With the permission of the Romanian artist collective “The Bureau of Melodramatic Research,” I will reproduce their untitled text, which exposes the underpinnings of the conditions of artist labor and many guises of censorship in contemporary art spaces. This text was written in relation to the exhibition ”Just Do It. Biopolitical Branding,” which opened March 10th, 2011 at PAVILION UNICREDIT in Bucharest, and the dismissal of the curator of the exhibition, Simina Neagu.
In the morning before the opening of the exhibition "Just do it. Biopolitical Branding", the Bureau of Melodramatic Research was personally announced by the director of PAVILION UNICREDIT that Simina Neagu, as curator of this particular exhibition and assistant director at the same institution, would be fired, if we don't exclude from our work all the facts and figures about the budget of the exhibition (that is the exact sum of our fee plus production costs). Moreover, we were informed that if we didn't agree upon this condition, the Director would additionally cancel the opening due at 7 PM the same day.
The aforementioned financial infos were part of our work and since we haven't signed any contract or confidentiality agreement, we didn't expect any opposition on the part of the institution. Following tense negotiations, we were told that we could publish the budget, only if we include all the current expenses of PAVILION for the period of the exhibition (electricity, salaries of Pavilion's employees etc). The director of PAVILION calculated an amount of 1400 Euro per artist/artist group. This amount is 7 times higher than our production costs+fee altogether. And it is 100 Euro less than the whole exhibition's initially announced budget (at least considering what we were told by the PAVILION employees when we were invited to take part in this project). Since we were interested only in the publishing of the artist fee+production costs and weren't allowed to disclose the detailed budget or any parts of it, the 1400 Euro were of no use for our work. Nevertheless, we had to publish this mystified amount of 1400 Euro, in order to avoid the firing of the curator and the canceling of the exhibition.
We acknowledge that, besides the amount for fee+production costs, whose publication was censored, we got the support of Pavilion for the transportation of all the pieces of furniture and installation (thank you, Andrei Craciun). Moreover, the Director himself has initially approved of our work's concept (at least, most of it).
Considering all these facts, we are inclined to believe that the ending of Simina Neagu's contract (officially announced today) is no melodramatic coincidence. And this should be a reason to worry for the all the artists and curators, be they employed or unemployed (or unemployable). To which extent do spaces "of the critical thinking" such as PAVILION UNICREDIT really encourage critical thinking? How come/how is a curator proposing an exhibition about "the use of soft power" consequently affected by Power itself? What is the politics of PAVILION UNICREDIT's organizational scheme? When answering this question, please consider that, at least from our experience, gender discrimination is undeniable in this institution. During our collaboration with Simina Neagu within the institutional frame PAVILION UNICREDIT, we noticed several concluding facts: only men could speak out, only men had the final word, only men solved or tried to solve any problem/misunderstanding with the artists (aka BMR), even if it directly concerned the concept and realization of the exhibition proposed by the woman-curator. In harmony with the sexism of much of the Romanian society today, a "good curator" in this institution, has to acquiesce every whim of her male director, and probably part of the unmentioned job description would be to become a complete YES-person in his presence. Also how come that a space that "promotes an artistic perspective implying the social and political involvement of the art" is censoring the publishing of the artists' fee as part of their work which was overtly dealing with the conditions of production (and the function of branding assigned to art through categories such as sustainability)? Why have all the works which include the questioning of the politics of art as a field of work been rejected (see Vilenski's case) or partly censored (our case)? Why cannot the precarious work conditions of the artists be openly addressed (see also Societe Realiste during BB4)?
We already witnessed many instances of PAVILION UNICREDIT discrediting itself, the last one being the expelling of the curator Simina Neagu. On this occasion we wish her good luck for her future career as an independent (or at least less dependent) curator.
- The Bureau of Melodramatic Research
Please also read this open letter of complaint addressed to Unicredit Tiriac Bank by Italian performer Valentina Desideri, who was present at the March 10th 2011 opening of "Just Do It. Biopolitical Branding" at PAVILION UNICREDIT.
To the above texts, I attach my own contributions on these matters, which became prescient during my experience working at PAVILION UNICREDIT for the 2010 Bucharest Biennale (May 2010) and the exhibition Comrades of Time(February 2010)