concrete, controllable, and functional city, found traction within Communist dogma’s, especially following the 2nd World War. An important part of Modernist research and ideology seemed to fit the necessities of totalitarian and dictatorial rule.
Following the Cultural Revolution a largely agrarian China was brutally transformed into an industrialised society. Traditions were erased through an architecture that became synonymous with oppression on a large scale – the Modernist modular blockhouse. From the beginning of the 1990’s onwards, an equally aggressive ideology swiped through China as well as the former Eastern Bloc: a predatory and victimising Capitalism that had learned the power of forceful change through architecture from the system that preceded it. If the symbol of the 20th Century fanaticism could be the concrete blockhouse, that isolates humans from their environment and physicality, Capitalism’s symbol is the superhighway, a concrete force that cuts through nature and civilisation, obliterating history and tradition as it proceeds. A Disquieting Suggestion – After Macintyre, depicts the moment these two ideologies of destruction meet.
While on a road trip through China in 2011 I encountered this exact building site: two parts of a superhighway constructed on both sides of a still populated 1960’s blockhouse. Construction workers slept on the highway parts in improvised tents while the inhabitants of the blockhouse still hung their laundry to dry on their balconies. Finishing the construction of the highway, or in other words of the new Capital and the new Ideology, requires the demolition and eradication of the old model. In turn, the Modernist model of oppression had required, 50 years before, the erasure of the one preceding it. Building a scale model suggests a documentary approach that captures the exact moment of mutual devastation that anti-humane development and ideology brings about in both historical time, as in present time.
Photography, installation, video, text, dimensions variable.
She was eighteen, my mother told me, and spent her summers daydreaming and writing poetry somewhere in the dusty countryside at the outskirts of Bucharest. Every day, except Sunday, the postman would deliver a letter from her lover. “To Cristina” the envelope said in curled words that suggested the careful touch of his hands. Next to the letters, folded inside the envelopes, she would always find five or ten lei, depending on how much he had put aside by eating less. “For cigarettes,” a note would say, “with all my love.” Reading the pile of letters years later I wasn’t surprised to find none written by my mother. I have always felt that in the meeting of art and love, love always loses.
The critic inside you should first stand a while at the entrance to this space. If you have come here prepared for love, but love has not been offered you, you will have found the only criticism that makes sense.
Seated for a coffee, my father recalled the story of his third wife. It was 1986, at the height of Romanian Communism, when my mother remarried a Dutch man and the three of us moved to The Netherlands. “I realised I would never see my son again,” my father said, “and I decided to ask asylum in Switzerland,” he continued, “but I knew I could not leave Romania as a single man with an anti-communist past.” He inhaled the smoke deeply while talking: “I asked her to marry me knowing I would marry her just to be able to leave the country.” My father loves me with a fierce love.
In 1999 I saw my girlfriend walking down the stairs of the academy. “My grandfather just died,” I said. “I’m sorry,” she replied briskly as she ran off, “we can talk later if you want, but now I am already late.” Over the years we stayed friends of course, but we have never known each other more intimately than at that very moment.
My grandmother appeared in the doorway, bracing herself and balancing. From the other side of the hallway I felt the warmth of family in her eyes, her childlike joy in seeing me. The urine formed a puddle on the floor. Her nightgown slowly changed its colour.
When she died, she died of starvation. Her body shrivelled and shrank over a period of weeks, maybe months. Mom pointed towards me from the side of her bed. “Look, Tudor is here too,” she said. As I was standing a few feet away, I couldn’t see if her eyes were opened or closed. Her breath carried the words into the room. “Tudor? Oh how I loved him.”
One punishment involved crushing chestnut shells into tiny fragments and scattering them on the wooden floor. Once arranged, I was told to kneel down on top of them. The pointy fragments carved into the skin rather than into the hardened floorboards. The cruelty of this punishment consisted not in the practice itself, but in the motherly love that made the child believe he deserved it.
