Saturday, September 18, 2010

During the first part of a project organized by [KSA:K] in Chisinau, we attended a seminar in the Moldova State University. Everybody was scheduled for a portfolio presentation, the usual self-selling exercise, part of the larger battle for supremacy in the attention economy.

The Bureau decided to leave the university aula and make the presentation in the public space, which brought about a conflict. The disagreement was finally appeased by means of democratic vote, proposed on spot by Stefan Tiron. Finally everybody agreed to go out.

The chosen location was the lawn in front of the bronze statue Ion and Doina. Requiem to Love, right next to the university. The two proto-Romanian names and the traditional posture of the heterosexual couple hinted at the prototype of the nuclear family. At a first glance the statue seemed to be the impersonation of abstract (however patriotism instilled) love. After a few inquiries in the area we found out that it actually represented a couple of Moldavian pop stars of the 90’s: Ion and Doina Aldea Teodorovici. They died in a car accident in 1992 but their songs remained emblematic for the extreme right wing Noua Dreapta, since they were praising nationalism, conservative values and the unification of Moldova with Romania. One of their famous songs was dedicated to the Romanian national poet, Mihai Eminescu, also a key-figure for the Noua Dreapta and the new revived conservatism after 89 in both countries.

In the manner of school open-air trips arousing patriotic feelings, the Bureau made a presentation about love, reminder of propagandistic sun-burned talks.

We reiterated the couple figure by showing two additional objects on the statue’s plinth. One was a plastic statue of Pocahontas and her lover and the other one was a wedding photo, both found on the shelf of our rented apartment in Chisinau, left behind by the owners for the time of our stay there. They had originally displayed them together as well, maybe because of the striking resemblance of the couple’s posture: the woman, smaller, was comfortably leaning on the man’s strong chest.

We traced some parallel between three systems of representation and instrumentalization of love, using the hook in Ovidiu Tichindeleanu’s presentation that morning about alternative economies, among which he named and discussed the wedding system.

The nuclear family propaganda together with the traditional distribution of the gender roles was reflected by the three objects, in the order of their size: a public monument, a private photograph and a tiny pop culture plastic figurine. The bronze- paper-plastic trilogy perfectly served our aim of explaining the melodramatic mode by means of spontaneous reaction to the surrounding context and use of the existing material proofs around.

The monument is representative of Romanian nationalist discourse, augmented by a melodramatic recourse to folklore and romantic feelings towards nature (the embraced couple, on top of a steep cliff). It is also part of the traditional figurative aesthetics, glorifying and monumentalizing, in the same way the neoconservative discourse is pervaded by ostentatious metaphors, emotional epithets and striking parables.

The wedding photo as the fetish object of self-representation visually fulfils the legal requirements of a “serious” married couple. This legitimization of love by juridical means is also a promise of enhanced financial security as well as the motor of a sentimental black market around the wedding event. The latter is part of a gift economy which functions by its own unwritten rules, determined by social status, friendship, degree of kinship etc. The official state and church doctrine is thus satisfied, so the wedding photo can be framed and displayed as a further incentive to reproduce and stay faithful to heterosexual love.

The plastic statue of Pocahontas and her lover brings a further layer to the alleged innocent issue of love, re-enacting the relation of power in a new setting of (neo)colonial thinking. The bipolar structure of gender roles is reproduced in the geography of cardinal direction, with psychological traits attached to it: East= Woman, West=Man and on the same ideological axis East=Feel, West=Think. These cultural constructs enforced by the academic discourse as well as the mass-media, especially beginning with the 19th century, were sharply criticized by Edward Said in his 1978 Orientalism. The feminizing of the East, as well as its infantilization were also re-enacted with respect to the East of Europe, especially after 89, which was the subject of some other BMR analyses.