Artists: Ion Barladeanu

Ion Barladeanu

​Ion Birladeanu – RealPolitik

There is a fascinating myth about the man living at the borders of society, living a life that bypasses the conventions and comforts of the bourgeois existence. Each open society needs those people who are living, in the same time, inside and outside of it. They are the creators of the critical discourse, the ironists, the cynics, the libertines or the eccentrics who are setting the philosophical standards of the western civilization; Socrates, Antisthenes, Diogenes, Montaigne, Rousseau or Nietzsche are such examples. They are the free spirits that make possible a corrosive discourse in an open society. This acid discourse can produce social changes and regulations and every important moment in the history of human thought has, more or less, something to do with this kind of people. They are people who either refuse to play by the canonical rules of their time and live contrary to that set of believes, either question the status quo.  

Ion Bîrlădeanu had such an existence. He was born in 1946 and for more than 30 years he refused to become an “honorable citizen”. During communism he had had several jobs. In his 20s he left his native village (Zăpodeni, in Vaslui county) to work on the reed fields in Tulcea and then as a docker in Constanţa. Arriving in Bucharest he worked as grave digger, as frame saw worker, security person, or unqualified worker at the House of the People. Starting with 1989 he lives a marginal life, working as a free-lance selector of garbage from a block of flats on Moşilor Street and doing little favours for the people living there. He does not raise a family; he is not employed to this day.

But all these years, he continues his great project that he shows only to a few “intelligent people”. He did what, in my opinion, metaphorically or literally, every artist should do: take the risky road into no man’s land where every society throws its masks away: the dump. Throughout his existence Ion Bîrlădeanu selected magazine images and made a series of unique collages. All of them had a cinematographic intention. He started with a native talent in drawing and, with his passion for movie making, he created an imaginary, proto-pop world which came 20 years before the possibility of reception from the Romanian public. In Romania, the pop aesthetics is a post-communist reality and it is a direct consequence of the consumerist society. With little or no resources, Bîrlădeanu creates a cinematic photogram that tells a complete story. All his collages are a very special hybrid between pop art, with a surrealist touch and dada. Add a little flavor of communist gulag in which films and brands symbolized possibilities of freedom. 

The current exhibition presents a series of political collages, made after 1989. Chronologically they are the newest, made between 1990 and 1996, as a cynical critique towards the all the “leaders” of the Romanian politics, that wandered around the public sphere. Ceauşescu has a special place, but post-communism is also represented by Iliescu, Constantinescu, Funar, Petre Roman or Adrian Păunescu. Through out his life, Ion Bîrlădeanu chose liberty and despised all types of conventional authority. In his collages he built an imaginary arena where he was always victorious, where hypocrisy stood defeated in the cheers of the crowds, and where the humanist-ironical scenario was played over and over again.  

A week before the opening, M. Ion showed me some things that he considers some sort of „imitation” art, but which, for me, is the missing link in his artistic project. In the 70s, during his commute to the ship yard, he used to carve in wood, all sorts of logos. Through all this fascinating objects, I found a wooden communist medal. It is a replica of the “hero of socialist labor”. It was made by M. Ion at the beginning of his career but he will now wear it proudly like a gladiator showing his wooden gladius as a sign of the freedom he earned in the arena. (Dan Popescu)