One day, she simply didn’t answer anymore. It had gone quiet over time, until it disappeared altogether, like it had never been, like it could have never happened. The strength of cowardice lies in the singularity of its compulsion.
In empty rooms chairs are usually positioned in such a way, as to give the impression of unfolding conversations.
Pain at the rejection of ones love has little to do with actual individuals. Rather, it is to be found in the remembrance of the fact that we hardly ever care.
8 overhead projectors, 300 projection sheets, performance.
Curated by The Orchid And The Wasp.
12 hour collaborative performance with Marek van der Watering and Alonso Vazquez hosted at my home & studio.
HD video, runtime 22 min. 35. sec., preview 2 min. 30 sec.
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 buried the entire village. The operation took less than three days to complete, leaving behind only the cemetery 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 globalised 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 dissidence to be reached only through experience by proximity, i.e. through a conscious documentary approach.
HD Video, runtime 23 min. 20 sec., preview 2 min. 20 sec.
Vacaresti Lake is an artificial lake located in the middle of a residential area of Bucharest, build by dictator Nicolae Ceausescu, but never finished. At the time of filming, it was inhabited by 39 people: men, women, and underage children, who due to a lack of a proper social well-fare system in Romania, took refuge in improvised shelters in the former lake, which over the years had turned into a swamp. The video follows one permanent inhabitant of the lake taking me on a guided tour while shedding light on his personal story: how he ended up living there, how the small lake community functions, how the lake turned into a swamp where rare bird species breed in spring, how the authorities are constantly persecuting the already troubled inhabitants, or how they try to solve the problems of raising children under given circumstances. His story ends with a comparison between Nicolae Ceausescu’s version of Communism, and the situation of contemporary Capitalist Romania.
Vacaresti Lake 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 globalised 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 dissidence to be reached only through experience by proximity, i.e. through a conscious documentary approach.
Installation view at Salonul de Project, curated by Magda Radu & Alexandra Croitoru.
A three dimensional rendering of an artists book, the exhibition consist of 14 wooden panels each individually lit by a 25 watt lightbulb, texts, video, and 400 black & white photographs of variable dimensions.
More information here.
Materials: photography, video, text, interviews, essays.
Made possible through the kind support of the Mondriaan Fund and the IFP.
The title refers to the famous words attributed to Deng Xiaoping, which reportedly were followed by: “but it is the gap between the rich and the poor which will determine the success of the revolution.”
In 2011 I spent six months in residency at the Institute for Provocation in Beijing. This period resulted in an archive of image, interviews, videos and texts, which form the basis of various exhibitions and publications. Part of the material appears in the artists book The Dissidents’ Travel Guide, published January 2014.
Installation at the Romanian Cultural Institute, Rome, IT.
Materials: 650 black & white images, 11 tables, dimensions variable.
Photography seems to be deeply involved with its own end, bearing marks of both life and death as an overlapping moment of creation. As if in the moment a photograph is taken a situation, or life, ends or is being archived just to be reconsidered at a later stage. As such, no concepts or abstracts are needed for being part of photography as no photographs are needed to be part of life. The installation of 650 images deals with my own very personal departure from and consequent return to my native country of Romania; my own birth and death and the impartial register of both. The living room scenario induces a feeling of privacy, voyeurism, and personal engagement in experiencing the otherwise random and hermetic collection of images which constitute my life.
Collaboration with Tine Melzer and Philippe van Wolputte.
Materials: photography, text, silkscreen, wood, slide projectors.
Cheer Up Fellows!, a collaborative project between Tudor Bratu, Tine Melzer and Philippe Van Wolputte, originated out of a mutual interest in image and language as independent media, usually employed inside the context of social or historical investigations with a general focus on contemporary culture and society. The shared fascination for structure and systems, with an emphasis on the idea of unity between meaning and form, lead to the work as a genuine interaction which is conceived and carried out inside a particular space – be it a public or mental. Bratu, Melzer and Van Wolputte chose to collaborate in a site-specific work for a building that is currently under construction.
