Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Cultural Heritage and The House of the People in Bucharest: Opening cultural discourse and practice

This is the second part of a longer paper, Cultural Heritage and the House of the People, which you can begin reading here: http://mappingromanianart.blogspot.com/2011/02/cultural-heritage-and-house-of-people.html

Architecture and Power in Bucharest

Before the destruction, Bucharest had enjoyed a significant continuity in the urban fabric, even though its history witnessed a number of different state organizations and ideologies – from semi-autonomous principality to independent kingdom to conservative dictatorship. During the 19th and 20th centuries, many successive kings, mayors, bureaucrats, in collusion with engineers and architects shared goals of modernization and increased Europeanization, even though projects were oftentimes left unfinished or chaotic. These developments were always in tune with the latest urban trends in France and Italy, as Romanian national identity focused on the peoples’ Latin roots and historic links with Western Europe. During the period between the union of the principalities of Wallachia and Moldavia in 1859 and WW2, Bucharest was increasingly emphasized as a model. It was transformed from an Ottoman medieval city-structure into a more deserving European capital, based on a network of Parisian-inspired boulevards with major intersections marked by key squares. [1] After a strong earthquake in 1977 that destroyed some nineteenth century buildings and left Bucharest’s inhabitants in rubble and fear,[2] Ceausescu began his plan for systematization, using the earthquake as a pretext to construct his own visions of socialist architecture. In four years, he managed to reshape the capital’s skyline into series of eight to twelve stories high blocks of flats, continuing the komunalki[3] projects of the Soviet Union . His repeated visits to North Korea more ambitiously defined his goals: as Pyongyang was ideologically and architecturally centered around the leadership of Kim II-sung, so Bucharest would be subordinated to Ceausescu’s new politico-administrative center, The House of the People.

After organizing a show-competition in 1978 for architects from all over Romania, the dictator named the young and inexperienced Anca Petrescu,[4] to direct his explicit orders. To glorify the focal point that became the new center of the city, the “Grand Architect” – as Ceausescu was proclaimed by the times’ propaganda- envisioned a three kilometer-long boulevard with high-rise apartments for the nomenclature. The Boulevard of Socialist Victory – as it was named to further the dictator’s pretense of wise social guidance -did not allow busses or trains; it was closed off for the public on a daily basis, except for members of the Nomenclature. The only way one could approach the Palace was parading under the dictator’s orders on official holidays, in an incredible display of power and hierarchy. The sublime image of hundreds of thousands directed by the same force towards the Palace was the human embodiment of ideological force of the “socialist tomorrow,” blocking the horizon to the future with the eternal image of Ceausescu and his power. Built on the cornice of Uranus hill, on the banks of the river Dambovita, Ceausescu’s own palace stood on the highest point of the Capital, commanding loyalty and obedience. At the same time, it was perceived as a symbol of national pride, a great achievement at great sacrifice, from a small country in Europe.

The location of the new Center also sought to erase three important landmarks, the Mitropolia – where the Head of the Orthodox Church lived - the 17th century Mihai Voda church and the State Archives. By the end of 1988, all these buildings, ideologically adverse to socialism would be either torn down or screened off by new blocs of high-rises. Cutting through the old city from East to West, the Boulevard – House of the Republic complex ran against and over the historic centers of the Capital. A total of more than eighty buildings, including seventeen churches were either destroyed or moved from their historical context, screened off behind the Boulevard. An area of five square kilometers and the lives of 40,000 people were altered.

To implement this grand design, the dictator further summoned over 300 architects and 20,000 workers, that would work almost non-stop between 1983 and 1989, making sure his directives were executed swiftly and efficiently. As Gheorghe Leahu, a Union Architect recalls:

In the Sports Hall Giulesti, a team of over 300 architects from all over the country build a 1:1000 model of Bucharest out of polystyrene, showing all the streets, squares, blocks, houses, monuments etc in the city. The 12 by 12 model was placed on a pedestal surrounded by an electric escalator. The Ceausescu’s would march back and forth on the escalator, armed with long pointing sticks, giving “precious indications” on what buildings to construct and which to demolish in the Capital. After each presidential visit, each set of indications, the model was transformed and updated to precisely reflect Ceausescus’ urban redevelopment plans.[5]

