In the audio installation Days In Between. Rivers, Banks the voice-over from the 2015 essay film has attained what might be called its own fluid space. Complemented by additional text passages that had been omitted in the initial film, the voice now fills the exhibition space, extending from a single loudspeaker mounted on a stand before a 15 meter long meandering, pleated curtain that occupies one third of the space. From an (impossible) bird’s eye view the serpentine shape of the curtain echoes the section of the river Drina dividing Bosnia-Herzegovina and Serbia. The spectator is invited to sit on a foldable stage and listen to the narration (either over the loudspeaker or shielded by a pair of headphones) while her/his gaze wanders the space, perforated by inter-corresponding elements: the film Still Life (Ara) running on a cube monitor; the 1977 decree wavelength on the wall interrupted by the work Still Retrieving, three serigraphies of the dismembered hard-drive that stored the lost imagery, testifying the opaque afterimage that the now terminally wrecked object left when exposed to ultraviolet light; the light installation Amber consisting of a stage lighting beam directed onto a pair of 19th century calves’ glass eyes used in taxidermy; a ‘second’ stage supporting tectonically fractured rocks, the degenerating ammonite fossil, as well as four archival images taken on March 5th 1977 documenting the destructions at the Antipa Natural History Museum in the aftermath of the Vrancea earthquake.


These and other photographs, all preserved but unpublished for over forty years in the same envelope at the Antipa Archive, feature in the beginning of the 16mm film Still Life (Ara) shot in 2019 in the taxidermy laboratory of the aforementioned museum. I was drawn by a two-fold loss that somehow manifests itself in these images that seem to be caught up in a double paradox. Taxidermy’s epistemological structure presupposes the killing or at least the death of an animal, in order to bring it back to life, to ‘resurrect’ it in a manner that will seem as lifelike as possible (so naturalized), and in which any act of killing must be perfectly masked. Now, what we witness on the

Waves make diffraction patterns (think of the pattern made by dropping two stones in a still pond, for example) precisely because multiple waves can be in the same place at the same time, and a given wave can be in multiple places at the same time.”1


As a river flows across its floodplain it curves, bends, loops, winds, laps against, changes path, rushes, turns, wells up. Whilst migrating downstream meanders effectively lengthen the course of a stream; in ancient Greece a meander came to mean anything convoluted or tangled. Thinking of meander belts later on suggested a contemplation of wavelengths, waveforms, amplitudes, magnitudes, seismic waves, shock waves and blast waves. Straight lines break, processes are protracted, resonances are amplified.


Since the beginning of 2019 I have been working on an expanded, multi-part iteration of the project that recently took shape in a solo exhibition at the National Museum of Contemporary Art, Bucharest.2 As I mentioned in the first chapter of this exposition the driving force behind de-constructing and (trans)forming the essay film four years after its completion was the wish to renegotiate the material, its capacity and scope, and to read the structural elements of the essay film through a lens of diffraction. In other words, to see it otherwise. Gleaning further relationships from the existing material and building upon the process was a repetition of another kind. The expanded notion of parataxis, which is a mode of storytelling characteristic to the essay film, is here re-thought spatially, in its potential for reversibility. Threads of affinities and correspondences grow wider apart in the installation as they multiply; a single linear timeline no longer conditions its form.


The systematic-unsystematic pattern of arrangements in the essay film finds its counterpart in the spatial articulation of the different elements in the installation. Tending, then, towards a historical understanding of a more

photographs is not the ‘edenic’ outcome of a laborious process, but rather a destruction of a second order. The animals mounted in idealized, as-if-alive postures render their deadness — through the havoc caused by the earthquake — visible. It was somehow, by looking at these images, that certain things fell into place: the long-lasting and large-scale exploitation of a shared world that Natural History museums point to; the entanglements between colonialism, trade and environmental destruction but also the western interactions with the ‘other’; not only the human ‘other’ but also the other-than-human within pre-determined dominant tropes of relations. “Taxidermy fulfills the fatal desire to represent, to be whole; it is a politics of reproduction,6 as Donna Haraway so aptly writes. It is indeed the case that animals are genericized in the taxidermic process, reduced to a skin; deprived of any individuality they then come to represent a whole class or even a genus in the taxonomic rank of biological classification. But as Natural History museums in general are sites embedded in contradictions, so too was my urge to film the arduous process of mounting a scarlet macaw. It is equally a story of deprivation, reduction, violence as it is a story of faithfulness, repair, skill, labor, craftsmanship, devotion, care. Radu Pana, the taxidermist in the film, meticulously and painstakingly adheres to the animal’s uniqueness and specificity (the body mold, the strings, the clay, all parts are tailored to fit this one specific skin) to create in this performative process a kinesthetically credible rendering of (an) Ara; to overcome its death, to mourn. By filming the procedure of preparing and mounting the bird, the pristine outcome - which is the only stage made visible in the museum and the ultimate goal of taxidermy - is somewhat shattered; through the process brought into sight it bears on a history, one could say. Yet it cannot represent, it cannot be whole.



spatial than temporal character could levitate its signification from a succession of discrete moments (replacing one another as these segments ‘progress’ on a time scale), towards a more topological understanding that pays attention to simultaneities, deformations and processes of modification.

