Three communities. Romanian, Hungarian, German.
Three theaters. Only one building. From its balcony Romanian Revolution started in December 1989.
Mixing private collections and the public archives of the three theaters, as well as the student theater groups’ and children theaters’ archives we will take a look at the everyday life of people in Timișoara under Communism (1960-1990), with theater at its center.
We will add an investigation of the relationship between the artists and the Securitate, using archival materials from the Securitate archives. Then we will make the connections with the past 30 years under Capitalism (1990-2020) and present our discoveries in performative exhibitions around the city.
Theater as resistance in both systems.
Objects from a performative exhibition
We selected ten objects which are now history, all connected one to another. For many generations under the communist regime they were desired, used, exchanged, and trafficked, often valued more than their usual prices. To own them meant to be invested with power in various degrees but also, in some cases, to be put in danger. Their possession singled one out of the masses and for this it came with a risk. We included these objects in two separate categories: weapons of cultural resistance and weapons of physical resistance. All in one they are part of what we can call Survival Kit for Communism.
All the objects were used in a performative exhibition presented live in a moving tramway, in December 2019, 30 years after the Romanian Revolution.
Resistance through innocence – animating the heritage
The pop-up exhibition titled „How to get rid of adulthood for 10 minutes assisted by a puppet” was the second public event under the umbrella of the Theater as Resistance project, supported by Timisoara 2021 as part of the Heritage Contact Zone project, co-funded by the Creative Europe programme of the European Union. Organized around the idea that before 1989 all theaters in Romania – puppetry included – had moments of subversive anti-totalitarian impact on children and their parents, the exhibition curated by Cristina Modreanu and Ovidiu Mihăiță, had the form of a performance based on a script by Ovidiu Mihăiță.
What happened? Small groups of 5 people were invited to enter the space of the exhibition and were greated by two puppets dressed like guards who debated if they are allowed inside or not. Then, the visitors met their guide, a small puppet who recomended itself as Croitorasul (the little tailor) and its handler, Maria „Cutza” Gornic, a veteran pupeteer who have been working for over 5 decades for the children theater in Timisoara. The puppet guided them through an interactive exhibition connecting the dots between a totalitarian past, a violent political present and the role of theater as an interface between a troubled global society and what is left of the childhood’s innocence and can still be found in contemporary adults. Using old weapon toys the visitors of the pop-up exhibition were asked to „shoot” the printed portraits of the worlds’ most criminal dictators, Romanian Nicolae Ceausescu included, and then were freed through a secret door after informed that „crimes taking place in theater are not punishable”. The total duration of one tour was up to 15 minutes.
In conceiveing the exhibition we wanted to include a performer who is in herself a live archive, as she has acted in all the important productions of the puppet theater in Timisoara, both before and after 1989 – a key year for our research. Also, the puppet guiding the visitors has been the protagonist of a production titled The courageous little tailor, produced before 1989 by the Timisoara Puppet Theater and it was „recycled” after 1989 for a production of Auăleu independent company, The Paricid, based on a text written by Ion Sava and directed by Ovidiu Mihăiță. This is the third production in which the puppet „acts”.
In the process of preparing the exhibition we interviewed a series of relevant persons, including Maria „Cutza” Gornic, and we did research in the archive of (now called) Merlin Puppet Theater, searching for those productions with a subversive potential, like The last unicorn, an adaptation of the novel with the same title by Peter Beagle made in 1979 by Andrei Ujică (today a well-known film maker), with music of a famous Romanian singer, Mircea Baniciu. We focused the texts published in the Theater as Resistance Fanzine around this production and around the idea of Resistance through innocence, expressed by Maria „Cutza” Gornic in the interview we video-recorded. The fanzine includes texts by Andrei Ujică, Șerban Foarță, Alina Nelega, Marcel Tolcea, Cristina Modreanu, Ovidiu Mihăiță, drawings by Lucian Popovici, and it was launched together with the exhibition and each visitor received a free copy.
The pop-up exhibition lasted for three days, 21st, 22nd, 23rd of June 2019, every night we had 6 groups entering the space and being guided by the puppet into a world of total freedom and playhood, only to exit it more responsible.
Recycling our heritage for a better contemporary world.