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Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Ion Birladeanu: Nightwatchman, Gravedigger, Artist ~

Hat Tip: StrulZ

Bîrladeanu is a rare model of the absolute refusal to make any compromise with a corrupt, totalitarian regime. He preferred a marginal existence, taking the lowliest possible jobs - gravedigger, nightwatchman etc. - in order to preserve his own existential liberty untainted by any contact with the regime: at the lowest possible level, where one no longer has anything to lose, even the tiniest comfort or advantage, it is no longer possible for oppressive authority to apply any form of blackmail. And all the while, through his art - an art that was clandestine in the fullest sense, an art that was "unschooled", and thus wholly free of the corrupting influences of the communist education system and the mechanisms of censorship - he developed an unrelentingly honest and authentic critique of totalitarian Romania.

Come to think of it, I am reminded of the Russian film "Tema", directed by Gleb Panfilov , in which the main character is a playwright who has prostituted and ruined his talent through grovelling conformity with the communist regime, which has showered him with awards and other material advantages.

The film is about his existential crisis, in which he realises, in spite of the official praise heaped on him, that he is worthless as a writer. At one point in the film he meets a gravedigger, in fact an intellectual who has chosen this "profession" in disgust at the demands made on him as a writer by the regime.

~ StrulZ

ROMANIA, 2008:


They are people who either refuse to play by the canonical rules of their time and live contrary to that set of believes, either question the status quo. Ion Bîrlădeanu had such an existence. He was born in 1946 and for more than 30 years he refused to become an “honorable citizen”. During communism he had had several jobs. In his 20s he left his native village (Zăpoteni, in Vaslui county) to work on the reed fields in Tulcea and then as a docker in Constanţa.

Arriving in Bucharest he worked as grave digger, as frame saw worker, security person, or unqualified worker at the House of the People. Starting with 1989 he lives a marginal life, working as a freelance selector of garbage from a block of flats on Moşilor Street and doing little favours for the people living there. He does not raise a family; he is not employed to this day.


Throughout his existence Ion Bîrlădeanu selected magazine images and made a series of unique collages. All of them had a cinematographic intention. He started with a native talent in drawing and, with his passion for movie making, he created an imaginary, proto-pop world which came 20 years before the possibility of reception from the Romanian public. In Romania, the pop aesthetics is a post-communist reality and it is a direct consequence of the consumerist society.

With little or no resources, Bîrlădeanu creates a cinematic photogram that tells a complete story. All his collages are a very special hybrid between pop art, with a
surrealist touch and dada. Add a little flavor of communist gulag in which films and brands symbolized possibilities of freedom.


Through out his life, Ion Bîrlădeanu chose liberty and despised all types of conventional authority. In his collages he built an imaginary arena where he was always victorious, where hypocrisy stood defeated in the cheers of the crowds, and where the humanist-ironical scenario was played over and over again.

A week before the opening, M. Ion showed me some things that he considers some sort of "imitation” art, but which, for me, is the missing link in his artistic project. In the 70s, during his commute to the ship yard, he used to carve in wood, all sorts of logos. Through all this fascinating objects, I found a wooden communist medal. It is a replica of the “hero of socialist labor”. It was made by M. Ion at the beginning of his career but he will now wear it proudly like a gladiator showing his wooden gladius as a sign of the freedom he earned in the arena.
~ May, 2008

1 hour ago

BUCHAREST 10/13/09 — The Romanian government fell Tuesday after losing a no-confidence motion despite Prime Minister Emil Boc's pleas that the collapse of his administration could put an IMF-led economic bailout at risk.

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