This account of how one fifth of the city was razed to the ground to make room for the new socialist high-rises and the Palace shows the dictator’s frame of mind: the team of designers and workers present had no influence on the plans, just as the inhabitants of Bucharest had no control over when their houses would be demolished. As Leahu observes, despite the propaganda that proclaimed humanity as its cause, “one is reduced to an anonymous slave, stripped of dignity and freedom, herded towards “the highest peaks” of…depersonalization, towards the collective living space, the communist bloc of flats.”[6] It is hard to accurately describe the general reaction to this enterprise – as collective and individual memories have not been preserved and are easily forgotten or constantly altered in response to shifting social realities after the Revolution. However, The Boulevard of Socialist Victory, with its heavily decorated fountains, towering bloc facades that obscured the impoverished slums, represented a bitter victory of the people but also Ceausescu’s triumph over Romania.

With a surface area of more than 64,000 square meters, an overwhelming volume of more than 2.5 billion cubic meters, the House dominated the landscape of the Capital. As in the case of the Boulevard of Socialist Victory, Ceausescu would make a lot of decisions regarding the facades on the ground, while he was relentlessly supervising his masterpiece. The result was also a heavy, incoherent style, a dissonant mixture of classical elements (ionic columns, freezes) that fail to induce the element of awe associated with Roman architecture and the Empire. These details, as the lavish bronze and steel windows, the marble staircases, crystal chandeliers, and velvet and brocade curtains were for the dictator and his entourage to admire in private, for the public was meant to never gaze upon the riches amassed at the cost of their lives.

For Romanians then, the House of the Republic- Boulevard of Socialist Victory represented a curse and a reason for pride at the same time. Its lasting legacy embodied both the grandeur of one of the most phenomenal architecture projects in history, the lasting trauma of the dictatorship and the metonymical signifier of a nationalist socialism understood as a mêlée between disparate ideologies from the Soviet Union, China and North Korea. When Ceausescu’s regime was toppled in December 1989, revolutionaries rushed to destroy the visual reminders of the terrors under the communist regime: Lenin’s statue outside the House of the Spark (the headquarters of the communist printing presses) was torn down by bulldozers and cheering demonstrators; propaganda posters, paintings glorifying Nicolae and Elena Ceausescu were ripped off the walls and streets of Bucharest with rage. Even the Romanian flag suffered an amputation: the emblem of the Socialist Republic was cut off as millions shouted: “Down with the tyrants!” There was also talk of demolishing the House of the People among the ignited spirits of the Revolution. However, unlike the visual paraphernalia associated with the Ceausescus, their palace proved more lasting, harder to remove from memory. The government following Ceausescu, formed by the National Salvation Army (Frontul Salvării Naţionale, FSN) led by Ion Iliescu[7] decided to continue the construction and restoration of the formidable building. Even more, in 1993, they saw it fit to house the new leadership in the huge marble halls Ceausescu never got to use. Thus, Ceausescu’s Palace remained and was transformed into the Palace of the Parliament, a symbol of an order that took the guise of democracy but resembled neo-communism.

During the 1990s and 2000s, the building complex became an undeniable symbol of the capital and the country. However, its status as symbols of the Ceausescu period was systematically weakened by historical processes. Passing time and changing circumstances altered context. From political events that employed the actual space to personal memories, each time new meanings were ascribed to the structure. In this way, the communist creations slowly diverged away from their original significance in social consciousness, and were assimilated into the post-1989 socio-political framework of Romania. The shift that created the new interpretative environment culminated symbolically when Romania entered the European Union in 2007.

Within the context of modern Europe, the House of the People preserved its function as the locus of power; before 1989 it was Ceausescu’s domain; today the democratically elected Parliament sends directives from the top of Uranus hill. A small blue marker with twelve yellow stars stands in the foreground of the overgrown communist structure marking the state's membership in the European community. However, in the perspective of time the House of the People proved a strong signifier, kept closely within the net of its original associations - hostile to the public both in function and form. For example, as a military objective and the single most important administrative building in the capital, entrance is granted only after a thorough search for explosive and x-ray scans of personal belongings.

