“Cultural politics is made with those who make culture” – Interview with Dan Bergovci

Almost two years after the launch of Virus Magazine, the project remains the same. Did you have any hunch at the time?

I didn’t think too far, but only about three months into the (planetary) lockdown. The project was growing week by week. In fact, day in and day out. I’ve tried and researched and researched in the present. Intuition was to spark something collaborative, we were a team of four artists who consulted and discussed how and what. It was also a hunch to invite different artists working with different backgrounds. I think that’s attractive to today’s audience.

The “Virus Journal” traveled the world, although many of the works were written in Romanian and others commented on Roman reality. How did the foreign audience react?

Direct references to Romania (as well as texts in Romanian) are scattered between pictures and generally correct answers. Irene Lenardaki, who invited the “Journal” to New York, is a friend of the French-Greek artist who participated in the “Journal” and liked it so much that in her biggest project she wanted to “occupy” the French and Greek consulates in New York. While I’m doing this and posting in Hell daily on Facebook and Instagram, I’ve received good feedback from all over the world. I think I made a model too, because after the initial shock, art institutions woke up and started doing projects online.

Many people who visit the show ask if there will be a supplement, update, or booster potion related to the waves that followed. Are you planning to do this?

I personally made my own “Virus Diary 2”, which may appear as artist newspapers or artist newspapers. I say maybe because I have a thousand things on my mind this year and don’t know if I’ll find the time. But who knows, Alina Andre (who governs the gallery’s internal itinerary) and Gloria Luca (who somehow came to oversee the external excursions of the “Journal”) or Luciana Tamas, who lives in Germany but has transported the newspaper to the art museum from Satu Mare, Perhaps they, George Roșu, or Anna Kon of the first team could think of a sequel. I have no energy. Magdalena Pelmo, who participated extensively in the Journal, initiated a separate exhibition, which in turn traveled from Bucharest to Torgo Morris. So the project is branching out without me. When I started The Journal, I tried to attract as regular participants the artists who were already reacting to the pandemic and somehow created their own journal (George, Anna, Magdalena, Aldo Gianotti, Olivier Holzel, Oana Lohan, Roberto Uribe Castro). I’m sure they continued. Perhaps after the “collective” project it is time for individuals.

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Artists are classified as non-essential. Museums, performance halls and outdoor cultural events are the first to be closed or restricted. What do you think about the state’s relationship to art?

What can I say? I’ve seen this report for 30 years. It is true that it is difficult to be president or prime minister in times of crisis. It is clear that you have weak and strategic categories that directly depend on the stability and functioning of society. Obviously, you have to have priorities. But from here, making lists of hairstylists, stylists, and artists is a long way… Finally, somehow, I found my “official” position in society. I wasn’t among the essentials as a career and I didn’t prioritize by age. As for cultural institutions (especially independent ones, because the state was taking their full salaries without doing anything), this is nonsense. Sometimes they stopped to see that Committee X was in crisis.

On the other hand, it is not fair to look at the pilgrimage to Saint Parasheva, while at the Enescu festival, performers brought from abroad perform trombone without masks. In other words, I understand limitations in times of crisis. The thing is that art has not adapted. Everyone is waiting for someone to give the money and solve it. Sir, do you have a closed museum? Remove panels from windows. Is attendance at the concert hall reduced by 30%? Singing in the garden. Couldn’t there be a theater on stage? Place the reps in plastic containers. Can’t perform in the gym? Dance on the wall that separates the city from the Roman slums, etc. Almost everywhere small or large museums, biennales, galleries, artist-run spaces, universities or art high schools have missed the opportunity to do something radical, otherwise. It’s a unique opportunity to not be required to produce in public. Stop tyrannizing such success. I cannot be angry with the State and the Wooden Language Crisis Commission when I see that no budget-driven organization has reached the freelancers. Come on, I’m not saying to give 10% of the salary to a theater troupe that no longer has space and projects, there’s no money to guarantee its existence, but you can invite it to you during the season, right? when possible. There was no solidarity. The only decent measures were prestigious institutions such as the CNDB to refrain from applying to the AFCN to give freelancers a better chance.

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The Ministry of Culture conducted extensive consultations in late 2020 and early 2021 to assist the independent cultural sector. Meanwhile, the initiative simply vanished. The only benefit of this approach was that representatives of different fields got to know the activities and needs of others. How do you comment?

Which ministry? As Corina Otto said recently, in a text published in Journal 22, wouldn’t it be better to abolish this ministry and form some committees in specialties and directions to analyze projects twice a year? And make way for the national library, which is occupied by a third of the ministry.

