May 25, 2016
By Marina Albu
The Red District
Stop on a red light. Red is not easily wearable. And it is strange that it is so. Red is blood and blood is forbidden, red means on your mark and red is the card for “You were wrong”, red is pretty woman and red is hell, red is the red carpet and the nose of a clown. Red is a controversial colour and so are some of the themes addressed by artists everywhere. There are people, places, events, actions which step out of line, which are then divided in all kind of sides, in thousands of opinions and thousands of feelings, which arouse reactions ranging from empathy, sympathy, tolerance or aggressive revulsion. It depends on how we place them, on what the religion which shaped us or not is, or the imagined intentions behind what is put forward in front of us. As always facts are not sufficient. We add layers and enclose what is around us in our own mind frames.
I did not own red clothes until college, when I’d bought an undersized sport jacket from MiniPrix. It was glowing. It was beaming red. I had worn it for some time, mainly on dance evenings. Then I renounced the clothes which seemed to me, too juvenile or too eccentric. Now I do not have opinions anymore, I would not know what to keep nor what to give up. Maybe I do it more easily for others. One needs courage or nerve for red. Power or passion. In the club that I’ve entered for a visit , the striptease club LuckyLove, opposite the Conservatory, the carpets were mostly red. I am wondering why red is linked to sex, passion or love. Sex is fire and fire is red. That is, when it is not blue or yellow. Sex is not made at LuckyLove only the body is sexualized, the body of a a woman who attracts, a woman as symbol for fertility, the woman showing her curves through movement, waving, dance. On Calea Grivitei, which I have oftentimes wandered on when I was living at Gara de Nord, one in five prostitutes was wearing red. Ordinary people on the streets normally wear shoes, or glassframes, red scarves at a 1/10 ratio. . A red dress or a red blouse at one out of thirty people. After my red-light thoughts, somebody asks me if I would like to dance on a video-multimedia installation about striptease. Irina Abaza from MORA art center and gallery.
Should I or shouldn’t I do it? After all, about what could I talk about and how could I communicate through my own body? Should we install a microphone? But what do I know about nudity or how I feel about my body? Could it feel like myself without clothes? Or that is who I really am actually? Have I got the courage to explore my femininity? After three years of struggle and body neglect, am I still able to be a woman? If I am naked in public, is it an aggressive gesture? Why would it be? It is unexpected, and, like everything unexpected it could hold a harming potential. Should I tease, arouse people? Or should I present the act of undressing without it being a tease? Look but don’t touch is sadistic for some and enough for others: I am pleased only with this or is is just the beginning? The beautiful organizer from LuckyLove says people come to striptease to alleviate themselves, to forget about stress and worries, and on top of that, a harmonious state is generated, one that girls from the nightclub wish to transform into love, into people.
I haven’t decided yet for an answer. But, with or without me, Irina Abaza’s installation”Behind Those Doors” will exist as part of BB7, the art biennial which will start soon, on the 26th of May, as a parallel event at MORA art center, at 30, Queen Elisabeth boulevard. Thus, after so many commas, there are other, the mental commas which come together with questions from Irina’s thoughts: what is moral, immoral or amoral? What is beautiful and what is hideous? How much of us is animal and what does being a human mean? How much are you free are you and how much are you honest? Irina says that questions deconstruct and reconstruct us humans from the inside. That we are awaiting revelations. That we need them. That we need to knock on the closed doors of our minds. That prejudice, fear and ignorance can go hand in hand and can hold together tightly, until we try and permeate them with our hearts and minds wide open. I believe Irina drives us towards what to love, also towards what we refuse to see: to love the different other, not think of ourselves as all knowledgeable and in the end to offer a chance where it is oftentimes denied. Irina also teaches us not to throw rocks, as we are not perfect ourselves and we do not even know what perfection really means. The opening of the installation will be on the 3rd of June at MORA.
Well, before the invitation and my mind-present red, memories, things to do and yet to answer questions flew throw me as a swallow through nebulae of ideas. Virginia. Mădă-Virginia, a smiling, beautiful face and extremely courageous. The gradient from her exhibition at Suprainfinit gallery – a newly open art gallery on Popa Nan 82, fixed itself, imprinted, on my retina. In there used to be Sinatex factory. Or where it was most probably. Gradient and degradation, is it so that kitsch is so degrading after all? Could it be that glitter and gold, the strong colours that stand out the most, are hallmarks for something negative, vapid and unrefined? Some would say thus. I used to believe this way until a couple of years ago, when I asked myself, strangely frank and still astonished that I stopped doing it: but why? Why is it necessarily bad to desire to be seen? We are all seeking for attention one way or the other, let’s face it! By combining shapes and colours, through jewelry or using special words with interesting sonorities, through our CVs or parts of the world we’ve reached by traveling, through objects or connections. We strive to make ourselves noticed, somehow, through something, from ourselves or outside ourselves. We are not so different even if our shape seems to dictate so. Hitting the path created by Virginia, I have encountered different states for which I came up with a list of words: curiosity, fondness, life, sadness, suffering, passion, lust, oblivion, needs, differences, love.