Tourism and Reception

During the mid 1990s and 2000s, The House of the People was welcomed by the international community as a site of tourism. As the second largest administrative building in the world (after the Pentagon), it fast become the capital’s main attraction for foreigners and locals alike. In 1993 the Romanian government initiated a series of legislations to bolster tourism development. With European Union Support, tourist promotional materials produced in the 1990s consistently engendered a new identity for the country, portraying it as “reborn” and “free”, shaken from its totalitarian past:

In December 1989 Romania was reborn as a free nation. Now this multi-faceted country is welcoming tourists to enjoy a wonderfully varied heritage of traditional culture, scenic splendors and leisure opportunities. Now that Romania has joined mainstream Europe, it is welcoming visitors to share and enjoy a civilized heritage, spiced with touches of Byzantine influence. [8] By presenting Romania as a country of “mainstream Europe,” the new centre-right government emphasized its discontinuity with the former regime, and a commitment to forging stronger economic, political and cultural ties with Western Europe, or more specifically NATO and the EU. Yet, efforts to project a civilized, post-communist identity were tangled by the irremovable past in Bucharest, where a monumental part of this complicated legacy is continually consumed as a tourist sight. Once visited by international officials, Ceausescu wanted to impress, today the House of the People is admired by foreigners that gape at the empty marble rooms in awe of the luxury and grandeur of the building. Because, unlike other East European countries, Bucharest lacks iconic or easily memorable sights, The Palace of Parliament fits the role of a monumental product image, through which Bucharest itself can be consumed. Indeed, the image of the building complex is widely used in travel brochures to Romania, and even the Ministry of Tourism features it in promotional materials for Bucharest.

When tours of the building were introduced in 1994, it attracted around 80.00 visitors, making it one of the three most seen attractions in Romania, after the ethnographic project the Village Museum (180.000 visitors) and Bran Castle ,also know in the West as Dracula’s Casle, with 160.000 visitors annually. Around 50% of visitors to the House of the People are Romanians, and in 2009 it was estimated that over 200.000 people had visited it. The price of admission is roughly that of a local magazine for Romanians and double for foreigners, thus a strong encouragement exists to visit the building. [9]

These official guided tours of the colossal structure are the only means of access for the general public. The discourse dictated by the powers of the state emphasizes the importance of the building based on the value and uniqueness of the materials used in its construction and decoration: different types of marble, gold-layered stuccos, crystal chandeliers, carpets hand-sewn by monks from Moldavia, mahogany furniture. Paintings commissioned by Ceausescu still adorn the walls of the marble hall rooms. Moreover, tour guides stress the utilitarian value of the immense congress halls that now function as reception spaces for foreign dignitaries, chiefs of state or high level public officials. Absent from this presentation are the crimes that were committed by Ceausescu. The dictator is not presented as a greedy bureaucrat that embezzled state funds to build an expensive mansion or a ruthless leader. Some tour guides simply refer to him as the President of Romania between 1965 and 1989. Thus, his victims are silenced and forgotten under the dazzle of the luxurious rooms. Moreover, any connection with communism is summarily repelled, as Romania is now presented as a full democracy, and a proud member of the European Union. Tourism erases and represses from memory what happened before 1989. Presented as a technological breakthrough, a monument raised with the efforts of all Romanians, the building now demands admiration and pride.

In this line of historical misrepresentation, the building is further justified ideologically by the situation of the Romanian Parliament inside its structure. This conflicting position of the Romanian Parliament has rarely been voiced in public. In 2005, the then Prime Minister, Calin Popescu Tariceanu, declared in an official press conference that the House of the Parliament is ill-fitted to coincide with Ceausescu’s ideology, which he considered a “monument to kitsch.” Even more, Tariceanu considered that the building should be demolished, as it only reminded viewers of the traumatic experience of communism. This radical statement was taken up by none other than the chief architect of the Palace, Anca Petrescu, who responded:

