April 26, 2016
To be or to have
The spring marathon for gallery openings, premieres and book launches has started. We’re looking at a true embarras du choix that we each handle according to various criteria and options. But one thing is certain, Bucharest – and I am convinced that this also goes for other cultural centers in the country – is abundant with announcements about events that deserve our attention.
How do we choose?
The answer comes in the form of two other questions: to be or to have? To have a spot on the big festival map in order to broadcast already prepared formulas, to be found on the map of foolishly purchased licenses with a lot of money and transplanted, with no chance to actually catch on, in our institutions, to have the proper conduct just like everyone else and to have friends in the right places – these are a few milestones.
Or to be. To be upsetting, to be disruptive, to be Cassandra when nobody wants to be involved, to be provocative, to be forced to declare your option. Why should I be the actor to take on the complicated and non-mainstream role?! The one who won’t make anyone laugh, the one who doesn’t sell any tickets. Why should I be the choreographer that has to turn the spotlight on a dilemma, a question without answers? And the spectator leaves at the end of the show, sadder than he was when he came in, convinced he wound up in the wrong place, unsure, asking himself: Did I understand what that show was meant to say?
Why should I be the visual artist that chooses the untrodden, narrow, dark path that seems without escape? Why? Just because in the end there would be an audience that no other organization or artist could convince about the honesty and professionalism of their own cultural initiatives? A long awaited award that comes packed full with a whole series of complications and obstacles: you will be all by yourself. You will be envied, although there is no reason for that, on the contrary, one could say, and the cultural scene offers room for many more events than there are produced today.
Others will blame you: you experiment just for the thrill, you put forward a new discourse only due to your desire and gift (or curse, depends on how you look at it) for arguing and questioning any concepts or styles you come across.
When it comes to how you feel, you’ll be restless, you will blame yourself when thinking that you could have been part of the main trend, but no, no, three time no, you are different, unique, special so you rise against the current and you are convinced that you can make it, right? Of course, the storm will stop and it will avoid you only because you decided to be and not to have.
What kind of disconcerted compass gives you the insane assurance that you chose wisely? Where in the world and what kind of artisan made the mechanism, the needle and the top and sealed your fate by selling you a compass that does not point to the North, but to that side of the world where you will find the thing you most desire? Some might call the artisan divinity, others might call him destiny. I call him free will.
Sure, I won’t be happy with the choices I made, but if I were to choose the symmetrical path, I wouldn’t get too far either, as the wonderful Marina Sorescu intuited: “[…] I crawled and I crawled, /And suddenly before me / Two wide roads opened. / “I’ll show you!” – I said to myself – / So I took the left road, / In bad blood. / Wrong, very wrong, the right one was / The real, true, wide road, or so they say.[…]” (Simetrie, Marin Sorescu).
But who is perfectly content? I’d like to meet them and know their secret, the recipe to my peace of mind. In exchange I’d offer up complicated criteria, ethical choices, intellectual judgement, tiresome reasoning, the flock of thoughts that produce migraines and way too little satisfaction.
I suppose the essential mistake has something to do with effort: to not being forced to fret, or to make a scene, or to go against the mainstream. But to let the current take you wherever it goes, while you float and watch the sky and clouds. Just like in a Grigorescu painting with an oxcart, you are the driver who very slowly steers the cart on your way home. This seems to be the speed with which our culture is headed to another destination: like a small shepherd leaning on his rod, on the side of the road, covered in dust and insect bites, used to it all and convinced that this is where he belongs, and nowhere else.
Fully convinced that the trodden path won’t present any obstacles, because they were all torn down by those before him, he won’t be the cause for any indignation for risky artistic and administrative choices, he won’t scandalize and, most importantly, won’t disturb anyone’s sleep. Good night!
Andreea Grecu is a cultural manager and lecturer. Between 1999-2004, then from 2009 onward, she is active on the NGO scene, as member of cultural associations and professional unions in domanis such a...