During the working process, they understood the available building as ‘an empty sheet,’ upon which they then generated an installation consisting of text and quotes, photocopy material, silkscreen print, slide projections and audio as echoes of the relevant subjects: reproduction, and reproduction of meaning, story telling and re-telling the ‘truth,’ mediation and media as framework of visual communication and practice connecting the large scale installation in a private building that is temporarily open to the public.
In realising this work Bratu, Melzer and Van Wolputte employed a triangle structure: during the collaboration and their discussions, they attempted to challenge the everyday choices of the individual, who is constantly called upon to judge, analyse and act upon social issues and opinions. The governing line in these questions and dilemmas is the notion of ‘moral being’: the question of how one individual relates to his or her contemporary world.
Collaboration with Tine Melzer. Installation in public space, Dublin.
Made possible by the Irish Museum of Modern Art (IMMA).
Materials: photography, text, silkscreen, wood.
Collection Utopicus, Madrid, ES.
Cheer Up Fellows II consists out of a series of temporary public space installations which deal with the specific relationships between public image (ie locations) and private or personalised language (thoughts). After careful selection of both texts and public sites a temporary installation is created using billboards and generative textual fragments. This installation or ‘generative atmospherical location’ is documented and, in presentation, reinstalled using photography, slide material, billboards and original texts.
Performative installation, wire, metal, wood, computer, sound.
Made possible through the kind support of Montevideo / Time Based Arts.
Collection Allard Jakobs, Amsterdam, NL.
Performative storytelling machine, consisting out of the components of 14 classical organs. Each of the 550 keys is connected to an audio file. When a key is pressed, a short sentence is pronounced through the speakers, in either a male or a female voice. The sentences deal with topics ranging from politics to philosophy, art history and more personal reflections on the experience of everyday life. The sentences have been written in such a way as to be linguistically interchangeable. The machine can be thus used to either compose ever-changing stories or to generate conversations between the two voices.
Performative Installation, wire, metal, wood, computer, sound. With Istvan Ist Huzjan.
Made possible through the kind support of the Rijksakademie voor Beeldende Kunsten.
Collection Allard Jakobs, Amsterdam, NL.
Speech machine build out of the components of twenty-five classical organs. The central construction is connected to a computer system and a sound amplifier with speakers. Each key of the organs is connected to a sound file – when a key is stroked, the sound file is activated and a single word is pronounced through the speakers. There are one thousand keys to use, each corresponding to one thousand sound files, which in turn, correspond to the one thousand most commonly used words in the English language. Each key of A Speech Organ has its corresponding word printed on its surface. The one thousand words have been recorded using the voice of one of the artists.
Exhibition & project together with Istvan Ist Huzjan.
Made possible through the kind support of the Rijksakademie voor Beelden de Kunsten.
The collaborative project Don’t Forget Anything! by Tudor Bratu and Istvan Ist Huzjan (SLO,1981), both resident artists at the Rijksakademie van Beeldende Kunsten in Amsterdam, deals with the notion of ‘a book’ in it’s broadest sense – the transmission and remembrance of any kind of knowledge, the word as an active and passive tool of communication and linguistic image as anamnesis, the recalling to mind of latent memories, information and data. The total project consists out of seven works, in various media, ranging from mural drawing to performance and writing.
THE TRUE STORY
Text, plaster on the wall, lettering, 240×180 cm. Now destroyed.
The True Story is a childhood memory written out. As an announcement of the objectification of memories, it starts out in the third person, recalling an afternoon in my own life. For a moment the narrative switches to the first person, thus denouncing ‘objectification’ or ‘coming to terms’ as an impossibility, after which, the narrative turns back to the third person, thus creating a paradox: Objectification fails, one understands the impossibility and turns back to recognise oneself, but this turning back fails as well, for the memory comes alive again, forcing the individual either to relive, or to forcefully attempt formal reconciliation – the third person which the narration turns to.