It is inadmissible that a Prime Minister should suggest the demolition of the establishment of the Palace of Parliament. In addition, it is inconceivable that he label the building in which Romanian Parliament stands as “a monument to kitsch,” without having the professional background to qualify it as such, when it is known that this building has been extremely popular in the media and appreciated internationally. Mr. Tariceanu adds to this that it is regrettable that this symbolic building is visited by foreign tourists. His way of thinking and expression proves that he is incapable of any objective assessment of this building.[10]

Disqualifying Tariceanu’s suggestion on aesthetic terms, Petrescu positioned it as a symbol of the Romanian nation, one that should invoke pride in the “great national effort” put into its construction. Moreover, the architect stressed the importance the House of the People has as an international icon of Romania, reinforcing the view expressed in the guided tours of the building; The crimes of the communist regime cast asunder, the Parliament officials, including Anca Petrescu, claim the wealth amassed by the perpetrators, continuing a tradition of exploitation and oppression. This narrative is supported by a special display presenting the history of Romanian parliamentary democracy originating from this site just a couple of years after the revolution.

In 2004 the leader of the Social-Democrat Party, Adrian Nastase [11](who was running for the Presidential seat) decided to establish a National Contemporary Art Museum in the northern wing; more than 2 million Euros were spent to adjust the House of the People for art purposes. Among many scholars, artists, architects and film-markers, Romanian artists Dan and Lia Perjovschi[12] challenged the proposal to found the first National Museum of Contemporary Art (MNAC) in the Palace of the Parliament[13] declaring that:

Between the city and the building is about one mile of empty fields. That is exactly the distance between the leaders and the citizens. […] Absolutely no one was consulted: this is Romania where the process should be more transparent. The prime minister (an art collector) is quoted as saying about the location: “either here or nowhere…” […]The museum was established putting all the state spaces together (6 venues) under the same umbrella. This was the year, 2004, when things were supposed to go the other way, decentralizing state power…”[14]

The artists have also pointed out that the group of art managers in charge of the museum have the authority to marginalize artists, using similar censorship techniques as those of the repressive Artists Union before 1990. Another perspective is that of the Museum Co-director, Ruxandra Balaci,[15] who since her nomination in 2004 consistently argued in interviews that the establishment of the museum is an exercise of democracy inside a once totalitarian structure, introducing normality in one of the most abnormal places in Europe. In 2007, Balaci reported to the Guardian that young people in Romania are no longer interested in the past, while the palace with all its symbolic significance, generates attention for the museum, no matter if positive or negative. [16]

Given the summation of the building’s attributes which I have just described, local reception is complicated by the fascination and pride in what is becoming for Romanians “our House” – a building infamous within the country about which every Romanian knows something. For some, The House of the People is now “The Palace of Parliament,” the epicenter of the new democracy and an affirmation of Western values to which a significant part of Romanians aspire to. Others also see it as a testament to the abilities and potential of the Romanian building. Therefore, people coming from different generations appropriate or reject the building in various ways, although I argue that the permanence of the center of political power inside the House of the People impedes its traumatic affect to be resolved in the Romanian psyche.

For Westerners, The House of the People represents more than just a monumental building; it symbolizes totalitarianism as the political Other of Western Europe, the democratic order and the free-market economy. Its significance as a tourist site is produced by the antithesis with the structural values of Western Europe in the 20th century. To experience the building is to have a glimpse into the absurdity of absolute power and what it might have meant for Romania. The vivid discrepancy between this site in Bucharest and the organic development of the rest of the center of the capital, alert the viewer to its sensationalism in the aftermath of death and destruction. [17]

Chris Rojek argues that tourist sites are constructed through, myth, fantasy and distortion, a set of representations that interact and frame the gaze of the audience. Indeed, although the erection of the building is forever linked with Ceausescu, it was left unfinished when the dictator was overthrown and many additions to the structure were made in the post-communist building to accommodate Romania’s Parliament and the Museum of Contemporary Art.[18] However, due to myths constructed in tourists brochures (such as Balkan Holidays for example), foreigners come to Bucharest with the expectation of the shockingly exotic: that Ceausescu once lived in the building, that his bed can still be found in one of the chambers or that the dictator kept a torture room in the basement. [19]