Mădă-Virginia lived for a whole summer under the same roof with transsexuals and transvestites and she pretty much loved it. It was like a life lesson for her, even if she cannot put her finger on something which might have defined the outcome. What she does know for sure is she got out of there changed. She lived through all the fun, drama, diseases, doubts and serenity. They are people just like you or me. Everyone is different, each one with his/her problems or style, desires or creeds. Some do not grasp that a person walking on the street might be one of them. They look like any other average woman would. Some want to stand out just like it happens with the rest of us, those without modified sexual or body features. Many of them prostitute themselves for money, they need hormones and save for medical interventions, use more cosmetics than a normal person would,- or maybe just as much as a well spruced woman busy with retouching cosmetics. It makes me think of some sort of redecoration. I am recreating my body and my looks the same way I would change a house facade or its furniture and interior design. They regard prostitution as a whatsoever job, as a sport, as an employment just like anybody would use their body strength to carry on packages or use their mind strength to create algorithms. The sexual act, included in the working hours, does not count as lovemaking. When they do it, they do it due to real attraction to somebody and not due to somebody paying for it. They have hobbies and they exercise their femininity, they chant and they dance, they read and they gossip. People like all people.
There wasn’t any circus out there at the exhibition. Some have anticipated that, Virginia says, they expected it to be shocking, oversexualized and chaotic. When I’d entered the door and and I’ve bumped into so much white space and photographs, meticulously and geometrically arranged, I eventually reached an installation which made you think of an artefact (the curatorial concept was conceived hand-in-hand with the curator of the exhibition, Adriana Trancă). I have realized Virginia documents our lives, peoples’ lives. She wanders through cities’ and other cities’ neighborhoods and sees, lives, interacts. What she enjoys most is photographing people. Around them something happen, an exchange, unlike the photographing of landscape and objects. The act of photographing, in this case, is a both-ends modulating experience in front of and behind the lens.
And, perhaps also in front of the picture, for us. And after you spent a while with the one in front of the glass object, it stops being a subject of observation and becomes a human to you. Mădă befriended the fellows she had photographed, normal, they meet for a coffee, a beer. She is a loving being, Mădă, she did not feel upset when a child accidentally broke her musical carousel, when I went to ask her about the exhibition. As we all should be.Boys undress more rarely in public, they are objectified less, their lines are examined from a distance, but there are still some on the artistic scene or others. A friend of mine did that for a play once, but, as he told me, he’d hurried to hide his manhood quickly after unveiling it. He wanted it to be more like a flash, not a closely observed detail. He wanted it to remain a mystery. He has also told me that, a couple of years ago, when a girlfriend confessed to him that she used to be a stripper, the first thought that crossed his mind was: ”She is a whore”. Then he madly fell in love with her.
What was weird was that, when I entered the stripclub – it was dawn, but not very late – instead of feeling weird, as I had expected, I felt nothing. It was a nice, tidy place, and but for the labyrinthine outlook outside the salons, many doors and some massage rooms, the VIP ones, and others for private lap-dance, it seemed like an ordinary place. Inside the central room there were a small bar, a big semicircular couch sofa surrounding the stage for the onlookers but nothing to be afraid of, nothing scandalous. I have talked to Irina Abaza and the manager, Mădălina, no not Mădă the one with the exhibition, someone totally different – about dance and teasing, about femininity and belly-dancing, about ordinary people that can dance onstage and how and when and in which hypostasis? Are we allowed to dance. We’ve talked about children and relationships, acting and expressing the body, all over a bottle of sparkling water. It was nice. I did not find out what red means nor if I can be madly passionate or not, nor if it is good or wrong to undress, strip and when but we have also exchanged smiles and beautiful words. I got to know two beautiful, well-intended people. I do not even deter into further analysis.
I cannot figure out yet if what I have just told you here could be called an article or rather a journal entry, but I do hope it will eventually serve someone. Virginia Lupu’s exhibition ends if not already ended on the 20th of May. At the moment, as I am writing these words, it is the 18th but we still need to do some formatting and the English translation etc. As I looked around it hot me thinking…. And this way I am sharing these thoughts with you.
English translation by Georgiana Cojocaru.