Objects in the Mirror Are Closer Than They Appear is an exhibition of new works by artists who engage with the Minerva Press Photo Archive, which contains images taken by photojournalists at the Cluj newspapers Făclia and Igazság between 1960 and 1990. The archive is hosted and managed by Minerva Cultural Association from Cluj. The participating artists – visual artists Răzvan Anton, Claudiu Cobilanschi, Miklósi Dénes, Miklós Szilárd and Iulia Toma, alongside composers Bolcsó Bálint and Kedves Csanád – share an interest in the theme of memory and its relationship to history. Through visual arts, music and intellectual production, the project traces, problematizes and articulates a particular socio-political condition in Romania in the past. Spanning two gallery floors, it is the first exhibition of this scale in Bucharest to highlight the contemporary artistic research based on the Minerva Press Photo Archive and it tries to give back to art the political voice that has been taken away from it.
During the dismantling of the former photo lab of newspapers Făclia and Igazság, several thousands negatives of press photos taken between 1960 and 1990 were discovered. Only a small part of the images had been published in the two dailies, while the vast majority remained unknown. Following the discovery, a digital archiving project – the Minerva Press Photo Archive – gradually made public this remarkable collection of photography documenting the last three decades of the communist era. The exhibition Objects in the Mirror Are Closer Than They Appear can be understood in the line of the discourse present in the field of contemporary art in last decade in which institutions, artists and theoreticians are requisitioning the possibilities of the dissemination of the archive. Archives became more prominent than ever not only in artistic practices and theoretical discourses, but also in the context of institutions and galleries. Archiving methodologies alongside artistic rethinking of the medium can be integrated further within current discourses of art history, theory and practice, at a time when the concept of “archive” is both more widely known and less fixed in its meaning. The goal of the artists’ research presented in the exhibition is not to “discover” and historicize what could be nowadays seen as a “hidden treasure” of a totalitarian system and its fetishization. It is rather a call for re-examination which could point to the possibilities of reviving experiences that existed on the cultural, artistic and intellectual scene in Romania, from the contemporary standpoint of the post-revolution situation in the artistic and cultural production within the neo-liberal constellation.
Objects in the Mirror Are Closer Than They Appear gathers testimonies, memories and interpretations of the Minerva Press Photo Archive and brings into the light a more differentiated and complex picture of the socio-political panorama of Romania before the Revolution. Far from being souvenirs of the “good old times”, the artworks depict the complex field of different practices, strategies and relations that can be found in the archive. The conflicting and often conflictual interpretations also indicate political developments and shifting social positions that represent the stakes in today’s games in the production of art and culture and in the broader battle for unified ideological discourse of the neo-liberal era. Today, in a time of prevalent social and political apathy, the artists’ research and their recognizable visual language constitute a different view on ‘heritage’, while also proving the importance of socio-political agency that every one of us should have.