The IONESCU Royal House @ Aiurart: A National Address

  • 2013_10_16 Casa Regala Ionescu la Aiurart Afis WebThe IONESCU Royal House at Aiurart

    From the 16th of October 2013

    Curator: Erwin Kessler

    The Aiurart Contemporary Art Space (Bucharest, 21 Lirei St.)

    The IONESCU Royal House @ Aiurart: A National Address

    In a highly paradoxical, semi-presidential republic, such as Romania’s current political regime is, where the paradigmatic narrative as well as the media focus rests with the country’s former king as much as it rests with the emperor-king of one of its ethnic minorities (lest one considers here the countless number of princes and princesses, of bastards or usurpers) it is no wonder that royalty has become a critical identity-defining concept, including here some of the young, contemporary video artists, such as King and Queen Ionescu both are.

    Professing the humblest majesty possible, that of an ignoble king, immersed in the exemplary obliviousness of the surname ‘Ionescu’, the commonest surname in Romania, Cristian Ionescu (King Ionescu) and Ioana Ionescu (Queen Ionescu) are a couple of visual researchers of Romania’s greatest and richest source of wealth: its fascinating daily life, traumatising, at times extravagant yet, always significant.

    The King and Queen Ionescu form one of the most significant artistic couples on the Romanian art scene. Having exhibited in museums and art galleries from San Francisco to Strasbourg and from Saint-Etienne to Dusseldorf, these two video artists have managed to impose their vision on contemporary society not just as a couple, but also as individuals each having their own distinct visions within this ‘royal’ couple.

    Whereas King Ionescu’s films impact their audiences with their straight-forward, energetic, realistic and rough street intervention, Queen Ionescu’s films tend to have an impact mainly on the family home and its very hearth with their tender touch that is not merely accurate but it is also oozing with a very special and rather intimate type of responsibility.

    The King and Queen Ionescu are Bucharest’s new Video Art School foremost ambassadors. Following the first decade of the noughties, this School has practically reinvented the artistic video medium, giving up on the fetishisation of the progressive, technological, scientistic and sociologically-aloof aims that had been superimposed on the video art during the nineties, in order to get the video camera closer to a world, both external as well as internal, which could only be accessed through a personal identification and committal key that served to diminish one’s own personal and social alienation while, at the same time, regaining trust in humanity and technology even.

    The King and Queen Ionescu’s films have no time for high society functions; rather, they focus on the uneventful life of the majority: the street, the tube, consumption, the television set, the council house flat. Dealing with neighbourhood issues yet, inspiring the type of poetics where the act of critique is being replaced by the act of discovering (inventing) a type of transcendence which goes against the grain, the films made by these two characters, though clearly distinguishable as means of insertion, bring, in equal measure, an unexpected homage to the pure and unadulterated existence, which is almost ecstatic, in an otherwise intractable and frequently corrosive environment, such as the Romanian one is.

    Their films answer the ubiquitous question everyone is asking: how can you possibly live in Romania? Their work takes stock from a rich vein of “here and now”, which may look utterly grotesque, full of want and ridicule. The main protagonist is a highly charged present time, seemingly resembling a piece of brown charcoal which sometimes tends to acquire, in their films, a diamond-like glistening, as with King Ionescu’s often broadcasted film, Documentary Portrait (2008).

    In the Ionescu Royal House exhibition at the Aiurart Contemporary Art Space you will get the chance to see new video works, including films and installations made after the end of the artistic residency that King Ionescu had been offered by Kulturamt Dusseldorf (January–February 2013), in particular, the extremely provocative Scan me if you can (2013), in which King Ionescu has placed hundreds upon hundreds of documentary photos under a QR code, enabling their reading with the help of a smart-phone. Subsequently, the frames which had been locked via this QR code were put on analogue film which, despite the fact they are virtually “transmitting” the imagery of the QR code it still makes the latter unusable, even for state-of-the art handsets, as no smart-phone is actually capable of collecting the information stored in the images projected in classical, cinematography-like fashion due to the ultra-fast sequencing of the frames per time unit. This way, the ‘old’ (analogue) technology manages to outfox the ‘new’ (digital) technology mocking technology’s progress delirium as it gets left behind, motionless and utterly useless.

    “A National Address”, as is delivered by the Ionescu Royal House at Aiurart, defies all concepts implied by the ideas of dynamics, emancipation or efficiency; it is nevertheless straight-forward and direct yet, at the same time, profound, its main recommendation being that of abidance. Yet the type of abidance meant here is one which is informed by paying close attention to the most immediate data that has been provided by the existence per se, something which may suddenly provide far more food-for-thought to the conscience than a host of otherwise benevolent yet utterly meaningless theses. The films presented here are either extracted from the most immediate reality (documentaries) or are being painstakingly and ‘realistically’ constructed within the contents of this most immediate reality, which they then reproduce on a 1/1 scale while, at the same time, introducing to this given reality an inadvertent element of ‘derangement’ giving rise to a whole new set of acute implications.

    In Undesirable Black, a Roma ethnic woman is caught on film as she threatens to set herself alight if she will not be given a flat to house her large family by this populist politician, “Vanghelie”, whose name is invoked as he has seemingly replaced God in the role of ultimate benefactor. She invokes him with her eyes and arms raised towards the sky with desperate howls (similar to the ones that must have been made by primitive humans at the start of their belief in supernatural forces) while the fire-fighters and the police, backed up by an army helicopter which is circling the area, are doing their best to try and get the woman to change her mind. The entire (social) mechanism by which people’s sheer desperation is being turned into a tabloid, reality TV-type of infotainment marking people’s return to their primordial stages is aptly caught on camera by King Ionescu’s alert yet empathy-filled eye.

    In similar fashion, Queen Ionescu’s films appear to have been inspired by the most uneventful daily routine of living in council flats’ condominiums, where life is reduced to a mixture of cooking in the kitchen, raising children, watching TV or watching the world go by out of the bedroom window, alas every one of those elements typical of a shallow existence, lacking in perspectives yet still remaining enlightened by the endless joy of living life to the full, something which completely changes the dourness of the uneventful for the mantle of the extraordinary and the rarity of achievement, of concord and happiness, of one’s straight-forward positioning which is equally ecstatic within a world that is perfectly identical to its confines yet allowing for a certain type of transcendence barely seen, unnamed and unrelated to the divine names being bandied about as common currency.

    Translated and adapted into English by Bogdan Lepadatu PhD.


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