An interview with Maria Rus Bojan: ‘’Our entire society is entrapped in its own vicious cycle by explicitly criticizing what it continues to implicitly practice: the misogynistic cult of the present, acceleration, speed, and unlimited progress’’
Maria Rus Bojan is a Romanian-born curator and art advisor living in Amsterdam.
She has curated and directed numerous international shows in Romania and abroad. Prior to moving to Amsterdam, she organized large-scale exhibitions at the Cluj – Napoca Art Museum (1994-1999) and as director of the Sindan Cultural Foundation (1999-2003.) Bojan has contributed to the debut of today’s most successful Romanian artists such as Victor Man, Adrian Ghenie and Ciprian Muresan through the Sindan Contemporary Art Program for Young Talent and the series of international exhibitions called Re:Location & Shake (Re:Location 2 in OK Centrum, Linz, 2002, Re:Location 4 in Casino Luxembourg, 2004, Shake the Limits at National Museum of Contemporary Art, Bucharest, 2004.) After her long-term collaboration with the German artist, Ulay (1943-2020), she is the editor and co-author of the first his monograph, Whispers, awarded with the Special Prize for Publications of the Dutch Section at the International Association of Art Critics (AICA) in 2015. Bojan is the President of the European ArtEast Foundation, collaborating with various international institutions as an adviser, notably the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam or the Riga Biennial.
She’s always on a quest to discover young talents from her native country Romania and Eastern Europe. To get to know her favourite artist and her latest artistic discovery, we invited Maria Rus Bojan to an interview:
Please tell me something about your background: Why did you become a curator?
This was natural development, I believe. During my studies, in the 1980s I worked in a museum as a receptionist, later as a graphic designer and when I graduated, I got the possibility to become the conservator of the applied arts collection. A few years later, having completed museum conservation studies and exhibition management, I became a museographer. Back then, in the 1990s, we were all called museographers. Only in 1999, when I started my job as director of the Sindan Cultural Center, I called myself a curator, being in charge of an exhibition space and a contemporary art program.
What does the Romanian contemporary art scene lack?
The scene itself… There is not enough communication and cooperation between the many players who share the field. In this rather paternalistic tribal climate, creating something sustainable for the community is difficult, if not impossible, I’m afraid.
What was your most important project as a curator so far?
Re:Location & Shake, a three year program of international exchanges of artists’ residences, curatorial programs and exhibitions involving art centers from 7 countries, which culminated with a live-transmission on the TV channel Arte. This project has changed my views on contemporary art and challenged my curatorial creativity, while providing a generous international context to grow as an independent curator. Not only that this project changed my life forever, (it meant for me literally a relocation as I moved during that period from Cluj to Amsterdam) but it was also the first major project which puts on the international map an entire generation of young Romanian artists such as Victor Man, Ciprian Muresan, Vlad Nanca, to name just a few. I worked closely with Enrico Lunghi, then director of Casino Luxembourg, a curator with a brave vision and huge generosity; he was one of the first Western museum directors to open the doors for East European artists and curators.
As an art advisor, who’s your latest young talent discovery?
Marius Bodea, painter of nostalgic figures that make me think of Egon Schiele and Mihaela Hudrea, whose large abstract canvases intrigue me.
Who’s your favorite woman artist?
Magdalena Abakanowicz, a giant artist of great influence. She had a great intuition of this Orwellian turning point in history, as well as this void of meaningful perspectives that we are experiencing at this time. She was obsessed with finding a sculptural expression more sustainable than life, while insisting on the fragility of the present. I love her sculptures, especially her late works, where the human presence is evoked and replaced only by empty shells, body fragments that resemble relics or materialized auras.These crusts of presence play the role of substitutes for all moral and political flaws. These are both symptoms and proofs that expose universal truths about our world. I had the immense privilege of presenting her work in three consecutive retrospectives as part of a wonderful collaboration with the Abakanowicz estate in Warsaw.
What is the most current work of art from your collection?
A rare abstract painting by Constantin Dinu Ilea of the 1950’s, a neglected artist from my hometown of Cluj, whose work began to be increasingly appreciated recently. And a lithograph by Mihaela Hudrea that I just got as a birthday present!
How do you feel about the gender gap within art?
The truth is that I never felt discriminated against as a woman and as a curator. However, I see and feel the gender disparity at a larger systemic level. But you see, just to statistically understand or recognize the gender imbalance, it won’t solve the problem, I’m afraid. Our entire society is entrapped in its own vicious cycle by explicitly criticizing what it continues to implicitly practice: the misogynistic cult of the present, acceleration, speed, and unlimited progress. Therefore, as long as most systems in our society retain and promote these male attributes, it will be very hard to break the gap.
What’s in a curators bag?
Lots of unrest, lots of hopes and plans and let’s see whether these projects will be carried out successfully in these uncertain times.
What one piece of advice would you give to your younger self?
Be more self-confident and trust your gut first.
Text by Maria Nitulescu