The ongoing research project “Decolonizing Eastern Europe? Fictive Decolonization and Seeking Togetherness in Contemporary Romanian Art Practices” aims to explore the current discourses in Romanian contemporary art, based on the relation with history, tangible realities and non-binary propositions through a database of art practices, interviews and exhibitions.

Radical gentleness and introspection

Slowly making sense of roots & despair

To know another’s bare reality is to understand his soul

It’s a new way of thinking

“I don't know, what character”

I cried
Sense, sensitivity, sensibility

No need for mediation anymore

Need of NOW

What do you do when there is no time?

Need of NOW

You forgot the kettle on the fire the laundry in the machine the candle dripping the words in your brain

Can you make some order?

Can you collect the pieces from the floor?


When you were small and wrapped in those warm hands

The soft light

The circle

You have to trust

To start to play

Or play

To start to trust

Go back to the beginning




But there is isolation

And theory

Self - colonization?

The simplest things are the most complex ones

Acknowledge the complex NOW

I’m patient

I’m isolated

Since 2000 years ago

Feel your weight

The NOW is liberating

To unlearn the hegemonic forms of Western knowledge

To move

To talk clearly, to talk to everyone

And make peace with (your) language again


the dance with words is the dance with death

Because the Dadaists would otherwise disagree

Let your tongue and body play

Continue to question

but gently, not brutally like I used to

It’s ok to be nostalgic

You can feel the softness of time

That is the NOW

Don’t fear sadness

Be free


The relation between the East and the West within Europe has always been marked by a certain tension, given the historical division and the positioning of Eastern Europe as an inner Other within the European continent.1 Nevertheless, the existence of the concept of Eastern Europe has particularly been challenged post-1989. If a major understanding of Eastern Europe has been shaped by the Cold War division of Europe in the form of the Iron Curtain, a term applied by Churchill in 1945 to refer to the Soviet-dependent “bloc”, Thomas Grob notes (in 2015), that seen from within, the Eastern bloc was a different space than it appeared to Westerners.2 One of the main ideas he puts forward is diversity, an idea that I will return to in relationship with contemporary Romanian art practice.
According to Grob, the image of an “Eastern Europe” has roots going back to the French Enlightment, parallel with older images of Russia and the development of colonialism, and the north-south cultural and political axis division created during the XVIII century.3 However, these modes of representation have shifted and have been transformed by newer discourses, projects and interactions.
The context of Romanian art post-1989 has been marked by the transition to capitalism, a cultural drainage of the country in the form of migration to the west, but also the apparition of new local art spaces in some of the major cities including Bucureşti, Cluj or Timişoara. As Maga Cârneci points out, there is lack of cohesion and interrogation of the relation with our history, as well as a unilateral interaction with the Western art scene in the years 2000s and onward. As Magda Radu writes for the project of an exhibition called Romanian Cultural Resolution (initiated by Alexandru Niculescu and Adrian Bojenoiu in 2011), the image of the Eastern cultural worker was seen differently in the West than the inner reality of the actual artist. She describes the case of Ion Grigorescu, who invited for an exhibition in the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam in 1991,4 was employing a Sysyphean type of work in the exhibition space, using his own body, which “according to Hans Belting was “representational”, “an avatar of the Eastern artist”. Grigorescu’s own reality was different: “For me, all daily tasks, like washing clothes, preparing a meal,... are performances, art, acts of survival.”5The shift in perspective and gaze becomes a question we ask now: who is looking? How do we think around the notion of fictive decolonization?6

“the fictive decolonization, and I think that this relation about the former is precisely this fictionalisation, but not fictionalisation as a narrative, but making fictive precisely the materiality of our history, of our agency, of what we do and why we do it, and also making the question of the ideology something banal. But we know that we cannot be outside of the ideological, so the question is, what are the consequences of this fictive ideological move that is given precisely in this repetitive, performative mechanism that is implied in this division and is presented as not existing anymore.” – Marina Grzinic7

The notions of the East as the “New West” or “Former West” are performative plays from an ideological point of view, criticizes by thinkers as Marina Grzinic or the journal KAJET.89 Meanwhile, very concrete economical and political forms of exploitation continue in Eastern Europe, rendering a precarious reality of workers’ conditions abroad as well as in Romania.

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The questions that remain concern the impact of art on realities and mentalities. How can we build with mindfulness of the local realities? And grow our society? How can we practice an ethics of precariousness10 or a holistic view of the human and non-human that works with communities and immediate surroundings?11

3 Ibid. French Enlightment thinkers referred to the Orient as a region that remained closed to the French Enlightment. Voltaire uses the term ‘Orient of Europe’ to refer to an in-between zone that is geographically part of Europe but has yet to benefit from the new philosophy. Together with Peter the Great’s westernizing reforms, countries like Poland and Hungary, and Russia, became the first stops on a journey into the East, in which preconceived expectations of lower levels of civilization increased as one went further geographically

4 The exhibition Wanderlieder, 1991.

5 Romanian Cultural Resolution, ed. Alexandru Niculescu and Andrei Bojenoiu

6 The term belongs to African philosopher Achille Mbembe.

8 Ibid.; Excerpt from manifesto: “‘The East’ doesn’t need to become the new west anymore. We’re dreaming and envisioning a reformed future. We believe that the promise of Westernisation for post socialist states has grown stale, unpersuasive and unrealistic.”

10 Judith Butler, Frames of War: When is Life Grievable, 2009.

11 Zheng Bo, presentation during The Autumn School of Curating, 2020.