subREAL Retrospect


Raluca Velisar, raluca@mnac.ro

from October 2013 - October 2014

Raluca Velisar

MNAC / National Museum of Contemporary Art, Bucharest

The exhibition organized together with the artists who formed subREAL (Călin Dan, Iosif Király and Dan Mihălţianu) assembles for the first time conceptual works that cover the whole artistic journey of the group, from its foundation in the summer of 1990 to the present. Established by Călin Dan (art historian) and Dan Mihălțianu (artist), shortly joined by Iosif Király (architect and photographer), ”the group of action” appeared as a consequence of the political changes in 1989 in Romania, to “exorcise the residue of the decades of communist oppression.” Combining installation with the formal elements of performance and actionism, the works produced between 1990-1992 make a visual inventory of the remnants of the officially closed communist period, revealing a complex common background that was manifest at that time (and long afterwards) in the artistic world, in the political one and in society in general.


Triggered by a reaction to the clichés of the western press when referring to the Romania of the 90s as well as to the autochthonous nationalistic discourse, the Draculaland series (1993-1995) combined fiction with reality by using multi-cultural and personal sources in complex installations that abounded in ironic references and cynical associations. “Although the hybridisation between Vlad the Impaler/Dracula and Mona Lisa was a spontaneous gesture, it instinctively sought to simplify our relation to a culture that had problems in its (Central/East/Balkan European) ‘regional’ integration in ways other than exotic.” In 1993 Dan Mihălţianu left the group opting for an individual artistic career. 

 Their one-year residency at Künstlerhaus Bethanien, Berlin (1995-1996) marked the beginning of a new stage for the subREAL duo, the distance from Romanian everyday life allowing them to initiate the Art History Archive series. 18 crates with photographic material abandoned by UAP (the Fine Art Union) after the disbandment of the Arta magazine – which had controlled the public image of local art between 1953 and 1990 – made their way to Berlin, where they were initially turned into dynamic sculpture by covering the walls and ceiling of the space of their dwelling with b/w reproductions of various dimensions.


The Serving Art series (1997-1999) was next, in which a number of negatives of reproduction photos were deconstructed in installations that recovered the universe of the aura around the art object – objects, characters, events. In the Interviewing the Cities series initiated in Vienna in 1999, “the servants of art”, marginal characters who carried out the ritual of presenting the artwork, were replaced by the members of the group. The re-enactment of the images in the archive had a double purpose this time: to analyze the artistic reality in various towns on several levels and to articulate a subjective journal of their relationships with people and places. subREAL is the first truly international group that originated in Romania after 1989. Belonging to a generation of transition, the members of the group took the first steps in establishing a dialogue with western art. They initiated curatorial projects and participated in major international events.