Earthquakes and natural disasters as situations in which we are confronted with a cut, and where given hierarchies are momentarily (or for a short interim) laid waste are examined according to the way they have been instrumentalized by authorities of power to enforce specific political agendas. As indicated in the introduction, in the context of this film I became increasingly interested in the way conflicts have been ‘naturalized’ by transferring them to a geological timeline, thus reducing complex configurations to their apparent essentials and fortifying social and political conventions by presenting them as part of the natural order. In Vesna Goldsworthy’s essay “Invention and In(ter)vention: The Rhetoric of Balkanization” she talks about how geographical terms, in order to fulfill generic tropes of Balkan representation, take on metaphorical meaning and usage in political jargon: fracture zone, fault line, epicenter of major tremors. Such a vocabulary of colliding “tectonic blocks” is applied to the people as if it were part of their nature. Hatreds become ‘ancient’ and thus timeless.3 By this naturalization process of political conflicts, specific geopolitical interests have been pushed forward and racial and ethnic demarcations implemented. Lorraine Daston in “The Naturalized Female Intellect” aptly observes that “In both gender and science studies, naturalization is ideology at full strength, hardening the flimsy conventions of culture into the immutable, inevitable, and indifferent dictates of nature”.4


Taking ‘actual’ ruptures on a historical ‘scale’ as a starting point, namely the earthquakes of 1940 and especially 1977 in Romania, I explore these events as contingent ‘in-between’ spaces, as interruptions and zones of inertia in the performance of time. Starting from a photograph on view at the Natural History Museum of Bucharest taken directly after the severe


Muybridge’s chronophotography7 as a means of capturing motion was a decisive achievement for taxidermic aesthetics.8 Photography and taxidermy are both storytelling instruments relying on vision. Going back to the film chapter Days In Between. Kaiserpanorama, which is projected in an adjacent dark room, the 16mm projector ‘continues’ to throw images of a Kaiser-Panorama and images of mounted animals onto a small free-hanging screen. The rattling noise of the projector mingles with the scraping optical sound of the film. The footage was shot and firstly edited in this juxtapositional, ‘dialogic’ manner in March 2015. Now, after having gone through the process of developing the new works, certain affinities became clearer. Both apparatuses suggest a close, privileged form of viewing and a physical proximity with sites and situations that could not take place in real life in this way. Both the Kaiser-Panorama and the Diorama are apparatuses that control vision, the right to look is given and is not reciprocal. The ‘resurrected’ animals become theatrical subjects that cannot return the spectator’s gaze; so are the stereoscopic images in every Kaiser-Panorama for that matter. And yet they look at us; the polar bear, the humming bird, the two-headed calf, the stereoscopic lenses in their round, brazen frame, the peacock, the deer, the shark, Ara(s).


earthquake of 1977, I have been researching in the depots and collections of the museum, concentrating on material around these events: inventory depictions of damages and processes of mending and restoring the specimens in the taxidermy workshop. Such constellations of historical footage re(tro)animate and complement the footage shot in 2015 in the Natural History Department of the University in Cluj.


The 1977 earthquake is also striking as it found Nicolae Ceaușescu in Nigeria. Upon his return he declared the country to be in a state of emergency. The decree issued and transmitted by radio on the 5th of March 1977 transforms in the exhibition into its pictorial translation of a wavelength, namely as a plotted frieze circumscribing the walls of the exhibition space. It is again the rhizome of socio-historical aftershocks triggered by a natural phenomenon that forms the driving force. In the wake of the 1977 earthquake the Ceaușescu regime changed the urban landscape of Bucharest by erecting from scratch a disproportionately large political-administrative sector. Actually not from scratch: the hilly area of the Uranus neighborhood in the southwest of the capital was deemed the safest given the higher rates of destruction and casualties caused by the earthquake in other districts of the city. It was not that the limbs of the city’s body map, freshly scarred by the quake, were impropriated, but that the intact parts were eliminated. In the course of the years that followed the neighborhood was utterly razed in order to erect the Ceaușescu Palace (now the seat of the Parliament and the premises of the Museum of Contemporary Art) and the adjacent buildings and boulevards. In other words, it is not a seismological metaphor that accounts for fractured behaviors here, nor a geological parallel between the land and the people but rather an appropriation of nature’s workings to reformat history. What we come to see on that wavelength is, then, also an imprint of erasures; of lives obliterated.

Geological finds, as well as their exhibition and support structures in the Geology Museum, is a further site that I have been exploring in Bucharest. Specimens from the Vrancea mountain range, which has been the epicenter of all the aforementioned earthquakes, form the starting point to expose and re-link geological and historical time. Captured on celluloid film, the mark of instant deformation of a rock effecting crystallization processes following a violent environmental impact thousands or millions of years ago, for example, activates the deep past in the present for a fraction of a second. Fossil-images, so to speak, become a futile light inscription on a film membrane lasting several frames, and so inhabit an interstitial space. Employing obsolete technologies like 16mm film to refer to notions of frailty and transience connects to my wish to track the unstable and that which is in constant flux. As petrologist Dan Grigore recounted, “On a shell’s structure one can also witness the impact of a severe earthquake - as a deeper cut on one of its rings”.5 A fossilized ammonite measuring 3x3cm is on display on a white stage together with other loaned specimens from the Geology and the Natural History Museums. It testifies the species’ 70 million years long deformation and degeneration process towards extinction.