monastery, library and prison which was built in Bucharest between 1716 and 1722 by the king
Nicolae Mavrocordat was demolished by communists in 1985 as many other churches
and palaces, symbols of the past which were destroyed in those times. After the
fall of the communist regime in Romania there were talks about reconstructing
the monastery but nothing happened, not even marking in some way the former
place of Vacaresti, very few people seem to remember the trauma. It's like a whole
community of people don't have the ability to link with their own past.
Now, where the monastery once existed, there are socialist ruins, a cheap
market, a local community of people living in improvised housing, an empty
lake and big empty spaces. We went there and tried to draw, map, using wooden
sticks and wire, the shape of the church. None of us saw before the real
monastery and church.
In the filmed performance
'Vacaresti', Florin Tudor traces, with string and small wooden sticks,
the outline of the church from the Vacaresti Monastery in Bucharest, demolished
by the communist regime in 1986. Retracing the shape of the lost building
functions as symbolic recuperation and gains resonance in relation to
current plans to build a commercial mall on the same site, situating the
work between an unclear 'then' and a problematic 'now', pointing at loss
and at the entropy that architecture 'constructs' while it seeks to embody
power, be it political or economic.
Another fact - the intention of the Romanian Orthodox Church to build
a gigantic Cathedral of National Redemption -, completes the background
against which this performance should be understood, endowing what may
have seemed the working-out of mourning with a marked political poignancy.
The size of the projected Cathedral is to a lesser extent the outcome
of a local understanding of monumentality, but a perverse consequence
of the gigantic abuses of communist architecture in Romania. By contrast,
the artists' performance presupposes a different understanding of the
relevance of the church in contemporary Romania, suggesting that the effort
to regain credibility should start elsewhere than in populist projects
of mass redemption and derisory magnitude.
In spite of minimal means and understated tone, 'Vacaresti' generates
a ghostly counterpart, a doppelganger designed to harass or haunt the
National Cathedral, exposing it permanently to its own disproportion and
inadequacy. If the Cathedral aspires to become a monument, then the artists'
performance is its "nonument".
Text by Mihnea Mircan