The chemistry teacher is a Secretary of State in the Ministry of Culture. Could this be an opportunity for a serious cultural education project?

no. As an artist, I end up avoiding everything that comes officially or from the officials. I am tired, and for some time I refuse to understand that the official of the state (in general and especially in the cultural sphere) has no idea of ​​the art of today, neither conceptually, nor visually, nor institutionally. I refuse to allow any politician to tell me what art is. I refuse to accept the gross neoliberal measures to incorporate cultural institutions just to create a reformist image. I refuse to accept local authorities who have no idea what cultural movement there is in their city. We should not go to them, they should know who we are and what we do and suggest partnerships in accordance with local and national cultural policy. What policies are not set in office by someone called a politician. Cultural policy is made with those who make culture. Local and national officials are administrators, not innovators. In other words, I do not acknowledge the authority of the Ministry of Culture and the National Museum and their passing directors.

“Only individual solutions”

I said at one point that the pandemic, rather than making us more tolerant and supportive, only made us worse. Is it also suitable for the art world?

Yeah. As I said above, I did not see solidarity from those who had to to those who did not. I didn’t find any great solutions or discussions. I saw individual solutions. I imagined Art Encounters mentoring online and was able to pay some artists, in others I saw some kind of virtual residence. I myself benefited from a good partnership with the Goethe-Institut for Boyce. I also saw shy help from Bucharest City Hall to Bucharest galleries. But no one has expanded these solutions nationally. I understand that government aid to artists has become so involved in science and as usual that it causes problems rather than solves them, but I don’t know much here that I did not apply or benefit from it. I’ve seen classic envy and hate, and it’s been exacerbated by the shortcomings of the past couple of years. People performed poorly. Instead of looking for solutions, they looked for goals they swear by. It seems to me more and more a spectacle obsessed with money and drawings and less with ideas and visions. But I may be wrong. I was so trapped that I didn’t look closely. On top of that, I had more work on this pandemic.

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Do you think this period had any impact on the way you relate to the art world?

Yeah. I was prepared without my knowledge for an epidemic. All my life I have learned to adapt, to overturn what appears to be a flaw in an asset. I ended up painting graffiti and making an international career out of it because I had never had the budgets for classical installations and the institutional and legal context around me did not create my freedom of movement and thought. I made it myself. With the necessary risks. For me, pandemic, lockdown, and restrictions are also opportunities to be different, to invent something new, to be in a new situation. That’s why I did the group “magazine” and didn’t do it alone, because I could quietly publish myself several times a day. I, of a forced society, struggled for years, with all my might, for individuality. And here in 2020, I rediscovered the team, the collaboration… It wasn’t easy, I instinctively don’t like a lot of artistic expressions and it hurts physically when someone from the same project doesn’t share with me nor do I have the same sense of responsibility as me. But I bit my lip and did this team project.

In 2021, at the Ludwig Museum in Aachen, when my large solo exhibition was closed, I took the drawings out of the window in the medieval city centre, on the glass facade of the Charlemagne Centre. Exactly in the navel of the exhibition. The Ludwig Museum is located further afield, in a more diverse part of the city. Even there, at headquarters, I made drawings on the wall and entrance window of the museum exactly for those who did not have the test to be able to enter (during the periods when the case in question was revealed). loved it. At the Ravensburg Museum of Contemporary Art, in a group exhibition on “Break,” my drawings were city posters. For half the time allotted to this exhibition, the only “works” were available to the public. Also in 2021 I sent postcards to the Prose Gallery (Window). Prozori Galerija is actually a tall window of a neighborhood library in Zagreb, located on the ground floor of a 1970s apartment building. The curator there, who had closed the library and could no longer bring the artists to do projects anyway, projected my views on the cumulative window, at the rhythm of their arrival at the mailbox. I delegated my drawings to a solo exhibition in Bogotá, which I no longer have access to, and the team at the Instituto de Visión Gallery did a kind of collective performance of the redesign, inviting local artists to participate. And so on

I gave examples of what I was able to do. Sure, there are others. An example is the Virus Log. The idea to make it a poster was from Alina Andrei, the first host of the project (White Cuib, Cluj). Gallery of posters that can be easily and quickly sent by mail from one place to another. Majalla is now a model for solution and solidarity. It doesn’t cost you much. Many spaces have loopholes in the software due to money, restrictions, traffic, etc. The “log” can cover those holes. We will never be able to go back to where we were. Money will be cut from culture all over the world. You must take on both the responsibility (to do) and the privilege (to have). There are huge emergencies in the world. Which we, the “creators”, have to remember.

Is there anything that makes you look to the future?

Yeah. I am invited to Documenta (the most important five-year art event in the world – ed.), and Lea Bergovci will be doing a solo show at Art Basel.

Interview by George Bleu

Dan Bergovichi drawings

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