Irina Botea Bucan & Jon Dean

A Cultural Hearth & The Building Will Have a Future She Said

“In the cultural hearth there was disco, and there were films” remembers one of the residents of Slon, a mountain village in Prahova county. In Câmpina, a small town in the same county, the Youth Cultural House opened in 1982; it now hosts a variety of social and cultural activities, including free amateur theatre shows, sports clubs, art-based nursery schools, media offices, dance groups, educational classes and an English language library. Prior to 1989, in communist times, the House of Culture or Cultural Hearth was a key institution for state-led cultural activities. One could find such a center throughout Romania in cities, towns, and villages. In the past years, together with Jon Dean, Irina Botea Bucan has developed a performative archive of cultural houses in Romania in the medium of film. The notion of the communal is at the core of this long-term artistic research, both as a subject matter and as an artistic methodology. Their work addresses the past and the projected future of such places where culture was collectively produced and enjoyed. In the genre of cinéma vérité, the artists are capturing such spaces through interviews and staged moments of performances by their collaborators—be they workers, children, former directors or present employees of the cultural houses. Botea and Dean reconstruct the past, and construct the future histories of cultural houses through an act of collective remembrance and performance.

Irina Botea Bucan (b. 1970, Ploiești) has developed a symbiotic artist-educator-researcher methodological framework that consistently questions dominant socio-political ideas and centralizes human agency as a vehicle for meaning. Choosing to act in diverse contexts, she is currently focusing on the decentralization of cultural discourses and the possibility of sustaining a creative differentiation which arguably exists outside a dominant hegemonic system of values and critique. Performance, reenactment, simulated auditions, elements of direct cinema and cinéma vérité are combined in her artistic approach, developed through a relational process. Currently she is faculty at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago (since 2006) and pursuing a PhD at Goldsmiths University in London. Selected solo and group shows: 55th Venice Biennale; International Film Festival Rotterdam; New Museum, New York; MUSAC (Museum of Contemporary Art of Castilia and Leon); Centre Pompidou, Paris; National Gallery Jeu de Paume, Paris; Kunsthalle Winterthur; Reina Sofia National Museum, Madrid; Gwangju Biennale 2010; U-Turn Quadrennial for Contemporary Art, Copenhagen; 51st Venice Biennale; Prague Biennale; Kunstforum, Vienna; Foksal Gallery, Warsaw; Argos Center for Art and Media, Brussels; MNAC (National Museum of Contemporary Art), Bucharest; Museum of Contemporary Art, Szczecin; Center for Contemporary Art Ujazdowski Castle, Warsaw. Film festivals: Artefact Festival, Leuven; Rotterdam Film Festival; Impakt Panorama, Utrecht; Polis Adriatic Europe Festival.

Jon Dean (b. Wolverhampton) has been working in the overlapping fields of community/visual arts and applied social science for over thirty years; initiating and developing diverse cultural projects through embedding differentiated and negotiated participatory strategies designed to place participants at the very core of artistic expression, learning and cultural policy. Throughout his career, Jon has worked within a broad range of socio-cultural contexts, including: formal educational institutions, museums, art galleries and generic community locations. Recent screenings/exhibitions include: Loop Barcelona; Elvira Popescu Cinema, Bucharest; Young Artists Studio, Budapest; University of Johannesburg; Goldsmiths University, London; Tranzit.ro, Bucharest; Anca Poterașu Gallery, Bucharest; Centrala Gallery, Birmingham; Art on Display, Bucharest; Arcub, Bucharest; Black and White Biennale, Satu Mare; Columbia University, NY; Ferenc Bar, Budapest.