The symbolic universe that communist projects were once part of, their connection with everyday rituals, all of this is quickly disappearing. Segregated into an entertainment park of sorts for foreigners, they become the peculiarity of an impenetrable system, whose only visible signifier is the obscenity of absolute power. In a world without alternatives, communism can only be recollected as kitsch, a House of horrors, at the opposite happy ending of global franchises. Framed in these terms, the House of the People becomes not a site of remembering but a cipher of active disregard. On a symbolic level, the ideology of a workers’ paradise has been replaced by a passion for consumption and self-colonization[20], as the locals begin to internalize the desires of the Other and become tourists of their own history.

Towards critical and transparent solutions

Cultural solutions to the House of the People should therefore take into account an ethical aspect, that goes beyond strictly architectural means of expression. In concrete terms, solutions should be communicable and debatable among the general public, articulate and logical, having an explicitly engaged political dimension instead of striving for an ideologically-free efficiency, associated with the democratic order. The latter, a general trend in the West building cannon, cannot be merely translated on the Romanian context, with its specific complexity and layers of repressed history. A more productive solution would allow for the possibilities of exchange with the rest of Europe, without sacrificing the fragmentation and contradictions embodied by the House of the People and its impact in Bucharest and as a symbol of the country.

In Istoria Literaturii Romane: Introducere Sintetica (The History of Romanian Literature: A Synthetic Approach), published in 1929, the historian, literary critic, poet and politician, Nicolae Iorga[21] formulated the concept of synthesis, a phenomenon he used to describe not only literature but the culture of Romania in the 19th and beginning of the 20th century. Indeed, any Romanian cultural history has to take into account the country’s situatedness at the confluence of Empires (Austrian Hungarian, Ottoman, Byzantine, Russian) and superposed influences (French, Oriental, Italian, German). Such an approach can be extended to the post WW2 period, in which the communist reality was also constructed from syncretic elements . As the claim to Latin roots and the orientation towards Romance cultures had been in place from the de-facto formation of the Romanian nation in 1918[22], these elements were seamlessly adapted to suit Ceausescu’s political aims, and built upon – by introducing the ideological designs from North Korea.[23] Therefore, bearing in mind these entanglements - historically a constitutive part of Romanian identity, instead of an isolated totalitarian experiment- a solution to understand and engage the House of the People project is to situate it into a series of international influences embedded in the cultural vernacular. I am not advocating a formal return to tradition(s), but deploying it as a way of being and functioning in the world, in continuity with contemporary local contexts and transnational exchanges.

By suggesting this, I am accepting the challenge of a paradoxical position: to propose that the House of the People should not be seen as merely a freak experiment and dismissed as a bad joke, paradigmatic of a situation that was the life of millions for decades; but to accept its social, cultural and historical repercussions in a larger tradition of nationalistic projects, which not only asserted the country’s unique cultural identity, but its connections to both Eastern and Western projects. After all, the House of the People was the most monumental assertion of national identity in the history of Romania, albeit at a great humanitarian expense. By now, it would be impossible (and unproductive) to simply erase the monumental complex from the urban and social fabric. Even if it were demolished (which would be highly unlikely given the position of the Parliament on its premises), The House of the People is an irreversible modern project in social consciousness. Known to virtually every Romanian(whether through facts or mythologies), it is undeniable a part of local histories and identities. What I am concerned with then, are the attempts to erase and deny its psychological and cultural affect on the population. I see this as part of larger process of disavowal of the communist ethos and collective consciousness, quickly disappearing under the fresh paint of capitalist democracy and adoption of so-called superior Western values.

