- Text Anna Harsanyi
Internationally, many perspectives on eastern Europe and its art and culture emerge from considerations of the past: projects that deal with the legacy of socialism, the transition to capitalism, and the trauma brought on by oppressive dictatorial policies. However, an emerging generation of artists, architects and cultural workers are focussing on the present and the future, developing practices that give voice to the voiceless and build a more engaged civil society. Romania has been undergoing major changes since the collapse of the Communist regime in 1989. Adopting capitalism, building a democratic government, joining the European Union in 2008, and other major changes have resulted in both positive and negative social outcomes. Today, artists such as ColectivA, Maria Draghici, h.arta, David Schwartz, studioBASAR and Ioana Păun are engaging with these complexities in their work, subverting systems of control or criticising harmful government policies while drawing on modes of resistance to oppression in Romania's past. While racism, classism and sexism persist, as public spaces continue to be privatised and homelessness and unemployment remain major problems, art is being used to draw attention to such issues and enable public engagement about them
In Cluj's working-class neighbourhood Mănăștur, a large open field, once only partially used, has now become an active site for public engagement. In 2012 the organization ColectivA, together with a team of architects, anthropologists, designers and artists, collaborated with local residents to design and build on the space, transforming it to better serve the community. Mănăștur is a densely populated area with large apartment complexes that lack proper facilities like communal greenspaces, sufficient parking and reliable garbage disposal. Many of these issues can be related to the marginalised status of its working class and low-income population, or to its location far from the city centre. La Terenuri – Spaţiu Comun in Mănăștur (La Terenuri – Communal Space in Mănăștur) has evolved into a growing community arts initiative, converting the unused field into a communal site for gathering, holding diverse performances and events, and for community gardening.
Through methods of redefining, reclaiming and repurposing public spaces, studioBASAR, Draghici and ColectivA enact possibilities for civic action in places that are often overlooked. Their creative practices imagine new ways for people to participate in a cultural environment and take ownership over public spaces.