Eugen Radescu and Razvan Ion, directors of Bucharest Biennale talk about the sixth edition of Central Eastern Europe’s only biennale for contemporary art.

Interview published by ArtGuideEast
ArtGuideEast (AGE): Why did you initiate the Bucharest Biennale?


BUCHAREST BIENNALE (BB6) – Bucharest International Biennial for Contemporary Art (founded in 2004) was just one step forward. The PAVILION journal generated BUCHAREST BIENNALE and consequently ended up representing its visual projection. Also, every two years the journal becomes the reader for the biennial’s theme. The Biennale is building a strong partnership between Bucharest – which is more than a city, it is a symbol of how the politics can be reflected in every aspect of life – and the rest of the world; it links up with a universal problem, one that does not take into consideration the geographic or historical context – the problem of resilience in everyday life, of details and feeling as a way of living. BB is a structure capable of transforming the City itself into an ongoing workshop-field of action. A transient structure generates another structure through the inconsistency of its passing. The result of this chain of causes might be a third action – the analysis of the representational strategies, outlined by the spectator’s interest.

AGE: Where is it located? What are the venues?

BB6: For the above-mentioned reasons, BB makes use of 5-7 spaces in Bucharest in its attempt to discover the hidden geography of the city. This year the venues will be Pavilion – center for art, Combinatul Fondului Plastic (impossible to translate, it is a space belonging to the Artists Union, a very socialist building), The Political Institute, The Peasant Museum and some parallel events will be held in an old automotive factory, Faur.

The locations of the Biennale are chosen in context with the concept of the event, in terms of relating the empirical sphere of the local reality with the conceptual approach. Each location is connected with the Romanian social-political reality, like The Peasant Museum, it is a national museum, in possession of a rich collection of objects, hosted in a Neo-Romanian style historical monument building, that was supposed to raise a “palace of autochthonous art” inspired by typical monastery interiors. Or The Institute of Political Research which was created in 1999, 10 years after the revolution, through the transformation of the Centre for Political Research, founded in 1995 as the research core of the Faculty of Political Science of The University of Bucharest.

After 10 years from the institutionalization of research activity, the Institute remains one of few platforms of debate and analysis of the Romanian political environment from an academic perspective, through social and economic mediation. By intervening within the Institute of Political Research, BUCHAREST BIENNALE suggests and inserts new means of investigation, discussion and criticism of the socio-political context.

AGE: Looking back at the history  go Bucharest Biennale what would you highlight from its past?

BB6: Actually, these days will be the 15th anniversary of our organization. There are lots of things. But we believe the most important was our educational programs and of course all of the instruments, the journal, the Centre and the Biennial.  From the first ever printed issue of Pavilion magazine, in 2000 to the current edition of Bucharest Biennale, everything was important to us and our public, but the main responsibility that we had was education, and we try make to this aspect a primordial one in terms of developing more educational programs dedicated to our public.

AGE: How do you evaluate your role in the CEE region?

BB6: We are kind of unique in the CEE. And Bucharest Biennale is the only Biennial. Which of course means a lot and comes with a lot of responsibility.
Nowadays, the spare time of the contemporary individual becomes an increasingly important reality and the mass-media revolution completely alters the way of reception/perception and participation in the cultural area. As a result of the mass-media expansion (i.e. means of mass communication), interference and intercultural communication have become almost simultaneous.

The cultural act becomes an object of recreation, entertainment or personal development through leisure and this is an ubiquitous reality in contemporary society. It is claimed quite often that such a conception of culture would be expressed freely, as an abstract element, through unity-in-diversity, through universality-by-difference and this could not be truer. We try to think different directions for this projects. We want to highlight local issues with a global meaning.

AGE: How did you select the fairly young curator, Gergő Horváth (RO/HU) for BB6?

BB6: We think the age of a curator could be important, but we do not believe so. It’s not a crucial aspect, but could be an advantage. Let’s remember the BB4 curator was appointed when he was 20. And was a very meaningful biennial. Same for the BB6 curator. We considered a series of curators which could mean something different for Bucharest. After that we discussed this with our international board and we came up with a proposal. .

AGE: What is the aim of the curatorial program ” Apprehension. Understanding through Fear of Understanding” ?

BB6: That is a question for the curator, but we can quote him: “The exhibition will explore the double meaning of the word apprehension, the fear or anxiety that something bad might happen and in the sense of comprehension. The relation between the two needs a closer look. How fear is developed and maintained throughout our lives and how it can become a tool for learning and understanding. How it is administered and maintained socially, politically, how it affects the development of our ideology and how we can learn from it. The time is now to reassess and to raise some questions about certain aspects of everyday life that might have gone unnoticed.”

AGE : What parallel events do you organize?

BB6 : There will be lectures, debates, small exhibitions and several others organized in cooperation with our institutional partners. We are happy to say most institutions of the art scene in Romania are somehow involved. We will have lectures series in our educational program and also some exhibitions organized by some galleries around the BB theme, and also events/debates in the context of new realities in Bucharest and Romania. For the 6th BUCHAREST BIENNALE (2014), a set of programs has been designed to engage student audiences with the exhibition. The programs include workshops, guided tours, kids days and youth days, to facilitate community engagement with contemporary arts.

Eugen Rădescu is politologist (specialized in moral relativism and political ethics), cultural manager, curator and theoretician. He writes for various magazines and newspapers. He curated Bucharest Biennale 1 with the theme “Identity Factories”. He is co-editor of Pavilion magazine and co-director of Bucharest Biennale (with Răzvan Ion) and the chairman of the organizational board of Pavilion and Bucharest Biennale. He lectured at Art Academy – Timisoara, La Casa Encedida – Madrid, Calouste Gulbenkian – Lisbon, Apex Art – New York, etc. He recently return from a residency at Apex – New York and published the book “How Innocent is That?” at Revolver Publishing – Berlin. He is presently working on a new book on moral relativism. Lives and works in Bucharest.

Răzvan Ion
 is theoretician, curator, cultural manager and political activist. He is the co-editor of PAVILION – journal for politics and culture, co-director of the BUCHAREST BIENNALE – Bucharest International Biennial for Contemporary Art (with Eugen Rădescu), and in 2008 was appointed director of PAVILION – the center for contemporary art and culture in Bucharest. He was associate professor at University of California, Berkeley; Lisbon University; Central University of New York; University of London; Sofia University; University of Kiev; etc. He has held conferences and lectures at different art institutions like Witte de With, Rotterdam; Kunsthalle Vienna; Art in General, New York; rum46, Aarhus; Calouste Gulbenkian, Lisbon; la Casa Encedida, Madrid; New Langton, San Francisco; CCA, Tbilisi; Babes-Bolyai University, Cluj; University of Art, Cluj; etc. He writes for different publications. He is a professor at the University of Bucharest where he teaches Curatorial Studies and Critical Thinking.

Image: Eugen Rădescu and Răzvan Ion, directors of Bucharest Biennale. 

Photo by Laurențiu Stoica. Courtesy AGE

Read more about Bucharest Biennale