Friday, November 9, 2012

RCINY (Romanian cultural institute)

This months cover by Aleksandar Ares,
layout by K.K.W
Dark days ahead? Changes @ the Romanian Cultural Institute in NYC. Article by K.K.W

"When you disarm the people, you commence to offend them and show that you distrust them either through cowardice or lack of confidence, and both of these opinions generate hatred" (1)
Traian Basescu (President of Romania) speaking at a rally in his support.
Photo courtesy of wikipedia
As if matters were not already somewhat grim in Romania (the fight over the judiciary, press freedom: journalists under fire, the referendum against the president, and possibly having to borrow money from the IMF, etc) now the government has changed the mission, subordination and leadership of the RCI. Most alarming is the undemocratic process by which these changes were made. It forgoes the regular transparent and consultive process of legislating by the Parliament of such a change.

Through an emergency ordinance bill passed on June 13th 2012, the government now seeks to "preserve and perpetuate national identity." Apparently elements within the government did not like the current direction of the RCI, and clearly sees the power having control over it brings. The changes made via the bill are aimed at stemming what some feel are "...highly negative effects of some state of affairs that tend to affect, permanently, the sense of belonging to the Romanian nation of those who are already settled, temporarily, in other states". In protest over the changes the director & deputy director of the RCINY have both pledged to resign in mid-Nov 2012.     

Corina Suteu (left- former director of the RCI),
& Oana Radu (former deputy director of the RCI)
The Romanian cultural institute has 17 branches, including NYC, in various parts of the world. Their strategy or aim, to be open to the outside world, re-link the Romanian cultural market (cut off from the west)with the western world. Given the broad reach of 17 branches, its an immense outlet for whoever appoints its leaders and has major influence over them and or to dictate policy. 

While the institute under its president Horia Roman Patapievici has maintained an a-political agenda, many feel it will be the complete opposite given new leadership via the changes, backed by the government. Also, there is the very real danger of the governments actions being used as a precedent for further acts that by-pass normal political process.     

Stefan Peca,  former communication coordinator.
 Image courtesy of  Mr Peca 
In addition to all this its clear that altering the mission of the RCI is part of a plan to use it as an instrument for serving the Romanian diaspora (Romanians living outside of the country who can still vote on many issues), bringing events and programs in Romanian for them. Conversing with Stefan Peca through Facebook about the matter he had this to say, "...Romanian politicians have changed the Institute's mission, which is now an instrument for mainly serving the Romanian diaspora, focusing on events and programs in Romanian for them. Though there are two other cultural governmental agencies in Romania with the sole purpose of serving the diaspora (one of them within the RCI), the new government decided to politicize the institution (which now runs under the direct control of the Senate) and choose a traditionalist, nationalistic path that reminds us of the communist 80s rather than the modern approach that the RCI had until the summer of 2012, when these changes occurred. It is such a shame because the new president of the institute has already declared that RCI will stop promoting "experiments" (new art, literature, music and film) and focus on rehashing the classics. The young artists (coincidentally whose works are the number 1 cultural export asset of the country) won't have support anymore (because they are not "established" enough), a considerable blow to Romania's "living" culture. Instead, the offer of the new RCI will focus on Romanian classic literature and science, a policy that proved to be a complete failure in the 90s. Instead of growing its status as one of the most vibrant European cultural institutes (and the work that RCINY has done in the past 6 years in NYC is exemplary - with a very small budget they managed to connect the best contemporary Romanian artists with the NY scene) the RCI will probably succumb to the dark ages of Soviet-type propaganda, and stop being regarded as representative to contemporary Romanian art. Already, young artists are abandoning all intentions to work with the new Institute, and probably a subversive movement against this politicization of culture - a long term cultural war, already showing its signs - will start very soon, just like in the early 2000s. " 

In the end, nothing lasts forever. And on that note, here's hoping that these dark days head will be no more then a brief interruption, that will soon pass thanks those who realize they have a duty to stand in active opposition, against a clear and present danger to contemporary Romanian culture.  
If you would like to know more, go to:,"Art is the reason, art is the way" (1) Niccolo Machiavelli. Stage One Pro 51cm Road Bike - Road & Touring Bikes (Google Affiliate Ad)Packleader Pro 51cm Road Bike - Road & Touring Bikes (Google Affiliate Ad)roxy Oregon Shoes (Blk) - Women's Shoes - 9.0 M (Google Affiliate Ad)

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