Simona Nastac: How would you define your interest in Romanian contemporary art and where it comes from? How did your interest in Romanian contemporary art change through out and after the trip?
Elisabetta Fabrizi: I did not have a specific interest in Romanian contemporary art before going on the Visiting Arts Trip. I had an interest in ex-communist countries and recently had travelled to some of them (Poland and Armenia). When the visiting arts trip opportunity came along I thought it would be interesting to explore the situation in Romania. I did not know much about Romanian art and did not know what to expect. Certainly after this trip I have an interest in contemporary Romanian art and I will continue to follow its developments.
S.N.: Have you seen works by or met Romanian artists in the UK or in international art events before coming to Romania?
E.F.: I don’t think I had seen anything apart from Dan Perjovschi’s art, at the Istanbul Biennale and in magazines.
S.N.: You visited Bucharest, Iasi and Cluj, the most active contemporary art centres in Romania. What, in your opinion, were the situations and scenes for contemporary art in these cities?
E.F.: I thought that it seemed like a scene very much alive and with professionals who are making the most of the open ended chances that the historical situation has created. Somehow I felt that Iasi and Cluj were more stimulating and open to new directions than Bucharest, where the discourse seemed to revolve around the Museum in the Ceausescu Palace, around its function and what kind of institution it should be. Overall I thought the scenes seemed small but thriving.
S.N.: What do you think about the relationship between state-run/funded art institutions and independent initiatives in Romania?
E.F.: This seems to be a subject that creates a lot of tension in Romania. Apart from the controversial museum above mentioned, curators/organisers/artists outside Bucharest seem to have a positive attitude and think they can open galleries/museums with the help of public and private funding alike. It seems to be more of an issue in Bucharest. What I gathered is that there isn’t much money for contemporary art at the moment so private funds need to be found. Surprisingly the consensus seems to be that such money is not hard to be raised.
S.N.: How did you find the local art production and its historical, social, and economic contexts comparing with those in the UK or in the West at large?
E.F.: The art production was a lot better than I thought before going to Romania; I think the level is very similar to the one in the west at large. The main difference is that a lot of work relates to Romania’s recent history and is therefore much more political than average.
S.N.: What do you think is missing here on the level of art practice, conceptual and visual discourse, and cultural policy? Are there elements that you find more desirable within in Romania than in the UK?
E.F.: Perhaps there is a level of naivety about what private capital can bring. About the fact that private sponsors have private interests and such interests can influence a gallery programme or the content of a publication. This does not always happen but it can happen. As this is a completely new territory in Romania, it will be sometime before the system will show its benefit as well as its limits. As for what is desirable, I found a level of energy created by the totally new historical/political/social context which followed the revolution. Artists in Romania reflect about their recent past to make sense of how to achieve the future that was dreamt during the revolution. Work in the UK is much more self-obsessed.
S.N.: What is in excess? In your opinion, are certain areas of contemporary art in Romania over-saturated and others lacking? If so, what areas do you see this within?
E.F.: My impression was that contemporary art is an area where most things need building up so there is plenty of space for new ideas. Such new ideas seem aplenty.
S.N.: Could you speak about a local specificity in Romanian contemporary art? Does it have a certain identity mark you could name and recognize it?
E.F.: This is very difficult, but because the scene is so small, most artists seem somehow to create work which is not so dissimilar. Maybe this is the only shortfall. The work, being very much about Romania, and the experience of being a Romanian right now, is very good but not easily ‘translatable’.
S.N.: Do you have any suggestions to make to specific Romanian artists, curators and institutions?
E.F.: My suggestion would be to continue having the great enthusiasm which they have shown us and to do not stop trying to achieve an art scene/system which they find satisfactory. They have the great opportunity to create something almost from scratch and the art world at large can learn a lot from new experiences happening in places like Romania. At the same time I would suggest to them to do not idealize the art world as it is in the west, but to look carefully at the limits the capital is bringing to institutions in the USA in particular.
S.N.: Do you intend to initiate collaboration or exchange with Romanian art institutions and artists in the future? If so, please give details of what these projects may entail?
E.F.: In Romania I have seen work which I liked very much and some of which I would love to show. Unfortunately I don’t see a space at BALTIC at the moment (for reasons all related to BALTIC itself and what kind of project it needs to be doing at the moment). I do wish to find other ways of working with some of the artists I met. I don’t know when that will be but I am pretty sure it will happen; it is just about finding the right time and the right project. It is often the case for curators, we travel, we see work, we meet artists, and we build a knowledge which we then use, sooner or later. Often later than sooner, it is the nature of our job.