Artists Valentin Cernat and Mihai Șovăială, representing a generation that has not experienced communism first-hand, tasked themselves with encountering the people and the memory of this history-saturated place, permeated by myths and confessions: the Danube-Black Sea Canal. In an attempt to know and understand, instrumented at the border between art and visual anthropology, project 4m3 consisted of a field research followed by a reenactment of the daily work ritual imposed to the prisoners of the Canal: the digging of a four cubic meter hole, in the vicinity of the former colony in Poarta Albă, a place wherepolitical prisoners were exterminated and then buried in mass graves, right under the earth excavated from the canal.
Employing symbols of transgression and catharsis – work, fear, empathy, darkness, dust, death– the action attempted to uncover the significance of the space beyond what is apparent, and it also involved an exorcism of a place in danger of becoming an object of the controversial practice of Dark tourism. A transgressive ritual of recovering the continuity with the other, with the victims of the Canal, an exercise of understanding, of escaping the self and recovering the body in a world of docile bodies, of control and disciplinary techniques organised at a systemic level, an act of healing through which truth is returned to its place, on the side of the condemned, the silent reenactment represented, for the two young artists and for their generation, a non-dramatic, but no less authentic, appropriation of the past.
Curator Raluca Nestor Oancea