Judit and Mihai Balko advanced their first significant artistic suggestions for the public space in several graphical photo montages and scale models, exhibited at Bucharest Orizont Gallery in 2006 as part of the group exhibition Insertion. In 2010, they created the Volum Art association, and in the spring of 2011 they launched the program Expanded Space, which started with the project Migration and Relocation.
Sculptors by training, employing a wide set of means of expression, the two young artists are concerned with the active role of imaginative art designed to be located in the public space. They want to proceed in this direction, not only in their capacity of individual creators, but also as pioneers and organizers of artistic events with the participation of many authors. The strategy Mihai Balko builds, as he described it in a dialogue we had a few months before, sets itself apart from that of an auteur of monumental sculpture projects, in the accepted meaning of this term.
Balko is not dreaming about statuary assemblies which should “render unto eternity” the remembrance of a fact or a personality, he simply wants to conceive and apply projects which, for a definite and not too long a period of time, should not only esthetically and culturally capture the attention granted a place in town, but also generate a public perception questioning and deliberating on the relation and the rapport between the space and shapes proposed by the artist and the ideas included therein.
The world (in this case the urban universe as well) seems to move and change faster and faster: so, it would be in consensus with such an evolution if the same urban perimeter could be marked for some months by a certain artistic project, whose place might subsequently be taken by other one/s, and each and every one of them spiritually customizing that space in its own way, to induce one kind of affective vector… Of course, if viewed in such a way, the urban areas richer in potential are those not defined by a specific historical background, by a compact, strongly personalized architecture: in other words, the “breathable” spaces, something more neutral or with a more generous presence of nature – even if structured by landscape architecture. However, the “conditions” above are not mandatory, and ignoring/contradicting them (partially) can sometimes also be an incentive.
Kiseleff Park in Bucharest was an inspired option for the location chosen by Judit (project director) and Mihai Balko for the suggestions that were to win the contest “Migration and Relocation”. The Museum of the Romanian Peasant, near the perimeter where the work was placed, is one of the most representative institutional and cultural landmarks, which can engage in an interesting dialogue with the non-conventional public space displays of contemporary art. Such an example is the topic of discussion in this paper, and was on display between 8 September and 31 October 2011.
These sets built with sculpture or object “cores”, with graphic and pictorial elements, or as a result of mixing technical elements, attain their true purpose, as one can see on-site. People wondering through the park are visually captivated by the volumes and surfaces of these art works; they stop and linger in front of the small explanatory panels on which the concept-text of each author is written, and they even comment on it… The children have even more direct reactions, which we can call “encounters of the third degree”, as they really understand the playful arrangement of the forms in space. The interaction with the public has been encouraged and materialized by the organizers in other ways too: art workshops for children and public presentation of the projects and of the activities of the authors.
The theme suggested by the Volum Art Association was quite exciting for today’s world and its issues. Individual and group identities can be defined in our times as a function of the mobility of people, by experience of time through an undefined timeframe in another civilization, and a cultural space other than the original one. The artists whose creations came to life in the Kiseleff Park referred differently to this semantic field, from their direct experience to the social phenomenon known indirectly through personal observation, or through the exercise of the imagination.
Chrisitian Paraschiv exiled himself in France as early as 1986, but has been putting his creations on display in Romania since 1995. The investigation of his own body through semantic and technical stratification is the central element of his work – integral or fragmentary images are offered in the project we are talking about now, and the rapport between the being and the matter or spirit are made clear through the modular style of his artwork.
Christian Paraschiv- The skin and the body/ Nomos
Marius Leonte – Human being
Otilia Boeru – Surrogate habitat
Otilia Boeru draws attention to the environment (the tree), which she integrates into her project, through a “surrogate habitat” – the bird houses that she puts on the site, creating through them a “shadow” of the tree. The meetings between the organic and geometric shapes which Marius Leonte envisages create a dynamic of contrasting terms: “interior/exterior/aggressive /soft/sensible/harsh by means of some volumes which are synthetic and primitive at the same time. These fill up the entire space in an overpowering fashion, and simultaneously suggest a moving spiral through the rhythmic event in the grass covered soil. The Diary presented by Alina Cioran under the guise of a Moebius strip leads us to the idea that the paths of migration lead in the end to their beginning point and primary values, the memory of “home”, and that the passage of step by step experiences have an overwhelming value. Mima Sorocean invites us to look through a transparent house, endowed with the minimum comfort able to provide for a good rest, but also for the intellectual delight of inquiry, a launch pad towards the space of imagination and material/spiritual habitation; the transparence also warns us about the illusory safety of our private space. Judit Balko questions the responsibility of changing identity under the burden of a guilt that cannot be wiped away easily, through a sculpture installation (an ample still life scattered in the grass) with symbolical and poetic valences both from a formal and a chromatic perspective. Mihai Balko analyzes a socio-urban and rural phenomenon, which is both complex and bitter, the phenomenon of forced industrialization that occurred under the communist regime in Romania’s past, and the decomposition which occurred after 1989. The “grey nomads” represent the perversion of architecture into a purely functional style, and the rift between one medium into another in both directions of a population rooted out and insufficiently readapted.
The first step of the program called “Expanded Space”, initiated by Judit and Mihai Balko, seems to be more than promising. It was quite well developed in its sensible details and stages through the remarkable answers that the authors provided through their artwork. I myself, the writer of these words, am an advocate of such initiatives, which propose in Romania a form of art destined for open, free public spaces, in resonance with the times in which we live, an art that can cause a break with the inertia of traditional monumental architecture – the latter fulfilling its historical role for the period that followed the Revolution of December 1989, more than two decades later.
Mima Sorocean – Untitled
Mihai Balko –Grey nomads
Adina Cioran – The diary
Judit Balko – Cleasing