However irreversible the latter process may seem at the moment, alternatives have been put forth, largely by the younger generations of artists, architects and historians in Romania, for whom the past still matters. In the 2009 exhibition “Changing the Face of the House of the People,” organized by the Union of Architects in Bucharest, students from the “Ion Mincu” Architecture University in the capital were invited to enter a contest, imagining solutions for a more organic integration of the monumental complex into the urban fabric. The three winning solutions were then displayed in University Square in the center of the capital where thousands of passers-by were engaged to respond to these designs. Even if these projects have not been realized, I salute them as part of the first steps towards more sound resolutions concerning the building. As Dimitrie Ştefănescu, one architects involved in the competition observed:

First of all, we do not want to destroy the House of the People. Assuming our past is a mature and responsible gesture, which I hope we will be able to make one day. The symbolic polarization engendered by this edifice is more than evident, as it overlaps the recent past (the communist regime), old Bucharest (the historic neighborhood Uranus), the suffering of an entire people and politics (past and present).[24]

Thus, The House of the People could be projected into an enabling process of social and cultural reconstruction, as the building embodies an unfolding narrative, traces of which are always present in the making of Romanian identity : from the moment it was conceived and during its design - as part of the ethos of the communist dictatorship, to the actual use - by the Romanian Parliament, through its continuous reconstruction and changes to accommodate the first and only Museum of Contemporary Art in the country. One can only hope and continue to act so that Romania’s political leadership takes cue from its more mature scholars and artists: by examining its own problematic situatedness and questionable directives that should foremost embody transparency, fairness and empathy, given Romania’s new commitment to civil liberties and justice as part of the larger Europe.

[1] For more on the development of Bucharest see Maria Raluca Popa and Emily Gunzburger Makaš, “Bucharest,” in Capital Cities in the Aftermath of Empires – Planning in Central and Southeastern Europe, eds. Emily Gunzburger Makaš and Tanja Damljanović Conley, (New York: Routledge, 2009).

[2] For a vivid chronicle of the destruction of the historic centers of Bucharest to make way for the House of the People/ Boulevard of Socialist Victory see the film “Architecture and Power,” Ager-Film, Bucharest, 1993, 52’, directed by Nicolae Margineanu, with a screenplay by the architect Ioan Augustin.

[3] The komunalki (later developed into hruschovs) were designed to be occupied by the working class families which moved in the 1920s to the big cities in the Soviet Union, and were introduced in Bucharest in the 1950s. Several families lived in a common property, usually owned by the city or the state. Each of these families had its own room but the kitchen, restroom and bathroom were shared. Later they were modified so that each family could have its own tiny kitchen and bathroom. This form of living together also helped the former secret police to monitor citizens by sending in spies pretending to be workers.

[4] Anca Victoria Mărculeţ Petrescu (1949-) is a Romanian architect and a politician in Romania. She designed the House of the People in Bucharest, Romania on the orders of Nicolae Ceauşescu in 1986. She was involved in many of the Ceauşescu era systematisation redevelopment projects, which included the forced removal of residents to demolish old traditional neighborhoods to replace them with modern, communist buildings.

[5] Gheorghe Leahu, The Bucharest that Disappeared, (Bucharest: Meridiane, 2001), pg. 32.

[6] Gheorghe Leahu, The Bucharest that Disappeared, (Bucharest: Meridiane, 2001), pg. 30.

[7] Ion Iliescu (1930- ) served as President of Romania from 1990 until 1996, and from 2000 until 2004. From 1996 to 2000 and from 2004 until his retirement in 2008, Iliescu was a Senator for the Social Democratic Party (PSD), whose honorary president he remains. He joined the Communist Party in 1953 and became a member of its Central Committee in 1965, however beginning with 1971 he was gradually marginalized by Nicolae Ceauşescu. He had a leading role in the Revolution of 1989, being elected as Romania's first post-communist president in 1990. After a new Constitution was approved by popular referendum, he served a further two terms as president, 1992 to 1996, and 2000 to 2004. Iliescu is a predominant figure in the first fifteen years of post-1989 Romanian Revolution politics. During his terms Romanian politics stabilized, and Romania joined NATO.

[8] Duncan Light, “‘Facing the Future’: tourism and identity building in post-socialist Romania,” Political Geography, Vol. 20, 2001, pg. 1058.

[9] Duncan Light, “‘Facing the Future’: tourism and identity building in post-socialist Romania,” Political Geography, Vol. 20, 2001, pg. 1062.