In thinking about the exact process that takes place when one attempts at remembering, a decision was made to incorporate the process of remembrance in the formal experience of the work: plastered as a sheet upon the wall, thus recalling a real sheet of paper, The True Story is hardly readable, due to the use of white lettering on a white background. The spectator has to ‘search’ the wall in order to be able to grasp the text, just as a human being has to search his mind to grasp a memory. The memory-text fades in and out, just as real as the reality of fading thoughts and memories. The original text can be downloaded here.
Publication of Kurt Schwitters’ Ursonate on 100 empty detergent bottles. Now destroyed.
When Kurt Schwitters publicly broadcasted his Ursonate, in Frankfurt on the 5th of May 1932, he intented to publish it as well. However, during his lifetime he didn’t manage to do so, although there are some print-outs to be found that post-date him. Listening to his performance of the text, a transcript has been made, which altered the original setup of a sonnet in verse, following the logic of a novel – long sentences made up of the consonants and vocals that Schwitters used. The text thus resulted, has been printed out on empty white and transparent bottles, floating as sound might, some ten centimetres off the floor. The bottles themselves, except for the fact that they are Merz-produkten, as Schwitters himself might have put it, also produce their own sound. When someone would put them to his or her ear, and listen carefully, a similar resonance would occur, as the one experienced on the seaside, when one listens to a shelf and hears the sea.
Framed newspaper article. Now destroyed.
When Guy Debord stated that ‘the spectacle is everywhere’ he was referring to a specific spectacle related mostly to commerce and merchandise. But his famous sentence still holds value, for everyday each and every one of us are witnesses to a great variety of facts and happenings. To those grand facts that shake the foundations of the world and go on outside of the personal sphere, as well as to those minor facts, of equal importance, that happen inside human beings and usually go unnoticed to the outside world. This work emphasises the permanent presence of the eternal witness, without however altering its nature of outsider that is embedded in the general individual. However, it does touch upon the question of how one should position oneself within this repetitive human function.
“The article found, somehow functions as an excavated reminder of a feeling of guilt, coming from deep within us, telling us that we shouldn’t forget anything.”
—Istvan Ist Huzjan
The person in the image, was a witness in the Adolf Eichmann trial, the first trial in history to be broadcasted live on television. To achieve this broadcasting a transparent glass cage was build around Eichmann. Around the cage cameras were placed that filmed the trial from different angles. These were edited afterwards and send the world over. The newspaper article depicting the witness is – equal to the 1960 trial – preserved behind glass, formally serving as reminder.
PRINTED AND BOUND EMAILS 2004-2008
During the last few years, Gmail, as well as other e-mail providers, developed a function that saves absolutely everything written as either drafts, or send e-mails. To write someone a letter, is one of the most private means of communication – one writes to the other, primarily, but as Jaques Derrida pointed out, one always writes in a multitude of layers: of the other, on the other, of the self and on the self, and of the special relation between the other and the self. The notion of privacy in letters, is therefore so high, that they are not meant for anybody else, except the two parties involved.
The collection of e-mails published, approx. 1800 send emails preserved by Gmail in the period 2004-2008, offers an insight into the thoughts and emotional experiences of an individual.The gesture of opening up the most private corners of ones soul, counterbalances the nature of communication as it is customary in daily life and comments at the same time on the nature of writing and the experience of personal truth.
Performance, book, with Istvan Ist Huzjan.
Made possible through the kind support of the Rijksakademie voor Beeldende Kunsten.
Essay by Kristina Kersa.
