Established in 2014 Nucleu 0000 group works as a platform for young artists who aim to understand what art means as an object of consumerism, environment and way of life. Filling in the gap in the communication between the university institutional spaces and the real cultural spaces and galleries the group provides possibility for dedicated and passionate young artists to present their works in public and to create a clear outreach of the presence of young artists on the art market. On the occasion of the group’s fourth exhibition, Nature v2.0 Nucleu 0004 presented in Victoria Art Center we asked Gabriela Mateescu, the organizer of the group to tell us more about the show itself and to evaluate the last two years of the group as well as the situation of young artists in Romania.
Kinga Lendeczki: Recently you’ve organized the 4th edition of the Nucleu 0000 project at the gallery Victoria Art Center in Bucharest. Can you tell us more about the beginning of this project?
Gabriela Mateescu: Nucleu 0000 is a project I started 2 years ago as a response from the artists of my generation to the lack of communication between the university institutional space to the real cultural spaces/galleries.
As a newly-graduated from the University of Arts in Bucharest we were feeling lost after a 5 year absence of any real contact with the local art scene. Working in an autistic way in our studios with no cultural bridges to connect our work and preoccupation with the contemporary scenario, we found ourselves with no perspectives after graduation.
KL: The project Nucleu 0000 can be seen as a response to this situation. Who does it intend to help and how?
GM: The project intends to create a relation/bridge between the students, graduates or other people interested in contemporary art, mainly in multimedia, with galleries. More specific, it is addressing graduate artists that work in other fields unrelated to art. Many young artists are finding themselves in need of work, mostly in design studios, and make art in their free time, with no real possibility of dedicating themselves to research. The project intends to find different alternative spaces or galleries that can create the opportunity for artists to work for a specific project and that guarantees them that their works will be exhibited outside the studio.
With the lack of funding for artist studios, the young artists are confined to work in their rented rooms where they cannot deposit their works, where they lack the will to work for no purpose but to keep their works locked away. We started out as a group of friends that had the same problems, and we wanted to have a dialog with the public and the galleries. There is a bigger issue here that involves the institutional frame that did not manage to break the traditional way of communicating with students/future artists and still focus on the craft part of the artistic education.
KL: To what extent can these problems regard as a generational problem?
GM: I think that every generation has to create its own path. The artists after the 90s created their own way of dealing with their past, struggling with post communist perspectives, analytical discourses, Eastern-European traumas. The younger generation doesn`t resonate with those problems, we are the children of the 90s but our professors are still concerned with the craft movement as I mentioned before. This is a new generation, but we cannot grasp it yet because we are simultaneously experiencing the past and the present all at once and we cannot yet fully be aware of the time we live in when we can’t seem to be able to shake old habits.
KL: How did the project develop since the beginnings?
GM: After 2 coordinated exhibitions, we received a small space in the center of Bucharest from the Artists’ Union (august 2014- august 2015) that me and my colleague, Taietzel Ticalos started managing, so for a while, we were able to promote young, undiscovered artists without portfolios or CVs. During that year we aimed to go on an artistic scouting to support the new students or other graduates, with a strong focus on young people working in the corporate field.
The exhibition at Victoria Art Center is our first coordinated project after ending the collaboration with our old space. So now we are trying to discuss with different galleries in Bucharest and hopefully, in the future, we will manage to go to other cities as well. These events push the artists to create and focus on their artistic work and I see it as a more of an ongoing workshop, where artists can exercise their skills, meet the public, work in different groups and evolve as individual artists. This also helps them build a portfolio and gain experience in working with different galleries and generating a response to a call. Many of the artists that we worked with in our first editions developed more a personal direction and started working independently with galleries (Marina Oprea, Virginia Lupu, Adina Mocanu and Alexandra Sand, Tristan, Vlad Anghel, Alexandra Ivanciu, Roberta Curcă, Kiki Mihuță) while we work with others by always giving them the opportunity to exhibit, produce new materials and work with in various spaces (Lia Bira, Vangjush Vellahu, Diana Miron, Rio Rio, doamna Dia). With every edition we try to incorporate new fresh artists and help them grow and work together on building a community amongst the younger generation in a way that represents their interests, while making it easy for them to collaborate with other local cultural managers.
KL: In a former interview you mentioned that there are gaps in the art education in Romania. In your opinion what are those obstacles that stand in the way of reforms? How can initiatives like Nucleu 0000 quicken it?