[10] Anca Petrescu, Official Press Statement, Bucharest, November 15th 2005. Retrieved from http://www.monitoruloficial.ro/, December 10, 2010

[11] Adrian Nastase (1950- ) was the Prime Minister of Romania from December 2000 to December 2004. He competed as the Social Democratic Party (PSD) candidate in the 2004 presidential election, but was defeated by centre-right Justice and Truth (DA) Alliance candidate Traian Băsescu. He was the President of the Chamber of Deputies from December 21, 2004 until 15 March 2006, when he resigned due to corruption charges.

[12] Dan Perjovschi (1961-) and Lia Perjovschi (1961-) are artists, writers and educators living in Sibiu, Romania, working in drawing, sculpture, installation, performance and art-archives. He has played an active role in the development of the civil society in Romania, through his editorial activity with Revista 22, a cultural magazine in Bucharest, and has stimulated exchange between the Romanian and International contemporary artistic scenes. Dan Perjovschi has over the past decade created drawings in museum spaces, most recently in the Museum of Modern Art in New York City(2006) in which he created the drawing during business hours for visitors to see and react to. The drawings present a political commentary in response to current events, such as Romania's acceptance to the EU. Dan and Lia Perjovschi had their first retrospective exhibition at the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University in fall 2007.

[13] The artists have refused to participate in any exhibitions held at the MNAC or sell their artworks to the museum.

[14] Dan and Lia Perjovschi quoted in States of Mind, ed. Kristine Stiles, (Durham, NC: Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University), 2007, pg. 83-84.

[15] Ruxandra Balaci and Mihai Oroveanu are curators and co-directors of the MNAC since its inauguration on October 29th 2004.

[16] These statements were made on the occasion of the symposium “Regimes of Representation: Art & Politics Beyond the House of the People,” held in the House of People (Palace of the Parliament) in Bucharest on January 11, 2007.

[17] See Chris Rojek and John Urry, Touring cultures: transformations of travel and theory,(New York: Routledge), 1997, pg. 52-75.

[18] For example 2 million Euro were spent to adjust the building for the purposes of the MNAC from 2000 to 2004. See Chamber of Deputies (2004). The parliament of Romania. Bucharest: Monitorul Oficial.

[19] Chillingworth, N. Reading the post-communist city: Ceaușescu ’s Bucharest, dissertation, Department of Geography, University of Southampton, 2000.

[20] Walter Mignolo pioneered the term “self-colonization” and suggested a cultural alternative, “de-colonial thinking.” Mignolo has lectured and published widely on global coloniality and the history of capitalism. See Walter D. Mignolo, Local Histories/Global Designs: Coloniality, Subaltern Knowledges and Border Thinking (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1999)

[21] Iorga, Nicolae, Istoria Literaturii Romane: O Introducere Sincretica, (Chișinău: Litera, 1998), pg. 203-235.

[22] In 1859 the Principalities of Wallachia and Moldavia were united by electing the same ruler, Alexandru Ioan Cuza. In 1878, Romania (led by Carol I Hohenzollern) was recognized as an independent kingdom in Europe after a war with the Ottoman Empire. After fighting on the side of the Triple Alliance (between the U.K., France and Russia) in WW1, Romania was awarded further territories (Transylvania, Bessarabia and Bukovina) in 1918. After WW2, Bessarabia and Bukovina were integrated into the Soviet Union and are now part of Ukraine and Moldova respectively. Today, Romania considers the 1st of December 1918 as the birth of the United Romanian Nation, or Greater Romania, while the 1st of December is the official national holiday.

[23] John Jessup,” Romania Celebrates The Centennial of Its Independence,” in Military Affairs, Vol. 42, No. 3, 1978, pg. 147-149.

[24] Dimitrie Ştefănescu quoted in “The Exhibition Changing the Face of the House of the People,” Garbo Magazine, November 30th 2009. Retrieved from http://www.garbo.ro/articol/Entertainment/2794/Expozitia-Schimbarea-la-fata-a-Casei-Poporului.html, December 11, 2010.

1 comment:

  1. Great post! The Palace of the People is definitely a must see attraction, not only in Bucharest, but on the whole Balkan Peninsula. This colossal building is something that cannot be seen anywhere else.