Palatul / The Palace  
double channel video installation, 29'26", Bucharest, 2003-2004

Palatul, installation, Cooper Gallery, Dundee, Scotland, 2006

In their two-part video work The Palace (2003-2004) Florin Tudor and Mona Vatamanu focus on the icon of power in Romania per se: Nicolae Ceausescu's former palace, which now houses both the Romanian parliament and the National Museum of Contemporary Art (MNAC), which was opened in 2004. Like no other building, the "House of the People" crystallizes Romania's recent history and its ambivalent way of dealing with it. Tudor and Vatamanu shot footage of two official guided tours for visitors to the building without giving prior notice of their intention to film. The "official", institutional voice of the building is typical not only of how the site's history - and thus also the country's recent past - is depicted in a different light on each of the tours, but also of how the rhetoric of superlatives is constantly shot through with flashes of irony and personal insecurity. By contrast, the video piece Vacaresti (2006) "commemorates" the old regime with a monument of failure, but one which remains visible only for the duration of the artist's performance. In a desolate landscape in winter weather a young man - Florin Tudor - paces out the outline of the old Vacaresti Monastery, demolished to make way for the "Palace". As he laboriously progresses, his feet repeatedly sink into the soft terrain. It is a search held on the uncertain ground of the recent past on which Romania's present is built.

The Synchronicity of the Asynchronic, Astrid Wege presented this topic on 18 october 2006 at the Kunstmuseum Bonn, as part of the Elektronenstrome series


Imagine that you were living in Romania. We grew up here while our cities Bucharest and Constanta were demolished to make room for the totalitarian dystopia of the 80es. After that, a large part of romanians started to live in cities of blocks of flats.
The palace was left unfinished by his owner (Nicolae Ceausescu, former president of R.S.R.), killed in 1989. The guided tour tells his story and the story of the building and the social implications on the life of the people living in Bucharest.
We don't know how to consider our action of filming there _ Diana, the guide, was acting like a performer doing a strange role reminding us of Lara Croft's character in Tomb Rider, in the same time her discourse was hardly covering the drama of having the palace here… We can't describe the horror dimension that represent for us this building, maybe ridiculous, incoherent, absurd, aggressive could be the words.
The border between filming legal or forbidden things inside is very thin because the edifice now hosts the parliament and in the same time you are allowed to tape by paying a fee of 9 euro. Another weird thing for us is that if you live in Bucharest you cannot figure out the amount of material wasted there until you visit the palace just like foreign tourists. It is like in a city of socialist blocks where you can find a palace made from socialist blocks, a deviation on the idea palaces for the people.
We kept the footage like character of the film to make the viewer feel more as a tourist inside since in Bucharest this place is the most visited item by foreign tourists.
After the first film we made a second one with a different guide. Not surprisingly this one is different in discourse and story from the first revealing the contradictions in the Romanian society, the films functioning as an installation that works as a space for experiencing a post-traumatic situation.





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