TRIUMF AMIRIA LOVE LETTER TO IRINA BUJOR, the third solo show in the Museum Workings cluster of exhibitions at Zina Gallery (Cluj), is introducing through several recent works the artistic practice of Irina Bujor as an invitation to reflect on the production and consumption of images through registers of authenticity, of dissimulation and empathy.

A consequence of the pandemic, the return to a domestic context in which a lot of Romanian TV productions are consumed, offered Irina Bujor the opportunity to discover a panoply of bizarre characters without an identifiable professional status. With their clothes and their defining names / nicknames Charmer CostelISGODB (IStrikeGoldOnDailyBasis), Diamond Diamond DamianSeksi Adriana from Romania, adorned with details and interventions that are ironic and disgusting and excessive, the four sculptural figures are collages of material and immaterial characteristics making up these media constructs that seem to spring from collective nightmares of what the producers imagine the audience wants to see.

Through these characters taken from the larger series “TV ON ACID”, the installation turns for the visitor into an awkward moment of brutal clash with a grotesque show. A pseudo-psychedelic experience—a bad trip, a nightmarish perception altered directly by the producer of the image (television)—then packaged and distributed en-masse through late-night trash shows, but most often in daylight, in morning shows or in the afternoon tabloids.

A mise en abyme of the race for celebrity—and signaling that algorithmic pseudo-thinking is a sure measure to extreme derails and turning into tabloid formats the production of TV content in the fight against online platforms—the process of manufacturing, using and sometimes abusing to exhaustion such characters by TV producers proves to be, from the perspective of Irina Bujor, a fascinating phenomenon only from a great distance—like any cheap theatre. Or better said a losing game.

A textile installation seemingly floating on air, held only by a pair of robotic gloves, “SHIELD no 2 (TO TEACH GENDER OPENNESS IN SCHOOLS)” reveals itself as something cloaked in magic: a kind of shield in drag, hyper-fragile, which functions both as an anti-military metaphor and as a tool of activism for the artist’s favorite tribe: transgender people often marginalized by society.

For the “SHIELDS” series, Bujor imagined a set of over 20 wishes that could change the realities of this community, each wish having its own unique shield. In the subtext, the entire series is a material commentary and an oblique proposal towards the aesthetics and image of the protest—so for those affected by the pareidolia, “SHIELD no 2” may seem close to an ambiguous character from Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are, rather than a typical tool of activism. A disguising tactic with a high chance of winning in a wearying war.

Recorded in 2019 with the voice of soprano Nadia Hidali, TO TEACH GENDER OPENNESS IN SCHOOLS, the desire for SHIELD no 2, emerged as a reaction to interviews with friends from a transgender community in Johannesburg. But in an odd turn, in the context of recent discussions about sex education in Romanian schools that have revealed a multitude of retrograde perspectives, the work also becomes extremely topical in the local context too. A critical appeal to empathy, to openness and knowledge of all things sexuality fluid, for what multiple, nuanced identities mean beyond a reductionist binary construction.

For someone extremely discreet, who suffers from gender dysphoria, and multiple anxieties, the idea of an artistic practice that develops in the shadows seems the perfect solution. The same cannot be said from the point of view of the art system, often focused on the image of artists, on an active social life, on the ability to be present at the right time and place.

Closely reflecting on these contradictions, Irina Bujor is proposing in a playful key the perfect image for who they are at the moment of May 2021, the photo titled “FEELING MYSELF TONIGHT (SELF-PORTRAIT WITH TWO X AMAR – AMĂRÂT, A DEITY OF TIME AND AN OCTOPUSSY)”. Through this self-portrait, layered and delicious like a mille-feuille, Irina is giving us access and multiplies relevant aspects to understand where she stands, psychologically and emotionally, but at the same time is reserving the right to privacy, opacity, invisibility in relation to their physical image.

Irina Bujor

their work is based on formal associations which open a singular poetic vein; multilayered images and installations are highlighting the fragility and instability that question our seemingly certain reality. By applying a wide variety of analytic strategies, Irina Bujor develops a multifaceted practice around ordinary phenomena that tend to go unnoticed in topics she is obsessed with: laughter, gender, factories producing popular culture and things permeating other things.

The work of Irina Bujor was exhibited at Simultan festival, Timisoara (RO), A plus A gallery, Venice (IT), Kunsthal Gent (BE), Porous Space, Vienna (AT), “On Floating Grounds. Ways of Practicing Imponderability” exhibition in the framework of Art Encounters biennial 1st Edition, Timisoara (RO), Galeria Anca Poterasu, Bucharest (RO), PENTHOUSE ART RESIDENCY (NH Brussels Bloom x Harlan Levey Projects), Brussels (BE), photo_graz 014. Biennale der steirischen Fotokunst. Kunstfreiraum Papierfabrik, Graz (AT), Narrenkastl, Frohnleiten (AT), ArtPoint Gallery, Kulturkontakt, Vienna (AT). She contributed for collective projects like “managing structural bird problems” – DIE PHILOSOPHISCHEN BAUERN, Kabinett, Akademie Schloß Solitude, “KILOBASE BUCHAREST A – H” (publisher: Mousse, Milan, 2011) and “KILOBASE BUCHAREST A – Z” (publisher: PUNCH, 2020).

Photos – YAP Studio: Pavel Curagău and Mădălin Mărgăritescu