As residents of the Rijksakademie voor Beeldende Kunsten, throughout 2008, Tudor Bratu and Istvan Ist Huzjan wrote a book together by sending each other various anonymous quotes selected from a variety of writings (prose, poetry, or writings on art and philosophy) dating as far back as the 15th century. Independently they reacted to the quotes received with new quotes, in this way appropriating the thoughts of others while implementing a personal meaning and intention on the texts used. The book thus created, 88 pages in total, was then fully memorised by an actress, who in turn became the embodiment of the book: the keeper of different layers of meaning and interpretation, as well as the keeper of knowledge. The thought that all knowledge is eventually forgotten, present in all layers of thinking and existence – from the first cave drawing, to the foundations of storytelling, to the printing press, and to contemporary internet – is embodied by the actress, who eventually, after having fully memorised the book, will eventually also have fully forgotten it. The actress has performed during the exhibition Don’t Forget Anything! (2008) by being present and, upon request, performing excerpts of text from memory. The project proposal below was part of the presentation:
The Lemon Emigrant is a book compiled by two artists who worked out of their individual need to preserve and transmit knowledge as much as out of a shared interest in questioning the definition of books, of readers and of the mysterious processes that are the foundation of any kind of understanding and any kind of internalisation of given data.
The Lemon Emigrant is an attempt at defining and visualising the moment in which that, which is read, is being internalised and adopted by the reader in such a way, that not only words, but meanings, connotations and consequences are fully assimilated, until becoming an integral part of a person and an individuals live.
The Lemon Emigrant is a work about people and books and about the word, which in its most simple definition, is pure thought and intentional meaning, that comes out of one human being, transgressing various media, until finding a nesting ground in another human, whom it, in turn, transforms.
The Lemon Emigrant was written together by using and appropriating the words of others. The book has been composed by sending each other various ‘meanings’ in the form of short excerpts of texts, written by various writers of philosophy, art theory, poetry and prose. These texts date as far back as the 15th Century. The authors will remain anonymous so that the appropriation of their words is complete. As the only reference to the original text, a single page number is mentioned.
Upon receiving such a ‘meaning’, which in this context is the choice made by either of us for reading and sending a specific excerpt of text, we individually react to whatever we ourselves feel most necessary to react to, by sending the other a new piece of text, which reflects on and connects to the one previously received.
Through this mechanism, of which we have decided that it is and will be without end until it will end itself out of the same necessity out of which it sprung, a book is born. This book carries the thoughts of two individuals, who express these thoughts through others, through the mouths, words and practices of others, retaining however, the essence and urgency which is found in the processes that take place at the moment of an individuals private reading of meaning.
The Lemon Emigrant as a book is not meant to see print. The aim has been to follow the process of internalisation to the very end, until the disappearance of the book and its content. In order to achieve this, we decided to employ the use of a third person, an actress, who has already memorised the content of the book in full. By doing so, she herself has become the embodiment of the book, while the information gathered lives and resides only in her mind. She is able to perform the content at any given moment.
This process of internalisation is of linear descent. An important part of the project is the fact that after the original text has been committed to memory in full, it will also be, eventually, fully forgotten.
The forgetting of knowledge is essential in this work, as it is in knowledge itself. It is incorporated in the notion ‘word’, a volatile and fragile tool. Books, words, the printing press or contemporary Internet, could not exist with-out their existence being deeply rooted in the notion of their own inevitable disappearance.
20 colour and black & white prints, inkjet on paper, 250×180, ed. 3.
Made possible through the kind support of the Tembe Art Studio.
During a three month residency at the Tembe Art Studio in Moengo, Suriname, I often took walks through the rainforest at night and became fascinated with the architectural nature of tropical vegetation. Equipped with a technical camera and flash units, I set out to document the rainforest surrounding Moengo.
15 colour and black & white prints, inkjet on paper, 130×100 cm each, ed. 3.
Made possible through the kind support of the Rijksakademie voor Beeldende Kunsten.
