Prison for 1
Presentation of the work of Iulian Mereuță
Decebal Scriba and Magda Radu
Iulian Mereuță (b. 1943, Bălți – d. 2015, Paris), was a visual artist who experimented with almost all major forms of contemporary art: conceptual art, performance, installation, photography, experimental film, video. Between 1957 and 1960 he studies in Galați, with Lola Schmieter-Roth, André Derrain’s former student. He continues to attend, between 1960 and 1966, the Art History and Theory courses at the N. Grogorescu Art Institute in Bucharest (today, the National University of the Arts, Bucharest). In August 1968 he travels to Prague and tries to meet members of the underground movement in Czechoslovakia. In the 1970s he would travel, for the second time, to Prague, attempting to establish contacts, with the Czech underground movement, and has a decisive meeting with Jindrich Chalupecky, important figure of the East European Avant-Garde, which opens doors to Czech artists’ studios.
Between 1970 and 1977 he receives his first studio in Bucharest and begins an intense work. In this period, he develops Corp capturat (transportabil) [Captured body (transportable)], an 8-hour performance in his studio. During the 1970s he continues to perform, in his studio, within intimate events such as Vacuum, Multimammia, Magdeburg Experimentum Revisited. He participates with Paul Neagu at a simultaneous artistic event (London-Bucharest), around Neagu’s work The Cake Man. In 1972 he is invited by Jorge Glusberg to participate at CAYC Buenos Aires in the ArtSystem 2 exhibition. In the same year he meets Gellu Naum (poet, dramatist, novelist, children’s writer, and translator, founder of the Romanian Surrealist Group), with whom he shares impassioned debates on non-intentional performance art. His first public exhibition in Bucharest, titled J.A. Desene (O identitate artistică alternativă) [J.A.Drawings (An Alternative Artistic Identity)] takes place in 1973. In 1978 he is involved, with Gellu Naum, a non-intentional performance titled Pleacă, ia! [Leave!].
In August 1978 he runs away from Romania, his studio is seized by the State, his works and archive stolen, destroyed or scattered. He spends two months in Delfzijl, The Netherlands, where, under the influence of drugs, he paints the Skaï & Rubbish and Dutch Groans series, a project of a concrete poetry book. In November 1978 he arrives in Paris, where he lives and works until his death. Between 1979 and 1987 he creates drawings and models installational projects. Between 1987 and 1989 he tries to reconnect with his artistic past. He paints the series Mâ and Umatula that he exhibits at the Emilia Suciu Gallery in Germany, well documented by Artpress’ issue no.150.
In 1995 re returns, for a month, in Romania, where he discovers some of his old works and notebooks. In 1999 he returns and works with Gellu Naum, constructing an important body of work comprised of drawings, performances and objects for Catching Dust / Bornaum (a project for an exhibition and artist book). In 2001 he publishes kafka / poèmes (2001) and kafka / restes (2003) at the HHL publishing house; in 2003 he publishes Celan Im Traum – Quatre Rêves Avec Paul Celan. In 2005 he creates the first version of Prison for 1, a collection of 13 sculptures suggesting an architectural model for an individual prison. In 2007 he creates Die Strafmöbeln – a series of several experimental films. He continues, in 2009, the Prison for 1 project, with models of varying dimensions for an artist book. Among his last projects are Emptiness As Emptiness, three dimensional models for In The Biggest World Canteen There Is Nothing To Eat.
In 2010, some ancient works from the seventies are presented in the ROMANIAN CULTURAL RESOLUTION exhibition, organised by the Romanian Cultural Institute at Spinnerei Leipzig. Arnaud Lefebvre Gallery in Paris presents for the first time his experimental films DIE STRAFMÖBELN, Film 1-7. In 2011, he works on two web projects : 4 days web performance with friends, presented by Arnaud Lefebvre Gallery in the Turtle Salon of Michael Shamberg and EMPTY ROOMS WITH CASUAL SOUNDS, web sound project with friends. Between 2011-2013 he participates at group exhibitions organised by Arnaud Lefebvre Gallery in Paris and Emilia Suciu Gallery in Germany. In spring 2013 he launches, with Decebal Scriba, a virtual gallery with an international participation, where several of his late works are presented; Prison for 1, Unquiet 1 and Crowd Abyss. He participates at the PARIS ART FAIR 2014 with Arnaud Lefebvre Gallery.
Magda Radu’s contribution focuses less on Iulian Mereuță’s arwork, as it places an emphasis on the fragmented dialogues she had with him a few years back. Radu was involved in a research on 1960s and 1970s non-conformist art in Romania, and Iulian Mereuță’s name had come up in several discussions she had with direct participants in social, cultural and political processes at the time (artists, art critics, art historians). Mereuță proved to be an impassioned partner of dialogue, an entirely immersed witness, a critical analyst of the local context and, moreover, a surprising artist, less known in Romania as such. He was deeply interested in international conceptualism and in the still active remnants of the local Surrealism. Radu argues that Mereuță’s work needs urgent reconsideration and revisiting, and suggests that it has to be connected with multiple relevant themes for the cultural and artistic past and present.