GM: The gap in contemporary art education that is found in these institutions has a big influence on how the young artists develop after they finish art school. Many find themselves that they lack the tools they need to operate within contemporary art, not to mention the deficiency of understanding of how a gallery or cultural center works, how to apply for a residency or how to write a statement. I found myself in the same situation after graduating, having no idea of the contemporary context that I was thrown into after drawing for 5 years, with no theoretical education whatsoever, same for all of my colleagues. Luckily, back then, a very important cultural center, Platforma, was open, a space dedicated to meetings, discussions, workshops, that generated a lot of empowering among the younger, freshly graduated lost souls like myself and others. One of the coordinators, Simona Dumitriu, with whom I still work after 4 years, dedicated her entire time, never being remunerated for it, to creating this community and creating a friendly, cozy environment for the younger generation to grow and develop its own path, just as we did. The center was closed last year by the Museum of Contemporary Art, who owned the place, abolishing another alternative cultural space from Bucharest. This is a failure for a city as Bucharest, that just spent a lot of money on its candidacy for Cultural European capital, on pop up events that are never able to leave a mark on cultural development. Not one cultural center was built, not one abandoned building was given to the artistic community to be rehabilitated and build studios, meeting points or dance venues. Instead, after the Colectiv tragedy, the City hall closed theaters, artist studios, galleries because they were located in dangerous buildings without offering them an alternative. So this is the environment that fresh young artist graduates are supposed to work in. It`s hard for them to exhibit during their study years, because of the absence of any kind of relation with the galleries or museums of the University, not to mention after graduation, when the financial constraining necessities are punitive, and the more you deepen yourself in your work, the more you lose contact with the art world. As it was mentioned, Nucleu 0000 started as just a group of friends at first, after many coffee outings, where we talked about what we are going to do, what we expect from ourselves. The galleries didn`t want us because in 5 years of art school we hardly had any art shows of our own, the other artists looked down on us, and still do. We decided to take matters in our own hands and we said “lets go make an exhibition”. And we did just that in an abandoned gallery that was just restored by The Artists Union, a little far from the city center and with difficult access. But what alternatives did we have? Not exhibiting at all? That was not a choice. We did this for ourselves, to save us from the creative death that was waiting for us, working in design studios and corporate 9 to 5 jobs. After that the project grew, with other artists from other cities as well, we received our own place for a year, but this was just one small step; other groups did this for their generations in the past, but then they closed down. You cannot work without getting paid all your life. If there will be no funding in the future, these artists that I worked with, just like other before us, will be lost, 90% of them already work 10 hours a day in other areas. If these artists are not taken seriously as WORKERS as well, then I think it`s all a cruel vicious circle. The obstacles that stand in the way of the reform is the absence of education in buying, collecting, sponsoring artists and their art. When our high school art manuals abruptly end the history of art chapter with cubism, when the art collectors are still buying modern art, when the schools don`t have a strict schedule for visiting contemporary museums, when there aren`t contemporary galleries or museums in smaller cities, how can we pretend that the future art audience will be educated enough to appreciating contemporary art?
KL: Now, let`s come back to the present and the recent exhibition, Nature v2.0 Nucleu 0004. What was in the focus of the exhibition and how was it formulated in the artworks?
GM: Nature v2.0 Nucleu 0004 was exhibited at Victoria Art Center between January the 20th and February the 26th 2016 and it talked about the dream of untouched nature. Caught between the nostalgia of our destroyed habitat and maintaining and increasing our created comfort, today we use alternative environments that simulate natural spaces. Flora and fauna become a vague background on which looms the architectural repetitiveness. A return to a pristine paradise is illusory. There is only an imminent and irreversible “upgrade “. We transform the environment to suit our convenience but we long for a virgin scenery that we are incapable of inhabiting.
The work of Vangjush Vellahu documents the development of the city of Guangzhou, where he went on a scholarship. The photographs of the neighborhood that is on the verge of destruction by the urgent expansion of skyscrapers and the video interviews with 2 local artists explain the transformation of the city throughout the years and illustrate the transition from the ground to the sky. We are surrounding ourselves with concrete and glass, building vertically so that in the end, in 50 square meters, we can put together 500 people in luxury conditions. The abandoned rooms surrounded by walls that separate the unoccupied, soon to be destroyed area, a glass symbol of capitalist wealth, are the leftovers of a passé civilization, no longer suitable for the high speed increment of technology.
In his passing by, Vangjush immortalized a moment in time looking from the point of view of a stranger.
Marina Oprea`s photo installation investigates the appropriation of nature in the concrete prison that the neighbors share. She questions the parentage of these pop up plants. Who brings them in, who do they belong to, who takes care of them? Do they just randomly appear and populate the stairs of the buildings? What is their purpose? Is it an aesthetic one or a way of bringing greenness and freshness into a cagey, enclosed space? The photographs follow the line of the staircase in the gallery so, as you descend, they remain on view, with some randomly arranged and put upside down, but the viewer hardly notices it in the luxuriant scenic installation.
Irina Maria Iliescu`s animation pictures a John Doe sitting in an claustrophobic room just watching nature bloom on television, the only reality that exists confined in the city`s bigger glasshouse. A very concise view on the relation that the urban environment develops with the help of an unreal habitat encapsulated in the little case that is the TV. Watching National Geographic’s documentaries is the only connection to a world altered by adjacency/proximity with the human kind. Peacefully recording on camera the course of nature for all the far away viewers who are anxious and eager to see animals breeding, eating, flowers growing, etc. The constant reminder of that distant environment that does not disturbs us while we go jogging in our own reservations, the city parks.
Following the enclosed environment of the room, Roberta Curcă`s work “Don’t you increasingly miss the surrounding countryside?” maps her own room in a Plexiglas mock-up and we can see this little doll house for what it is, just a scale imitation of the bigger box that it is a typical apartment. The small replica places the viewer in an observer/gamer position. The only thing that’s missing is the human scaled puppet to play with.
Highlighting the changes of our own perception of nature, Kiki Mihuta and Bogdan Olaru recreate through their poetic installation an immaterial landscape. “As we were running away […]” is pointing towards consciousness and quilt, towards our egocentric and destructive nature. Fragmented and barely visible, the question “Will I ever find peace?” is projected between flickering waves.
KL: What are your plans for this year?
GM: The next exhibition will take place in may at Arthale, an industrial space, big of 900 square meters, and it will gather along artists that started in the first edition and some new, fresh students.
The article was originally published on March 16, 2016 on ArtGuideEast.