Mirela Baciak

Mirela Baciak (b. 1987 in Warsaw) is a curator, researcher, and occasional writer in the field of visual arts. She holds an MA in Critical Studies from the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna, and since 2019 curates at the steirischer herbst festival in Graz. Prior she worked at Public Art Munich (2018), was curator-in-residence at Ujazdowski Castle Centre for Contemporary Art in Warsaw (2018), Talks Fellow at Dhaka Art Summit (2018), and kültür gemma fellow at Kunsthalle Wien (2017). Independently, she curated Nature \ nature at Kunstraum Niederösterreich (2019), Tribute to a Passerby, Salwa Aleryani at Sort Vienna (2019), Surface Tension (2022) at Belvedere21, Blicke Kino, and co-curates the exhibition Suspension of Disbelief at Tank Shanghai (2023). Mirela lives in Vienna and Graz.

Art in Bucharest

Text by Mirela Baciak

During the ARAC residency I seized the opportunity to get to know the artistic scene of Bucharest. My research took a form of studio visits with artists of various generations, site-visits to museums (both historical and contemporary), and galleries. I was positively struck by the engagement of galleries in mediating the artistic life in the city. It seems to me that the galleries in Bucharest are overtaking the role of institutions in terms mediating between art and its publics, not only through the showcasing of art, but also through the organisation of discursive events. One example for that is a series Insomnia Nights organized by ARAC, bringing together local and international actors in a moderated exchange about art and its discourses.

In my conversations and visits, I was paying particular attention to how self-identity and otherness is represented as well as negotiated. This interest is embedded in my ongoing research on hospitality as a way of negotiating one one‘s ethical relation to strangers. In the context thereof, I was very impressed by the artistic practice by Aurora Kiraly, whose photographs from the series Reconnection (2015-2016) question the boundary between herself and the forest. Fantastic creature in front of me. Shall I turn my head or confront it? – reads one of her poetic captions overlaid with the photographs.

I would like to acknowledge the exhibition Parallel Lives a retrospection of Ion Grigorescu – central figure of the Romanian neo-avent-garde – that I had the pleasure to see at MNAC Bucharest (The National Museum of Contemporary Art of Romania). The exhibition encompassed works of Grigorescu from the different phases of his practice, showcasing his renowned photo- and video- performances for the camera, including Dialogue with President Ceausescu (1978) and its later re-enactment Postmortem Dialogue with Ceausescu (2007), in which the artist used an exaggerated mask, and performed an imagined conversation with the Romanian president-dictator, bringing back his ghost from the past to reflect the democracy of post-communist Romania.

I was also very impressed by the artists of the younger generation, especially the artist Megan Dominescu, whose hand-knitted rugs aesthetically resembling the meme culture, provide an apt commentary about life in the paranoic, post-capitalist, consumerist society, and its absurdities. As well as the multidisciplinary and feminist practice of Larisa Crunţeanu, whose projects escape quick categorization, and question the boundaries between art and life.

Insomnia Nights l Curator – talk with Linda Peitz