How to explain pictures ...

Opening: Friday, July 1st, 2022, 6 p.m.
July 01, 2022 - July 17, 2022

How to explain pictures ... / How to explain pictures...

July 1st – July 17, 2022

Opening: Friday, July 1st, 2022, 6 p.m.



Curator: Roxana Trestioreanu

Exhibition Commissioner: Alexandra Sârbu, from the Art Museum in Cluj-Napoca

Organizers: Goethe-Institut București, in partnership with German Cultural Center in Cluj-Napoca and The Art Museum in Cluj-Napoca



Joseph Beuys (1921-1986), art works marked contemporary art and established him as a landmark of the 20th century. Beuys’ legacy to the generations of artists who followed him, on the one hand, is his artistic activity - drawings, installations, multiples, performative actions and their relics-artworks, lectures, films - on the other hand is the concept of social sculpture that he launched, which defines the human activity of structuring and shaping society and the environment as a work of art. By assuming the role of social sculptor, Beuys shapes society by activating everyone's creative potential, using language, concepts, performative actions and the accumulated objects.


The title of the exhibition refers to the artist's first solo exhibition 1965 How to Explain Pictures to a Dead Hare (Wie man dem toten Hasen die Bilder erklärt) in which Beuys defines a modus operandi that would become characteristic of him, reaching public’s understanding of artistic experience through language and dialogue. As a socially and politically engaged artist, Beuys was fighting for human rights, for the protection of the environment, for develop a connection with the community, he set models for contemporary artistic and educational practice.


Realised in 2021,  event organised by Goethe Institute in partnership with Rezidența9 celebrate the centenary of Beuys, the exhibition How to explain pictures ... aims to recover the multiple facets of his work through the echo generated in contemporary Romanian art.


I discovered Joseph Beuys' art in the 1980s with the help of the German magazine PRISMA. The article on Beuys, quite comprehensive, with references to his artistic and pedagogical work, intrigued and alerted me. The performance How to Explain Pictures to a Dead Hare caught my attention. Ștefan Berthalan's performance, presented in Bucharest in the late 1970s, "I lived 130 days with a sunflower plant" introduced me to the Beuys type of performance - it contained a shamanic-like relationship with the word, the graphic sign and the subject-witness the dried plant. Berthalan's performance and the article on Beuys helped me to understand that in order to understand contemporary art I needed, along with art history books, which did not go beyond the contemporaneity of the 1960s, new readings, but also then I realized that the most important thing is to be an artist-witness to events that construct art history, even if you do not have all the information necessary to decode the artwork, curiosity and knowledge accumulated over time will trace your path to understanding the phenomenon.  


When I started to design the exhibition the beneficial artistic/human encounters that have marked my professional path and the names of artists of the 80s generation came into my mind. Here is a list of few events, which I took part in, that helped me discover special artistic paths that I resonated with: 1982 - exhibition and colloquium Expresia corpului uman, Kalinderu Hall, Bucharest; 1986 "Young Artists and Art Critics Colloquium", Sibiu Pharmacy Museum; 1987 Colloquium and exhibition "Young Artists and Contemporaneity", Timișoara; 1988 - National Exhibition of Atelier 35, Baia Mare; screening of animation films organized by visual artists working at Animafilm Studio at the end of the 80s etc.


The artists Olimpiu Bandalac, Darie Dup, Teodor Graur, Radu Igazság, Gyöngy Kerekes, Iosif Király, 2 META (Maria Manolescu and Romelo Pervolovici), Marilena Preda Sânc, Zoltán Szilágyi Varga, László Ujvárossy - are personalities who, through their work and social, formative/pedagogical involvement, have repositioned the following generations’ approach towards contemporary art.


The exhibition presents photographs, mail art objects, installations, drawings, experimental films, animation films, filmed testimonies, questionnaires, documents related to the educational experience, and films showing Beuys' actions or interviews. The visitor will discover multiple layers and directions of artistic creation. Olimpiu Bandalac presents in an installation drawings made in the 80s, vital, symbolic values of color, the power of gesture are underlined by the white of the paper, from a drawing the face of the coyote from I Like America and America Likes Me is questioning us. The film made at the National Museum of Contemporary Art, Adrian Guță - Olimpiu Bandalac interview, refers to the artist's entire artistic activity, including animated films and projects of the Euroartist group made in tandem with Teodor Graur. Teodor Graur presents in the exhibition, along with one of his works, a facet less known to the public - that of a performance teacher. His performance course (National University of Arts Bucharest) gave a distinct voice and new direction to the young artists enrolled in his course.


Darie Dup' s work joins the pro-nature manifesto and the manifesto against the destruction of nature reserves, against abusive deforestation. Gyöngyi Kerekes, in the installation, dialogues with nature, dried leaves are constructing signs. A special dialogue with Beuys' work is established by László Ujvárossy - the formal and material resemblance to the felt suit and the playful approach to eco-actions.


Invoking Beuys' closeness to the Fluxus movement, Iosif Király presents a selection of mail-art from his collection. One of the postcards, by Fluxus artist - Robert Rehfeldt, mentions Hungarian critic Laszlo Beke and a Beuys commemorative exhibition, 1987 Budapest. Marilena Preda Sânc captures living in harmony with nature in the photographic images exhibited, and the selection of films are assumptions of the artist's involvement in the problems of society. A special section is given to films made in the 1980s, honoured with international awards but little known to the Romanian public. Zoltán Szilágyi Varga and his films Gordian Knot (1980), Arena (1982) and Monologue (1983) with multiple layers of reading, from quoting stereotypes of virility, glory and violence, to traumatic events - war, natural disasters, are presented through metaphorical allegories, evoking the confinement experience of the 80s. Radu Igazság in Family Photographs (1983) talks about loneliness, ageing and disappearance, in Tocirea (1985) a poem written by Nichita Stănescu on the sacrifice of the soldier - the duty of honour ultimately leading to the disappearance of the human being. Nichita Stănescu's voice, with its special intonation and tempo, doubles the evocative power of the image. A film made especially for this event, playfully presenting communion with nature, is the creation of the 2 Meta group.


How to explain pictures... a homage exhibition to Joseph Beuys.


Roxana Trestioreanu


Images from the opening of the exhibition.