Gone/ White Shirt Project #9

I miss you so much sometimes. Even though next May it’ll be 25 years since that Wednesday afternoon when I said, “Let’s skip school and go bathe in the lake instead!” But I stayed on the shore and you went out swimming and never came back. I just waited there and I couldn’t believe it. On Saturday we were going to…

That Saturday I stood at your coffin and still wouldn’t believe it. They put you in a grave, instead. Since that day I’ve missed you more than I lived before I met you. I’ll always miss your eyes and your smile and your crazy ideas and your beautiful poems.
I often wonder what life would have been like, had we had more time together.

Like a snake sheds its skin, I shed my white shirts while writing a series of memories – to be found in this link.

Mailänderli/ White Shirt Project #8

Back in the eighties when I was a kid, my originally Swiss great grandma lived in the ground floor of our house. Together we’d bake these wonderful Christmas cookies “from home”, as she said. First she’d roam around the markets for a few days and obtained some eggs, some flour, margarine and sugar. Sometimes she’d even get a lemon! For the zest.

She’d prepare the dough and leave it in the pantry overnight. Then we’d spend the whole next day in the kitchen kneading, rolling and cutting dough. We’d bake little stars, hearts and …plusses.
I later learned that the “plus” was actually the cross from the Swiss flag. Once cooled down, we’d put the cookies into 2 tin cans and I’d get to take one upstairs to my parents.
Once I came back downstairs and she asked me, “So, did mom and dad like them?
I like them” was my answer. Only then did she realize that not many cookies ever made it to my parents’.

The recipe:

250 g soft butter
225 g sugar
1 pinch of salt
3 fresh eggs
1 Bio-Lemon for the zest
500 g flour
1 fresh yolk
1 spoonfull of milk

  1. Whisk the eggs in a large bowl. Blend in sugar and beat until mixture is thick and pale, about 10 minutes. Mix in the melted butter and salt. Gradually fold in the flour and lemon zest. Cover and refrigerate for at least one hour or, preferably, overnight.
  2. Preheat oven to 165° C. 
  3. On a floured surface, roll out dough to 6-7mm thickness. Cut into desired shapes using cookie cutters. Place cookies on the cookie sheet. Brush with beaten egg yolks.
  4. Bake in preheated oven until golden at the edges, 15 to 20 minutes. Cool cookies on racks.

Like a snake sheds its skin, I shed my white shirts while writing a series of memories – to be found in this link.

Democracy/ White Shirt Project #7

…or how we spent the revolution/coup d’état.

My memories of those days of Christmas 1989 are somewhat blurred. I remember there were rumours of unrest in the streets of Timișoara. A support rally for the communist party was organised in Bucharest. Sometime before Christmas Eve, the phone rang: dad was called to go “protect the factory” he was working in as an engineer. He gambled and didn’t go. A friend of his came over to bring us some Christmas presents, but then couldn’t get back home, as there was shooting around the television building he had to pass on his way. So he returned and we spent Christmas together in our mansard, afraid and curious and glued to the tv: eventually, the dictator couple was overthrown. Live broadcast! “We’re free! Democracy, at last!” dad yelled.

My great grandma, born 1904, had immigrated from Switzerland in 1927. Now she ranted from behind the stove: “…Democracy?! We needed 500 years to learn how to deal with democracy. And you think you got it all just like that, overnight?”
Dad got frantic: “You bitter old woman! Can’t you, for once, rejoice?”

30 years passed in a blink.

Like a snake sheds its skin, I shed my white shirts while writing a series of memories – to be found in this link.

Oleander/ White Shirt Project #6

Great-grandma had come from Switzerland to Romania in 1927 as a trained nanny for children with disabilities. Among the things which she attempted to reconstruct in her new country that’d remind her of home was a typically Swiss garden: with flowerbeds and gravel roads, bergenia, violets, tulips, periwinkle, hydrangea, forsythia, rose-beds and an ivy-covered fence.
As people from the North need a constant reminder of their longing for the South, a Mediterranean twist was added: 4 oleanders in wooden crates shed our garden table from our neighbours’ prying eyes, 2 white and 2 pink ones.

She’d tend to the garden almost every day, so I grew up learning plants by their German or botanical name more than by their Romanian ones. The oleanders grew heavier each year and they needed to be carried down the spiral staircase to the basement every winter. Sometimes they got lice and had to be treated. Sometimes dad didn’t look sad at all when they had to be pruned dramatically, as that would decrease their size and weight proportionately.
They survived everything – except the collapse of the communist party.  When, after years of applying for permits in vain, upon the fall of the regime in 1989, we where finally authorised to switch from heating with wood stoves to central heating, the oleanders snuffed it.

Like a snake sheds its skin, I shed my white shirts while writing a series of memories – to be found in this link.