China is characterised by surplus, be it in view of the overcrowded cities, the high-rise buildings that sometimes seem to never end, or regarding vegetation and the immensity of the fauna outside urban environments. While formally focussing on scale, structure and medium, the images in this series talk of a constant and dramatic struggle that takes place between two opposite forces: culture and nature. Due to its extreme geography as well as to its extreme economic development, China seems exemplary to the battle between environment on the one hand, and humanity on the other.
48 colour and black & white photographs, inkjet on paper, 100×70 cm each, ed. 3.
Private collection, via Van Zoetendaal Gallery.
Made possible with the kind support of Ron Sluik.
The Chisinau night is dense and heavy, with no lampposts illuminating the streets, due to the serious power shortage and economical stress Moldova has been under since the end of the civil war with the illegal Republic of Transnistria. Seldom a car passes by and one can, for a brief moment, see the uneven pavement under one’s feet as well as a few yards in the distance.
Using the camera as a tool of discovery proper, I took long walks at night, flashing into the darkness in front of me, so as to unveil it in a certain sense, or to make my own presence known. The photographs in the resulting series (which I could only discover upon my return home once the negatives were developed) show the moment of the flash with whatever scene happened to be there at the same time I was. Every photograph depicts a split second of ‘lighting up the darkness’ – a single moment, that cannot be recalled or relived. In this sense, it is not a place, but time itself that has been photographed. At the same time these images function as a factual and metaphorical document of a city forgotten between two major political interests: the European and the former Soviet. Moldova, it seems, doesn’t fit in either, and is therefore lost in between both.
Artists’ Publication, Photocopy, A3, 350 pages, ed. 10.
Collection: Rijksakademie voor Beeldende Kunsten
Record is an artists book conceived as a journey through a limitless and over expanding city. The 700 images used, depicting various streets from different Western and Eastern European and Asian cities such as Beijing, Berlin, Bucharest, Amsterdam, Brussels, Seoul, Tallinn, and others, are combined so that the individual images all flow into one another, creating the impression of an endless journey of repetitions. The size of the book, A3 format, fills the field of vision drawing the spectator into the journey’s own reality. The differences between the various cities, and their specific political and social structures, is evened out and erased. All is left is a record: a mirroring of people through a focus on habitats and left behind traces.
Artists’ Publication, Photocopy, A4, 60 pages, ed. 10.
Collection Bibliotheque Kandinsky Centre Pompidou.
The facsimile of my family’s album deals with notions such as reproduction, originality, authenticity, privacy, and perception. By altering the initial order of images, using blanks and empty space as image, the seemingly real of the facsimile reproduction of the album is contradicted by the absence and displacement of the original images. Thus what seems genuine and authentic in print, turns out to be manufactured; a construct, a book in which the senses deceive perception. The specific and time-limited original album is at the same time preserved as a clear and defined object, belonging to a specific individual, and transformed into a vast and timeless cliche, belonging to everyone.
Artists’ Publication, Offset, A5, 120 pages, with Tine Melzer.
Do you have a good sense of orientation? was a commission for a monument at the Sigmund Schuckert Gymnasium, Nürnberg. In this book, Bratu’s photographs of places where Tine Melzer grew up are juxtaposed with a collection of questions that challenge notions of home and the uncertainty of being present in a place that has yet to be interpreted.
Bucharest Air offers residents the chance to live and work for a period of up to three months in the city of Bucharest, as well as the chance to research, develop, or produce new works and projects, conceptually and practically aided by the Bucharest Air team. Concretely included in what Bucharest Air offers is housing, utilities and consumables, as well as human capital and cultural capital, a vast international network, and factual working hours in service of the resident, which includes aid in research, aid in realizing projects and in production, limited translations, access to the residencies network, and guidance into the Romanian art world.
Application deadline for a period of residency at Bucharest Air: Ongoing
All information related to the residency can be found here.
