Alexandra Croitoru – Powerplay
At first glance, Powerplay displays a striking symmetry, a seemingly untroubled clarity of premises. Power is obviously the matter of the debate and the portraits are divided between ‘winners’ and ‘losers’. Power, in its first instance, appears either endowed with easily detectable attributes or bearing the features of a famous face – the emblem that ‘is the message’, that claims an ‘ultimate answer’, that irradiates and appropriates that part of the collective unconscious that has been eroded by prejudice and mediatic repetition.
The second portrait of power is insidious – e pseudo-figure, a face hidden behind a mask knit in the national colors of a country in which swans and order have been in some sort of jeopardy, transforming any subsequent touristic endeavor, however innocent, into psychological warfare. Thus sheltered, the second face divides the world into advanced nations and belated nations, distinguishing the adversary by several schematic traits. The outcome of this is an impoverished portrait, another mask woven from stereotypes and vulgar hypotheses – a fixed image of the traveler dragging behind himself a culpable origin. And what we see at work is that lethal blend of victimization and self-victimization, of colonization and jolly self-colonization that is the sociological enigma of the region and that has been validated, in art, in displays of blood-stained folk costumes and geo-esthetical flavors.
At both levels, power seems efficient, equal, undisturbed in its purposes (of which the most important is to communicate itself). But it is this symmetric clarity that misleads, as well as the tranquil realism that seems to inspire it. Where we had expected stratagems and perfidious avatars, we encounter situations in which the code works perfectly and transparently. Alexandra Croitoru makes use of no metaphors and this is where I think the strength of the images lies – she assembles a stage on which the relation of forces is presented in the nude, removed from the field of tacit complicity and consequently baffled. The ‘object’ of power, supervised through a touristy Panopticon, conforms, even anticipates the desires of this gaze: it embraces the local dress codes, it places itself, full of solicitude, in front of touristic sites, it struggles to participate in their history, but cannot rid itself of the origin that transforms any promenade into a tiny and picturesque golgotha. The holiday photos play on that mode of irony that simulates seduction, that takes its interlocutor seriously, speaks for him, approves of him excessively, amplifies his ideas and draws disproportionate conclusions from them, launches forward inspired by their force, extrapolates in all directions, undergoes a fit of exclusively lateral thinking and loses the idea, abandons it, deflated and forlorn, grieving but closer to the real dimension (a ski mask in the national colors bought from the store of the football team Steaua). The logic of the double portraits is complementary. Overwhelmed by an irresistible need for identification, Alexandra steps downstage, searching for the proverbial 15 minutes of glory. The touch and the play of gazes should have suggested the tension of a transfer, but here they distract the attention and discharge the inevitable traces of violence – the rudimentary contract on which the power of the media is built, indifferent to individual grace. What we see seems to be a failed attempt: instead of representing a triumph, the photographs show a vulnerable spot. They meet the mask series by producing an active object of power and an activity that is not confrontation but a transversal effort of contamination. Alexandra talks with power on a relaxed and moderated tone, and about power with mild and indulgent irony. (Mihnea Mircan)