Ramona Dima & Simona Dumitriu
area: Poetry, Performance, Theory
areaPoetry, Performance, Theory
recommending institutiontranzit.org/ERSTE Stiftung
time periodAugust 2015 - August 2015
Simona: I am the initiator (in 2011) and member of Platforma space and collective in Bucharest – an artist-run space used for exhibitions and workshops, but also as a meeting place for interdisciplinary, social or political initiatives (www.platformaspace.wordpress.com ). Platforma project was self-sustained for most of its existence, based on work exchange and unpaid collaborations, and it was developed independently in the central location of the MNAC Annex building in Bucharest, administrated by MNAC – National Museum of Contemporary Art. MNAC supported Platforma by letting us use the space without rent and administration fees. In July 2015 MNAC closed the building for reparations, thus ending Platforma space as well. Most of my curatorial, teaching and artistic work so far has been done within the collective at Platforma space (current collective also includes Ileana Faur, Marian Dumitru, Claudiu Cobilanschi).
In my practice, I am interested in: mixing and working at the intersection between artistic, teaching and social practices; archival science and theory as applied to visual arts, related to the representation of gender identity and memory in public space; discourse analysis and language/translation based projects; methodologies of education and education as art; LGBTQAI activism and queer theory applied to contemporary art, to feminism and to other political issues. I teach and facilitate workshops - since 2012 at Platforma; between 2013-2009 I was a lecturer at the National University of the Arts in Bucharest, Photo-Video Dept., where I taught Social History of 20th Century Photography, Artistic Strategies in Contemporary Art, Art and its Institutions. In 2014-2015 I have guest lectured on visual anthropology and on gender and identity at University of Bucharest, Faculty of Sociology and at SNSPA (National School for Political Studies and Administration) Bucharest. As a curator and artist, I work mainly with text/language, performance, drawing and recorded image and I have researched and published on contemporary art (especially on local and Eastern Europe art topics). I also write on contemporary Romanian art for Arta online magazine (www.revistaarta.ro).
In 2014 I began working with my life partner, Ramona Dima, forming the artistic duo Simona&Ramona and the drag king duo Claude&Dersch. Together we research poetry and archives for feminist and queer traces and affects to be resurrected and reperformed.
Ramona: With an educational background in Literature and Communication Studies, I am currently (since Oct. 2014) a PhD candidate (with doctoral scholarship) at the University of Bucharest, Faculty of Journalism and Science of Communication. Research subject: queer cultural products in Romania. I have been actively involved in anti‐discrimination and equal opportunity NGOs (most recent being Active Watch) and projects since 2009. Since 2011I am a member of an informal feminist collective in Bucharest. Since 2013 I have also been part of the Support after rape group, an informal group funded by FRIDA (The Young Feminist Fund). My research includes cultural, literary and media studies from a queer feminist theory perspective.
Simona & Ramona: We have begun working collaboratively from February 2014 because we share a common interest in poetry and writing as political tool and we wanted to research, assemble and perform a collection of queer and feminist ideas and affects as expressed in 20th and late 19th Century poetry. We have developed this collection into an 8 hours intensive reading performance in public space, in English, which we have already presented as part of 2 important queer festivals (Punkurica in Budapest and KVIR Feminist Actziya in Vienna). We are also translating the poems for a shorter 2 hours public reading in Bucharest, and have started to write other performative texts and language exercises (see www.poetrybody.wordpress.com website). We continue to research and add poetry to the collection.
We have also collaborated in collective performances and installations at Platforma space and we wrote together Bahlui Arcadia for the Tranzit.ro Iasi residency.
The Drag King project that we are working on (as Claude&Dersch) is at the intersection between poetry and activism, and while we see Claude (and his partner Dersch) as more of an activist manifesto, we are interested in the textual development of their personas as well.
I went to Vienna and came back a new man
As Simona and Ramona (or as our drag personas Claude and Dersch) our duo work started and evolved from our life partnership and from our joint experiences as queer/LGBTQAI activists, and as out and visible queer identities living in the Romanian oppressive, homophobe, heteronormative context.
Our cultural background intersects queer and gender theory, Simona working on related topics from within the contemporary art field and Ramona mixing literary studies with her experience of working/volunteering in feminist groups and anti-discrimination associations.
We have had experiences of using drag king actions in activist situations, and we aim to develop our drag personas, Claude and Dersch more towards the intersection between language-based performances, camp and cabaret theatricality, and studies of body posture within a critique of gender normativity.