Landowner/ White Shirt Project #5

Before 1989 we were taught in school about how the incredibly cruel bourgeois landowners had enslaved and tortured the peasants.
I knew that in the old times grandma had owned some land and a horse. It was therefore hard to imagine the most sweet-natured person I knew mistreat any living being, let alone another fellow human.
After the revolution I learned that grandma had been a lawyer in her youth. A city gal through and through, but in love with nature and horseback riding, she had taken up a credit for a few hectares of land close to Bucharest, bought the aforementioned horse and a pair of oxen and had spent most of her free time riding through the fields.
In January 1948 the bar associations were dismantled and lawyers banned from practicing law under the new regime.
In March 1949 the collectivization of agriculture began: everything was confiscated, nationalized; the animals were put into a collective farm. The horse refused any food and dropped dead after a week.
Until this day I have never met anyone more sweet-natured and serene than my grandma.

Like a snake sheds its skin, I shed my white shirts while writing a series of memories – to be found in this link.

No photo description available.

First Snow/ White Shirt Project #4

One late autumn day in 1982, two couples spent a night at the Horezu Monastery with their kids. The next morning they were going to gather chestnuts in the woods nearby. But when they woke up, a thick layer of snow had covered everything, blinding white.
So we went for a walk in the woods instead. On the way back, I climbed on a gate to avoid being trampled on by the cows returning to the village in the evening. Clouds of steam from her nostrils. A cow stopped, turned and licked my face.

Every winter on the first day of snow my mind goes back to that morning. The peace of that monastery, the order that seems to come to this world along with the snow.

Like a snake sheds its skin, I shed my white shirts while writing a series of memories – to be found in this link.

Restructured/ White Shirt Project #3

2008. On November 27, I got fired. One day after my 30th birthday. It wasn’t even the first time I got “restructured”, but it was a painful one. We had played “happy family” for some time at the office, now we started playing “last in first out”. It taught me that one dreams and grows alone. And the world doesn’t end with that nice job in a cosy architecture office in Zürich.

Like a snake sheds its skin, I shed my white shirts while writing a series of memories – to be found in this link.

Housewarming/ White Shirt Project #2

2013, November 24. We met again by chance in some bar. We danced like crazy, almost like that first time when you whirled me around, then suddenly lost your balance and let go and I almost landed on my skull.
Outside on the sidewalk, your dreamy smile, “Where should we go now. Somewhere nice.
We could go to my place, this time“, I said. “But it’s still under construction, I don’t live there yet.” Let’s.
First time I got to sleep here, on a huge towel in the middle of the room, the silhouette of furniture against the wall, covered in some old sheets. That foggy morning. Housewarming.

Like a snake sheds its skin, I shed my white shirts while writing a series of memories – to be found in this link.

Taking off/ White Shirt Project #1

1999, November 22, I left Bucharest.
Excited: I would go to Germany on an Erasmus year. As sweet revenge for having failed the first attempt at high school admission 2 years earlier! Goodbye home of my quarrelsome teenage years, goodbye to all boundaries! Hello world!
I was going to travel and I would discover and I would love and it will all be worth it.
On my road, I shed so many skins. For every skin, I’ll post a shirt (and a memory) – to be found in this link. Come along.

URANUS NOW

Text about the 2019 exhibition at MNAC in cooperation with Zeppelin & Ideilagram

The new exhibition is ongoing now, July 2022

December 22, 1989 marked not only the fall of the Ceaușescu regime, but also the end of the megalomaniac communist project to demolish and then rebuild Romanian cities. Thirty years on, the collective memory of these destructions is fading away, while the aggression against the cities continues, even in an opposite paradigm – that of ultraliberal development.

Forgetting (sometimes voluntary) can intensify a revisionist discourse, which justifies those brutal demolitions by the need to “modernize”. The same discourse then programmatically applies to the destructions and excessive building we witness today.

Under these circumstances, we believe that neither nostalgic accounts, nor the display of archives and other records as such are no longer enough. Therefore, through the proposed project we intend to take a step forward towards a symbolic and analytical re-enactment of an erased urban reality.

     *Collage: Radu Manelici. Photo: Andrei Bîrsan, Ștefan Tuchilă

We concentrate the almost completely destroyed Uranus neighbourhood, the very place the occupied by Ceaușescu’s Palace (now the seat of the Parliament) and several other totalitarian buildings. But we also talk about the context, the general project and other brutal urban replacements, including recent ones in Bucharest.

*Ecoului Street in the 1980s. Photo: Andrei Bîrsan

The keyword is co-presence: overlaying today’s reality on the erased past reality. And this will be achieved not only for houses, churches, schools, streets and gardens, but also for people and their stories. Using 3D and physical models and installations, we aim to symbolically bring back to life the demolished buildings into today’s world.

The main goal of our project goes beyond remembering and honouring those who suffered, resisted or documented this tragedy: it is also about promoting a more balanced and responsible urban development for the present.

URANUS NOW is a project about the living history and the community spirit, about the sometimes invisible connections between periods of history that might appear radically different.

*Photo: Andrei Bîrsan

Text continues here / Read more about it here on the Zeppelin Platform