An interview with Raluca Doroftei from META Cultural Foundation (Romania)

Raluca Doroftei, curator at META Cultural Foundation, believes that our perception of art is our choice and that not only can it reflect the reality, but inspire some real changes as well. In the following interview, the curator discusses various activities of META Cultural Foundation, and shares her thoughts on art, the artist-curator relationship and things that inspire her.

META Cultural Foundation is involved in various visual art projects, from the Biennial of Young Artists, to editorial activities. Could you tell us a little more about the organization and its activities? What are its goals?

Indeed, META Cultural Foundation has a very rich experience in various fields. It is one of the first private non-governmental organizations in Romania which promotes visual art. It was founded in 1995 and ever since, it has been involved, as you have already said, in various projects, contemporary art exhibitions, sculpture/ interdisciplinary symposia, workshops and other national and international events. Moreover, through META Publishing House, it has also been involved in various editing activities, ranging from the contemporary literature, essays, albums, catalogues and dictionaries.

From 2004 to 2014, META Cultural Foundation organized the Biennial of Young Artists, the first regular event in the scene of visual arts scene in Bucharest, aimed to present and promote the works of young artists in the regional and the European context. The project united more than 250 artists, curators and art critics from around the world. Besides the main exhibition, the biennial featured a series of workshops and seminars, aimed directly at young artists/art students and young art critics, seeking to provide help for their activities in the professional field by including them in the context of the biennial itself.

During more recent years, META has been focusing on the development of an on-line platform – an encyclopaedia for different cultural fields (starting with sculpture, followed by architecture). There are also plans to develop a mixed-media and painting sections within the following years. The platform is bilingual, covering the period of roughly the past 100 years and it is free to access. The encyclopaedia aims at creating a comprehensive version of the Romanian cultural field of the past 100 years (in various fields), representing not only a mere tool designed as a database (useful for students, artists, architects, architect-professors, architecture theoreticians, cultural operators, editors, professors, managers of museums or cultural centers), but also featuring a critical apparatus, developed and signed by art/architecture theoreticians.

Starting with 2015, META Cultural Foundation developed a residency program for young film directors. The project Slon Residency takes place annually in Slon, Romania, a rural area not very far from Bucharest. The residency program itself takes place in the “Living Sculpture”, a contemporary architectural space, contrasting with the picturesque rural area of Slon. Young cinematographers are encouraged to create the audio-visual art in this environment, as well as to discover and (re)evaluate it through alternative approaches. The shorts produced vary from narrative and experimental, to documentaries and fiction, and even in this shared environment, they reflect various individual artistic styles.

Among the objectives of the Foundation, I would like to mention the development of contacts and cooperation on the European level, thus offering artists and local cultural entities an opportunity to enter the regional and European networks and circuits. It also strives to disseminate information and draw public attention to the contemporary visual art. In the field of contemporary art, the aim is to establish a wide-reaching platform for communication and cooperation between the local and international art scene. Moreover, we aim at opening the Romanian cultural media to the changes currently taking place in the global artistic scene and provide young artists with an opportunity to express themselves and present their works to the public.

Photo: Mindaugas Drigotas

Do you think art is able to connect people and in what ways it can be done?

One of the key aspects uniting all of the cultural activities in which I have been involved so far, is the connection developed between different people working in the field of art. Whether this connection has been established between a curator and an artist, among some artists involved in joint events or between an artist and the public, I can definitely say that art connects people.

The definition of art has changed throughout history and in different cultures, also: “Art does not reproduce what is visible, it makes things visible” (Paul Klee); “La Pittura è una cosa mentale” (Leonardo Da Vinci); “The line between art and life should be kept as fluid, and perhaps indistinct, as possible” (Allan Kaprow); “Art is all around us” (Claes Oldenburg); “For myself, I aim for an art which would be an immediate connection with daily life, an art which would start from daily life, and which would be a very direct and very sincere expression of our real life and our real moods” (Jean Dubuffet) […].

It is up to each of us, whether our attitude towards art (and culture in general) is going to be a reverent and humble one. Or, on the contrary, if we want, we can think that art can be something close, natural, and useful, something that talks about our lives and not only reflects the reality in a passive way, but can really change things.

You have been working as a project manager in the Romanian Cultural Institute, taking care of the international projects that promote Romanian art and culture abroad for many years. Why do you think international exchange is important in today’s world? What impact it may have on the local development?

Developing new and more active approach to the European/global cultural dimension, I see culture as the vital element in cooperation and knowledge transfer between partners from different parts of the world. It is also important to identify one’s strategic partners and local opportunities to promote some country’s art and culture abroad. It builds bridges between cultures, creates closer ties and improves problem-solving skills.

You have been working as an art curator in various art projects. What inspires you as an art curator?

What inspires me is the artist, his or her work, and even the little moments of everyday life: a book that I have read, a movie that I have seen, a discussion that I have had, a person that I have met. I think that the relation between an artist and a curator should be a collaboration, in which one inspires and challenges the other. I would like to be able to “see” and help the artists to realize their fondest projects.

Photo: Mindaugas Drigotas

“Magic Carpets” is based on co-creation and inclusion of the public. Why do you think it is getting more and more important to collaborate and co-create? What opportunities, in your opinion, co-creation may open to artists, curators and communities that will get involved?

The concept of co-creation is not very clear for me at this moment in terms of the work of art as a result. But I think that exhibitions should not take place only in galleries, nor should they only involve simply displaying objects. Art can appear, where we least expect it.

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