While in residence in Vienna, we will work on reconfigurations and on building a drag king persona (Claude) & performance script + set. Claude will come back to Bucharest from Vienna a new man, with Dersch on his side and with his lines written, performed and even translated from English into his sweet mother tongue, with prosthetics protruding from each corner of his new culturally constructed body.
Claude is being built not as appropriation but as embodiment, from words and experiences which can be embedded, from fragments of identities; he will be lived and performed daily in public space for the duration of the residency, while being built, in a sort of cultural autotrophic manner. This performative method is inner suspension of disbelief – or autobiographical suspension of disbelief: by finding the right words and body actions we aim to situate Claude in the interval between conventions of gender representation and lived experiences of identity and of alterity.
August in Vienna – Ramona Dima & Simona Dumitriu
During the month spent at Museums Quartier (1-31 August 2015) we aimed to fulfill several projects:
- to write (continuing the dual writing process that we have begun with the Bahlui Arcadia video and performance project made with support from Tranzit Iași);
- to experience various everyday drag performing, by walking the streets in drag;
- to prepare and present a new performance piece, which would combine our writing, body work and several important objects;
- to research queer contemporary art in Central and Eastern Europe at University of Vienna and in other archives, libraries and art spaces;
- to really use the space, time and opportunities, to not waste time.
We have also invited artist Ileana Faur for one week, in order to finalize and perform together The Body Elastic. The three of us have been working collaboratively, using the drag and stage names Claude, Dersch and the Sky Collector.
On August 26th we had the opportunity to instigate and participate to a very useful AiR get-together, where several of the artists in residence during August met in Raum D at MQ to present and discuss their work. It was a good evening, going against the usual isolation that often characterizes residences within large art institutions.
1. The research (Ramona Dima)
The main purpose of my research in Vienna was to find and consult queer cultural and artistic products developed or performed/presented in Central and Eastern Europe. The most important exhibition that I visited and included in my research was Pauline Boudry and Renate Lorenz, Loving, Repeating, which took place at Kunsthalle Wien as part of Vienna Biennale 2015.
I have also had the opportunity to study as a guest researcher in several libraries belonging to the University of Vienna: the Main Library, the Gender Studies Faculty Library, the Sociology and Political Science Library, and the Advertising and Communication Science Faculty Library. I have read and scanned precious resources which I will include in the theoretical frame of my doctoral bibliography. I have also found great additions to my bibliography at Basis Wien and at the Erste Foundation Library. Basis Wien is one of the most interesting initiatives of collecting catalogues, artist portfolios, miscellanea from the Central European area, it is a bit of a dig-and-find place although their online archive is also extremely well organized; there I had the opportunity to discover lesser know authors, artists and events, catalogues from the 80s/90s period, as well as for more recent events. Erste Foundation library is focused primarily on books from or about central/Eastern Europe – and it covers sociology, media, culture, art, gender, queer topics.
2. The writing (Simona Dumitriu, Ramona Dima)
We walked a lot, mapping the city, often in drag, and we practiced a sort of dialogue writing, where we combined things seen and heard, daily online news that we followed, and readings, little songs and stories into a freeform text diary. We aim to use this text for publication, and voice/reading performances. A few small excerpts:
“I gave you Sophia West Mouths Tigers’ Mouths. Did you know she was a lesbian poet who died at 30 of an epilepsy seizure? I didn’t. She was the only discounted book in the gay bookstore and we paid 2 euro 50 to have an unknown ask us WHICH WAY TO THE ID OF A COW?
The worlds are at war my monster and I am afraid,
I fear we cause death onto others my love when we eat
papadums bought on the same day from the international store where it was exotic and migrants were cursing the cost of life in Vienna
I don’t know the id of a cow but I saw a carriage horse passing by near the Time Museum and her ID was A 99
burnt by iron
Visible in her skin under her hair on her thick neck
not all horses had that but she did.
V 99 is the cheap alcohol we drank in Narnia, I don’t know why i say this here maybe because of the number it’s the same, and A and V have so many similarities.
I ride the shopping cart through the labyrinth of food and still search for the same stuff I've got used to. Maybe I don't need anything from here and I'm just too coward to go outside, at the market, and ask the sellers if I could rummage in their garbage boxes just to find fruits and veggies that are really ok to wash, cut their less aesthetic parts and eat them. Some peaches we tried from the batch were actually sweeter than those at the supermarket.
From time to time, we wonder if the polish girl is still alive or just lies somewhere, between the attempt not to pay for anything and the one of not buying cigarettes.
Before exiting the Vienna highway I worried about short-circuited light baubles and about what else laid in the vineyards besides views and second hand t-shirts with hate the state labels.
There is a genderless self in me and they are now worried about wasp noises filling up the rest of the room
perhaps it’s just my blood pressure that I hear
I wonder if the little bat which we often see in the city is ok.
