Salt Beyoğlu

May 8 – August 11, 2013

subREAL, Framing Vienna, 1999 subREAL, <i>Framing Vienna</i> [Viyana’yı Çerçevelemek], 1999
<i>Interviewing the Cities. Framing…</i> [Şehirlerle Söyleşi. Çerçevelemek...] serisinden
Calin Dan ve Iosif Király’nin izniyle
subREAL, Framing Vienna, 1999
From the series Interviewing the Cities. Framing…
Courtesy Călin Dan and Iosif Király
subREAL at SALT Beyoğlu comprises a selection of works from the retrospective exhibition that took place at The National Museum of Contemporary Art Bucharest (MNAC) in 2012. The artistic practice of the “action group” subREAL undertakes political, social and cultural criticism with a sharp sense of humor while creating a vigorous visual language.

subREAL formed in Romania in the April of 1990, right after the “television revolution” that ended the dictatorship of Nicolae Ceaușescu in 1989, by artist Dan Mihălţianu and art historian Călin Dan in April 1990, with the aim of “exorcising the residue of the decades of communist oppression.” The group was shortly after joined by architect and photographer Iosif Király in February 1991.

subREAL investigated the culture of late-communist Romania, its transition into a form of liberal capitalism and the floundering establishment of democratic institutions during the 1990s. Through photography, film, installation, and performances, subREAL examined the ramifications of this period on the artists working in Romania. In their works that focused on myths and clichés of Romanian culture, they explored issues around high modernism; the increasing marketability of art from Eastern Europe; the fetishization of communism; and the problem of independent artistic expression in the post-1989 world. For subREAL, the investigation of the relationship between production and consumerism and their effects on artistic production remained crucial. In addition to producing their own works, in which they combined installation strategies with elements of performance and actionism, subREAL undertook curatorial projects.

The works subREAL produced between 1990-1992 (East-West Avenue; Alimentara; Je t’aime, moi non plus) reveal the layered social, political and artistic setting of the communist period and its subsequent transformation. In 1992, their pivotal installation for the 3rd İstanbul Biennial brought together the rapidly transforming cities of Bucharest and İstanbul. subREAL’s installations of the Draculaland series (1992-1997) were triggered by a reaction to the clichés of the Western press in reference to the Romania of the 1990s as well as to the rising nationalistic discourse; the series combined fiction and reality utilizing multicultural as well as personal sources in complex installations abound with irony and subversion. Dan Mihalțianu left the group to pursue an individual career in 1993.

Now a duo, the one-year residency of the group at Künstlerhaus Bethanien in Berlin marked the beginning of a new stage for subREAL. Their distance from Romanian everyday life allowed them to initiate the Art History Archive series (1995-1996), for which the archival photographic material of a disbanded art magazine became the core material. This introduction was followed by a series of events, installations and performances; The Serving Art series (1997-1999) examined the aura and the universe around the art object, while the Interviewing the Cities (1999-2005) series focused on the characters and support structures needed for presenting art, articulating a subjective but telling register of personal relationships with people, places and objects.

subREAL at SALT Beyoğlu is organized with the contribution of the Romanian Cultural Institute in İstanbul (ICR) and is part of the ongoing collaboration between SALT and ICR İstanbul, initiated in 2011.

subREAL Retrospect at MNAC in Bucharest was curated by Raluca Velisar and organized together with the artists Călin Dan, Iosif Király and Dan Mihălțianu.