Second Life in Communism

Project description

Second life in communism aims to be a reflexive space, where the recent past and the present intersect in an integrative dialectic, through photographs and archive documents, images of the present and fragments of oral history. In the framework of the exhibition there will be a public workshop addressing the experience of working with the Secret Police (SECURITATE)
 archives and the diversity of its research-based interpretations. The organizers propose a multi-modal perspective for interpreting the Securitate documents by showing their techniques and methods and also by observing the contingencies of private life and public surveillance – our aim is to add signification to the secret file as a metronome of personal daily life.

How was the project innovative?

Beside the photographic documents and the files we have included in the exhibition fragments of video interviews took by the Oral History Center of CNSAS (National Council for Studying the Securitate’s Archives). From the perspective of their own file and memories of lived events, the protagonists of the interviews speak about fear, disappointment, their need of clarification or about guilt and compromise.

How is the project linked to the theme of 20th century European memory?

The photographs from the Securitate files are present in case studies and image installations set as to nuance the private-public elision produced by surveillance and pursuit, the ethics aesthetics rapport present in the wider context of the artists way of ‘’looking at’’ and working with documents and archives, and the connection between observation and surveillance in nowadays public space, as compared to the recent past.’’ Different debates have accompanied the transitional process of the opening and access to the sensitive archives belonging to the former Secret Service. Despite the different national historiographical contexts, discussions have been generally focused on the moral-political entanglements and hardships of the institutionalization of lustration, alongside polemics concerning the validity of the data contained within the files. Legal undertakings oriented towards verdicts concerning human rights trespassing have thus been carried within a divided discursive environment, either discarding facts from the files or relying upon them.
By bringing together researchers and artists interested in their recent past we attempt not only to accommodate insights from different disciplines, but also to disrupt epistemic routines when dealing with records of a repressive apparatus. Instead of a questioning of the facts, we encourage analyses of the texts as bureaucratic artifacts. Instead of approaching the files as inconsistent accounts ready to be filled in, we enhance a dialogue of their ready-made message embedded within complex technologies of surveillance. Instead of using the classificatory symbolic lenses of the police, amounting to constructing individual or group objectives, we are looking forward to displacing and rearranging data and evidence, thus crossing file boundaries through series of surveillance photo and interviews.

Further information

Second Life in Communism - people, attitudes, places:
Agentia de Arte:”second-life-in-communism-oameni-atitudini-locuri”/
Radio România Cultural:
Bucharest AIR:
Fabrica de Pensule:


National Museum of Contemporary Art
National Council for Studying the Securitate’s Archives
National University of Arts Bucharest