Bucharest Air functions as a non-profit organization, since 2010 run and managed by artist Tudor Bratu; in 2021, the residency is shaped as a collaboration between Bucharest Air and Quote-Unquote. Bucharest Air aims at generating and maintaining a high level platform for cultural exchange in Bucharest.
Quote-Unquote is devised and developed by Infinite Conversation, an independent curatorial unit founded in Bucharest by Dan Angelescu, Irina Radu and Cristina Vasilescu. Quote-Unquote is in charge of all on-site residency related activities. These activities range from aiding and assisting residents in research, development, and production of work, to introducing and connecting residents to the Romanian art scene and to the city of Bucharest, as well as organizational activities related to the daily functioning of the Residency program. They are also engaged with the general further development of Bucharest Air, including the maintenance of the Residency network and content management. Tudor Bratu is in charge of fundraising and content-based exchanges with the residents. All four members of Bucharest Air participate in the selection procedure. Alumni of Bucharest Air are at times involved as advisers.
Starting from 2012 and up until 2020, the residency’s framework has been formulated together with artist duo Alice Gancevici & Remus Puscariu. Previous collaborations include artist Ioana Gheorghiu, between 2013-2015. Alumni include Bertien van Manen (NL), Nicoline van Harskamp (NL), Lotte Geeven (NL), Ilke Gers (NZ/NL), Helen Anna Flanagan (UK), Kristin Wenzel (DE), Erik Hagoort (NL), & Zachary Formwalt (USA) amongst others.
Made possible by the Mondriaan Fund (NL), Stroom (NL), Der Amt der Steiermarkischen Landesregierung Graz (AT), The Danish Art Council (DK), & Fondazione Fotografia Modena (IT), amongst others.
Exhibition featuring visual interpretations of literary works by Samuel Beckett, Alasdair Macintyre, Frans Kafka, Jorge Luis Borges, Jacques Derrida and Ib Ulbaek. Including a special presentation of “The Freedom of Speech Itself” by Lawrence Abu Hamdan.
Artistic Director in charge of exhibition and residency program at ChongQing Air, ChongQing, China, in the period 2014-2015.
Projects and Solo exhibitions with:
Lotte Geeven (NL), Paulien Bremmer (NL), Sanghee Song (KR), Luona Zhang (CN), XinWen Liao (CN), Emilia Ukkonen (FI), Maurice Bogaert (NL), Christian Schellenberger (DE) and Pedro Bakker (NL).
Group Exhibitions with:
Ahmet Ögüt (TR), Sema Bekirovic (NL), Persijn Broersen & Margit Lukacs (NL), Rumiko Hagiwara (JP), Kim TaeJun (KR), DianLing Zhang (CN), Yong Huang (CN), Yiran Yang (CN), Len Lye (NZ), Alexandros Kaklamanos (GR), Lotte Geeven & Ingmar Konig (NL), Lawrence Abu Hamdan (JO).
The Royal Dutch Consulate (ChongQing) and the Royal Dutch Embassy (Beijing), The Mondriaan Fund (Amsterdam), The British Council (Chengdu), The Dutch Design Foundation (Amsterdam).
Curatorial project in collaboration with Sema Bekirovic and Momart Amsterdam.
Exhibition and artists presentations, dealing with questions regarding the contemporary nature of the artwork as a state of flux and changing contexts, co-curated with Sema Bekirovic at Momart, with presentations at Oude Kerk and Gallery Stigter van Doesburg.
Arthur Woods, Alice Gancevici & Remus Puscariu, Austin Houldsworth, Istvan Ist Huzjan, Jonas Lund, Lorna Mills, Sema Bekirovic, Sharon Houkema, Tudor Bratu, Voebe de Gruyter, Wijnand de Jonge.
Artists presentations moderated by:
Vincent van Velsen and Su Tomesen, including Lotte Geeven, Naro Snackey, Paulien Oltheten & Eilander, and Ruth Legg. Made possible by the Amsterdam Fund for the Arts, AFK, Amsterdam, NL.
