Friday, 16 July 2010

Day 3 - talking, sharing, making

Our first day at MNAC (The Museum of Contemporary Art, Bucharest). MNAC very kindly helped to host the week and allowed us to use their Media Lab for the week's workshop.

The Museum is housed in the Palace of the Parliament building, built in the 1980's and the infamous former residence of the Ceaucescus. Raised on a man-made hill the building dominates Bucharest's skyline. It seems like wherever you are in the city the building looms in the background, out of the corner of your eye, or on the horizon. A conscious decision one thinks. A whole area of the city was demolished to make way for this monstrosity of a building, apparently the second largest in the world. The surviving buildings around the Parliament show how beautiful and productive the area must once have been, with a mixture of factories, warehouses and houses. It's definitely worth visiting these parts of the city, away from the usual tourist route.

MNAC is housed in a part of the building that was never finished, the rest of the building now being Government offices. The fact that there is a contemporary art gallery in this building is bizarre - a place for expression and creativity amongst a sea of bureaucracy inside a former dictator's palace. I wasn't sure how the building and the spaces within it would affect the collaboration, the creativity and the resulting work. Oppress or inspire? But that's one thing I like about Bucharest, it's full of these sort of contradictions and tensions. You can't take anything in this city for granted.

Given that the museum is housed where it is security is super high for all visitors. Even more so when you have seven artists with all manner of electrical cables, strange machines, liquids, etc turning up. Trying to explain that it wasn't bomb making equipment, but materials for an artists' workshop took some doing, but eventually we were let through. I wondered how Tate Modern would cope if they introduced this level of security checks!!

There's a cafe terrace on the top floor with amazing views of the city, so we sat, gathered our thoughts, drank coffee, smoked cigarettes (oh yeh you can still smoke indoors in Romania, which takes some getting used to again, after the smoking ban in the UK), and looked out onto the surrounding area - a barren, overgrown wilderness, although I hope a haven for wildlife and the dogs. There's a growing movement to get this area opened as its currently blocked in by security walls, to create a new walking and cycle route into the city without having to go around it. Let's hope they succeed as it's currently a waste of what could be a great new and much needed green social space for the people of the city.

In the morning we each introduced and presented our work, as a way of us starting to appreciate each other's individual creative practices and some of the connections between our work.

In the afternoon we started the first collaborative workshop. In the afternoon, we created a 10-metre collective pixel drawing on a roll of grid paper, based on patterns and iconography of Romanian embroidery from the Peasant Museum, and other images in our heads at that moment in time.

Here's a video of us creating and then playing that piece through a player piano machine.

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