The Art Encounters Biennial 2019, taking place in Timișoara, Romania, lies at the intersection of a contemporary art biennale and an experimental art festival. The event engages in meaningful dialogue with the historical and socio-cultural contexts of the city of Timișoara, and is aimed at creating a meeting point for artists, communities, institutions, and ideas from Romania and abroad.
The event is being organised in collaboration with local institutions and partners and brings together more than 60 artists from across the world. The Biennial is also aimed at generating new perspectives around the city of Timișoara, pertaining to both its history and the issues surrounding it in contemporaneity times.
Here, STIR gets in conversation with Maria Lind and Anca Rujoiu, the curators of the Art Encounters Biennial 2019. While Lind is a curator, writer, and educator based in Stockholm and Berlin, Rujoiu is a curator and editor based in Singapore and Romania.
Sukanya Garg (SG): What was the process of selection of the artists?
Maria Lind and Anca Rujoiu (ML and AR): Starting by inviting around 20 artists whose practice we found very strong and urgent to make new work, certain patterns appeared – the winds – which guided the selection of around 40 existing art works by other artists. The existing works emphasise, complicate and problematise the winds.
SG: What kind of social debates does the Biennial target through the selection of artworks?
ML and AR: Art Encounters Biennial 2019 centres on the idea of contemporary art as a form of knowledge and understanding, on par with philosophy, science and politics, which engages with the complexity of life today. Both old and new works are spread out in Timisoara, the Banat region, and online, as clusters and as individual presentations. Two locations house clusters of work where one wind is clearly felt: borders and translation at the Bastion, and the edges of visibility and invisibility at the Art Encounters Foundation gallery.
At the Corneliu Miklosi Public Transport Museum, there are different gusts of winds rather than one single wind: handicraft and manual labour are present, as well as an interest in resilience and environmental conditions. Ideals of growth are questioned and personal histories are shared. Natural and political borders are sought out and transgressed, on both small and grand scales. At the Youth House, artworks are inserted in this dynamic cultural centre, but also make subtle references to the history of this site where once culture and politics intertwined.
SG: What are some of the geographical, political, cultural, and artistic contexts and themes of the artists participating in the Biennial?
ML and AR: There are new works, which engage with the history of Timisoara and current concerns of the city in a broad context. Such are Ahmet Ögüt and Peles Empire’s commissions for the edition to draw attention to the invisible history of the 164-years of Ottoman administration in the city. The newly-formed group Zephyr, comprising the artist Apolonija Sustersic and Timisoara-based Livia Coloji, Ana Kun, and Victor Dragos, focuses on the issues of air pollution in the city. Iulia Toma worked with a group of refugees from Bucharest whose stories are depicted in skilful embroidery drawings.
A group of existing works engage with the wind of borders, whether in the sea, on the land or in dividing walls like the work by Lawrence Abu Hamdan; family disputes around Russia’s annexation of Crimea can be seen in the work of Tanja Muraskvaja; Palestinian refugee camps and the villages, which the refugees were forced to leave, has been documented by Decolonising Architecture. Professor Balthazar, a work by Behzad Khosravi Noori, spans across geographies through the focus on a children’s TV programme, produced in former Yugoslavia and broadcasted in various countries, crossing borders from Stockholm to Timisoara.
A mural work by Dan Acostioaei at the North Railway station focuses on different patterns of migration: from the daily movements of commuters, to labour migration to the West before and after 1989, and the recent wave of Syrian refugees seeking asylum in Europe.
The third edition of Art Encounters Biennial in Timișoara, Romania, began September 20 and is on till October 27, 2019.