“I am extremely critical of the Romanian art education system. Since a corrupt government placed the National Museum of Contemporary Art in the Palace of Parliament (the former Palace of the Dictator), I boycott this institution, by not participating, not visiting, by denying any relation with it whatsoever, in order to show the entire local art scene that you can make it on your own terms”.
Cristina Olteanu: What influences your work? In what ways was the choice of your art medium and format influenced by the political and social changes that occurred in Romania after the Revolution?
Dan Perjovschi: I was influenced by the momentous political changes of 1989, by the unprecedented opportunity to travel and access the international art scene, as well as by the context I was living in, one of poverty, lack of institutions, and scarce know how. When freedom came, visual art was not ready for it: in the early years after the Revolution everything in the galleries was extremely boring and conventional. The only interesting (read: lively) field was printed media. For the first time in fifty years, journalists could finally print what they really thought. It was extraordinary. I chose to work for a sixteen-page social-political and cultural Romanian weekly magazine, Revista 22, the and my way of thinking and my drawings have been influenced by this daily activity. It took me ten years to merge art and journalism and break the barriers between the printed page and the museum walls.
C.O : You have experienced life as an artist before and after the Revolution. How would you describe the evolution of the Romanian contemporary art scene over the past twenty-five years?
D.P : After the Revolution, Romania’s uniform, totally controlled, and compact art scene morphed into a multi-layered, contradictory, and diverse environment. There was lack of funding, too few art institutions, and nineteenth-century-style museums, offering no direct support or recognition to artists and exceedingly drawn towards the (emerging) market (money, fame). Yet everything was thriving as it had never before. There was a leap from Dictatorship to Democracy and from Ideological Censorship to Market Censorship. Romanian art was wounded and traumatised, but it survived.
C.O: Would you say that your witty and ironic approach derives from a Romanian way of being?
D.P: Well, maybe. But Romanian humour was always literary and never visual. I think I get more, without knowing, from artists I have never met (Saul Steinberg) or from cultures I have never experienced (Jewish). Painted façades of fifteenth-century churches could also be another source I draw from, provided we consider those narratives as a form of comic strips….
C.O: How do you relate to Bucharest in your art? Do you feel that you belong to the Bucharest art scene, or in fact to any scene at all?
D.P.: I belong to the Bucharest, to the Romanian, to the European and to the world art scene, and not necessarily in this order. I do many shows and participate in many lectures and projects in my country. I help young artists, as I once was, to face their own barriers and overcome the lack of support. As an activist, I support visual art as a discipline and defend the artist’s rights, and I am extremely critical of the Romanian art education system. Since a corrupt government placed the National Museum of Contemporary Art in the Palace of Parliament (the former Palace of the Dictator), I boycott this institution, by not participating, not visiting, by denying any relation with it whatsoever, in order to show the entire local art scene that you can make it on your own terms.
C.O: Could you name three places in Romania you would recommend to someone interested in contemporary art?
D.P.: Cities: Bucharest, Cluj, Iași Institutions: the Tranzit Centres in Bucharest, Cluj, and Iași, the Magma Art Center in Sfântu Ghoerghe, and the B5 Studio and the K’arte Gallery in Târgu Mureș.