Then I read to you about those people found dead in a truck in Austria. They were 50, 60, then 71, nobody knew for sure at that point, they could see them, but apparently could not count them. The distinction between immigrants, expats and refugees is discussed at a bar. That night and day when you were crying out of the blue, but not without a reason. We live in a bubble, this city is a bubble. Back home, another one, nothing to compare with the war zones. There, as well as here (the difference is that I don't understand the language) you could hear people criticizing. Nationalist and xenophobic pieces of meat who don't mind killing and burning everything but their "own people" in their thoughts and comments.”
3. The performance (Simona Dumitriu, Ileana Faur, Ramona Dima)
In preparation for the performance, we had two objects that came with us to Vienna because we wanted to build a performative piece around them: a pair of made in Austria horse riding boots and a military NATO uniform tunic, used during the 90s, with the Dersch name tag. From the very beginning, we involved Ileana because she is an excellent voice performer, and during the first weeks of August we have progressively built The Body Elastic as a 3 stages piece. We wanted to include a bit of Viennese vibe (because of the blatant site-specificity of everything there:), some humor and some sadness. We studied classical sculpture examples from the generic art history manuals and we chose 16 poses which were symbols of masculinity and power (body fights, horse riding, gestures) which we then interpreted. Ileana’s voice part needed to be improvisational, as a reaction to our movements and poses. During the preparation for the voice performance she went through different songs, from popular songs to manele music and pop evergreens. She also wrote the lyrics and melody for a new song, special for the performance, which she will be recording soon. In the end, her choice was to whistle these melodies, which added depth to our poses and blended perfectly in the strangely windy and cold evening.
We collected beforehand about 1 kilo of fresh horse manure from the carriages who stop behind the Imperial Court, in a Wiener Gugelhupf tin cake box found around the city. We opened it up at the performance to just have a bit of the specific smell. It was a classical and cliché performative reference, but it functioned well within the ensemble of bodies-poses-gestures-whistles-wind.
On August 30th, the day before leaving the city, we donated the riding boots to a Humana street donations box close to MQ. We had found the boots in an extremely cheap second hand store in Bucharest, called Monda, which imports clothes from Austria. Who knows? If they don’t get sold in Humana this time, maybe we will find them in Bucharest once again, but we hope not.
Event statement and short descriptions of the 3 stages:
The Body Elastic - with: Claude, Dersch and the Sky Collector
A performance in 3 acts for hortus conclusus (enclosed garden)
Tuesday, 20.08, 8.30 pm, Courtyard 7 of the Architecture Center at MQ.
Simona Dumitriu and Ramona Dima (aka Claude and Dersch) and guest artist Ileana Faur (aka the Sky Collector) invite you in their enclosed garden of affects. 3 simple minimal acts will remind you of the conjectural fragments of conversations, fights and declarations that you become part of sometimes when walking past other persons in the street, will remind you of the contingency of overhearing, of the daily sensorial intermingling in the lives of others. If you’re a woman, maybe a migrant, or fat, or queer, performing your femininity or your masculinity, if you’re a sissy of any gender, you know for instance that you need to look away and pass by quicker in the street when you encounter, let’s say, a group of shirtless, semi-drunk, loud speaking sausages. If you’re a cis hetero male, you know that taking your shirt off in the street will definitely not result in parents covering the eyes of their children, public offense and possibly arrest. But if you’re a woman performing as a male, in drag, you can only express your feminist doubts in front of Egon Schiele’s beautifully drawn abuses, show your breasts, and hope not to be totally engorged by the sans souci culture that you came to confront.
Act 1. I love you too much (durational, 2 h, 6.30-8.40 pm)
... not to pay you / I love you too much to be paid by you
A simple voice performance, between two persons convincing themselves of the nuances and limits of their love. It is a classical theatre exercise, where Claude and the Sky Collector try to convince one another of something/and of the opposite of that something. Dersch is in the middle, as assessor. When any one of them gets convinced, the first act of The Body Elastic ends.
Act 2. Rollkur
Claude was wearing a pair of riding boots, all along. Dersch had a military jacket. They start to take down and put back the boots forming different body postures and loosing/regaining balance. There was always a discreet smell of horse manure, but that is to be expected in Wien. The Sky Collector whistles pop songs and her own made-up songs. The second act ends after about 15/20 minutes.
Act 3. The ladder breaks the horn of the unicorn.
A ladder made of thick black elastic hangs from Dersch’s back. Claude climbs it and reads the story about God the cat, in parallel with the Sky Collector’s recording of the same story.