1. Interview: The Brutality of Fact Part One, Two, & Three (Hotel Mariakapel) (2018)
2. The Dissidents’ Travel Guide (Full Publication PDF) (2014)
3. The Dissidents’ Travel Guide (Inlay PDF)(2014)
4. Dear Stranger: Tudor Bratu & Robert Glas for Mr. Motley (2020)
5. The Lemon Emigrant (Essay by Kristina Kersa) (2008)
6. Interview with Maurits de Bruijn for Mr. Motley (2019)
7. Photozine #1 (2015)
8. Photozine #2 (2015)
9. Photozine #3 (2015)
10. Photozine #4 (2015)
11. The True Story (2008)
12. A Factless Biography (handout)(2019)
13. Video interview Kunst Is Lang (2018)
THE URGENCY OF NOW
Artist’s statement (in flux)
Following the demise of what are commonly referred to as the Grand Narratives in art, socially concerned art practices turned, generally speaking, to be either embodiments of a presumed symbolic and intellectual capital, or to be materialisations and visualisations of frequently activist discourse. The former strategy triggered what could be called the ‘prop market’: an art production strategy which renders art works to the status of seemingly interchangeable props and which thrives more on theatricality and content speculation than on ideas concerning materiality, value, quality, or truth. In turn, the latter strategy could be said to have given rise to the market of memento's, reproductions, archival stylism, and illustration.
Both tendencies deserve a scrutiny far more attentive and nuanced than the allocated space will currently allow. Let it suffice to say that while both strategies certainly manifest degrees of intrinsic values, they also quite frequently serve to generate an intellectual and visual language that appears obtuse, hermetic, and tautologically illustrative; a language that frequently fails to recognise and address the urgencies of our present as more than just temporarily valuable formalisms; as more than just market art production. The aforementioned urgencies, to name but a few, are a looming climate catastrophe, a general tendency towards de-humanisation, racism, and institutionalised hate, alongside a breakdown in ethics and in the moral fibre that should characterise a humanist society.
Addressing these topics in earnest requires first a renewed turn towards the documentary and towards facts. Secondly, it requires a conscious distancing from the theatricality and populism that has nested in quite some activist and socially engaged art practices today. In an ideal case, what would be needed would be the artist’s perpetual refusal of anything that even slightly reeks of pollution or corruption. This is hardly the case today.
The above mentioned is an incomplete description of the art environment that I am trying to circumvent working with photography, a medium that has an ingrained tendency to refuse both serving as ‘prop’ as becoming a self-referential memento. Thankfully it also finds it hard to escape a particular documentary nature – the documentary, as well as the conditions of production that brought about a photograph, always seep through the actual work as a kind of secondary narrative. This struggle, of photography as medium with its own conditions of production, presentation, and truth-value, has been a guiding line within my practice, while its documentary potential forms an integral part of the development of my projects.
The latter include installations, scale-models, photography, videos, and essays, and aim at deploying photography as well as language as post-documentary, investigative tools, while setting out to generate narratives that bridge the gap between literature and the visual realm.
In this attempt, the camera is used as a descriptive tool rather than as a generator of visual puns or statements, by recording not actions, but rather the stages and contexts from which concrete situations can be inferred. In short, photography understood as a descriptive literary sequence, image perceived as thought, and the narrative as guide. My work in photography and text is further infused by an interest in a revision of post-modernist and individualist morality in favour of a return to the Aristotelian tradition of virtue ethics. Guiding to this project are the elegant writings of Alasdair Macintyre.
© Tudor Bratu, 2020. All rights reserved. No part of these pages, either text or images, may be used for any purpose other than personal use, unless written, explicit authorization is given by Tudor Bratu. Website designed and programmed by Andrea Salerno. Made possible through the kind support of the Mondriaan Fund, Amsterdam, NL and of Ir. A. A. Van Der Helm.