Messages from afar: Bucharest

Messages from afar: Bucharest

TransArtists reached out to artists in residence who are stuck. How are they coping with the situation? What’s their story?

Who: Giovanni Palmieri, Paraguay
Where: Bucharest A.I.R. Romania
Giovanni came to Bucharest A.i.R. in the first week of January 2020. He planned to travel around the country to do research on folk tales and was supposed to leave the residency in the beginning of April but then everything changed.

Week 1

How are you?
'I am fine and safe'. While we talk via Skype Giovanni proudly shows all his protective items. Gel; face-masks. During our conversation he cleans his hands with local hand sanitizer; a blue liquid presented by a seductive cleaning lady.

You are stuck now; locked inside an apartment in Bucharest but what initially brought you to Bucharest A.I.R.?
Rituals. In my home country we have a lot of mythological figures. They are designed to scare people; and to make us think and act alike without questioning. These scary tales and related creatures with their super powers are subject of my work. As you can see there are some parallels to be drawn with the real world outside of my window. (He looks away and laughs)

Can you tell us a bit more about these rituals?
Let me give you an example. There is this ritual that takes place in the month of January. People go out in the streets and wear masks of either a goat or a bear. During this month they can do harmful things to society. It is for instance allowed to scream on the streets and to swear at people. I even heard people can break into your house. This violence expresses good luck for the coming year as I understood. This was something I wanted to learn more about.

Is this still happening nowadays?
Yes. These kind of rituals are still taking place in the region of Maramureș. Here in the forest and villages folklore traditions are still very much alive but now I am stuck in the residency in the heart of the capital. Today a police car drove by that has a sound alarm that tells everyone to stay inside. Lucky me.

Is there a myth you come across that relates to the situation we are in?
'Let me get my notes’ he runs away from the computer and comes back with his hands full of papers….and spells ‘Callusarii!’ A story about a rite taking place in the woods. It’s about healing a person in need; quite appropriate wouldn’t you say? Basically its a group of people dancing around a person with a disease to heal him or her. Beautiful right?

How are you able to work on this now?
Hopefully the situation around the virus will get better soon and I will be able to travel to continue my project. Though I wonder, is it better to stay inside or should I go out and confront my fears? The concept of time has changed since my quarantine. Instead of working from nine to five I changed my rhythm to the night. It just happened like that. At night when everyone is asleep I work on my illustrations inside the one room apartment overlooking the city in silence. I remain positive: This virus is not affecting my ideas so far…When the sun rises I fall asleep and dream the day away.

Do you feel alone?
Hmm…I came here with a friend but we decided to split during this lockdown. Since one week she is staying in another place. After sharing one room for the past three months this gives us both some space for thought and the experience of being in solitude. The ultimate alone. This allows me to try to understand what is going on right now; also… I am socially a bit introvert. I am used to solitude; before the virus I could stay inside the house for many days in a row and work on my projects. Here I don’t have a studio; I don’t have materials to work with; I’m just stuck with my computer and my phone….I am in contact with the staff from the residency every day but they are also in isolation. They try to do their best and keep me updated with all the new information concerning the regulations in the city. This virus came with a reason I guess. This is the time to redefine yourself and reflect on what it means to be human, or to be an artist.

Week 2

How are you? What has changed?
Since the last time we spoke, I think personally things have progressed for the worse. Being alone and isolated and not having the availability of a private space and a studio space, is bringing me to an absolute mental breakdown. All I do is lay on the couch watch Netflix series and play card games on my phone. Panic has also been a constant word running through my mind, as I am confronting decisions to either remain in a country such as Romania that has a poor health care system, or going back home to the Netherlands where everything is way more developed, yet politicians do not take this pandemic as serious as other countries. So I have been in contact with friends and family that are all asking me to go back to the Netherlands. Literally I wake up every day feeling anxious about making these decisions, because I’d love to have had the chance to travel around Romania and finalize my residency period with an exhibition. So to conclude, this pandemic is just making me super anxious; moving away from a physical world and living on a screen all alone by myself 24/7 is driving me CRAZY! I hope everything gets better very very soon, and we can connect with people physically and stop creating more alternatives for connection based on technological advancements.

It seems like you are having a rough time.
Yeah I’m having a rough time. It is also because the Romanian government has issued this document everyone needs to have when leaving the house otherwise you get a huge fine. Basically people are only allowed to go out to the supermarket or to their jobs. You can’t just take a walk outside anymore. It is scary because the army is patrolling the streets to keep everything under control.

Is there any light there?
Fortunately this week I’m moving to my friends’ place, so at least we won’t be alone anymore!

In this series

Messages from afar: Tokyo
Messages from afar: Rotterdam

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