How Socialism Was Built

In December 1989, the 25-year-long communist dictatorship of Nicolae Ceaușescu was overthrown by a popular movement which started in my hometown, Timisoara. Even today, this historical event leaves a lasting impression on those who witnessed this first revolution broadcasted live. Here is the memory it left in me, its emergence in a unique context. On the very evening of the breakout of the revolution, December 16, I was posing naked in the living room of an apartment building in Timisoara, Romania. (As people recall this moment, they tell me about the event they witnessed.)

At that time, the practical preparation in drawing for admission to the art academy of art had to meet certain standards: beyond the history of socialism or political science, other forms of visual propaganda were thoroughly studied in all art high schools. However, in my high school, we were largely exempt from these composition duties on the theme of socialism (painting or drawing scenes of workers in the field, etc.). So, in order to meet the expectations for admission to the Fine Arts Academy, I practiced by using myself as a photographic model, drawing myself according to the themes demanded by the party – particularly the working class that had to be highlighted alongside engineers, builders, and so on. It was necessary to “do the communist thing.” Sitting posture, counter posture, man with a hoe posture, man with a bucket posture, and various other possible tools specific to the construction of socialism, or at least its image.

This project and exercise were done as a family, as my parents were both artists and teachers, and my nudity was not an obstacle. My father took the photos with a tripod while my mother adjusted the halogen light according to the pose. At 7 p.m., at that precise moment when I was practicing reproducing the themes of totalitarian propaganda, someone rang the doorbell. I hurried to open it, only showing my head. My neighbor came to inform me that the revolution had begun. “Do you have spare pants and a shirt?” he asked.The next day, around 5 p.m., 59 people were killed and several hundred were injured.

This series offers multiple entry points into the artistic concerns that permeate my work.

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