Romelo Pervolovici and Maria Manolescu, reunited as 2META, are, to my mind, a unique, symptomatic case in the context of Romanian visual research in the past 25 years.
First, let’s consider the sculptor Romelo Pervolovici, who migrated from an artistic quest nourished by archaic archetypes and Eastern spiritual traditions that manifested for an entire aesthetic direction seeking for essence, in the 1980s, when he started his career, to a spectacular conversion from the 1990s onwards. Conversion, attraction, passion for art as polymorphous experiment, with a variety of materials, techniques and contradictory conceptual perspectives, art as visual research, bold and unconventional, in a field which has expanded explosively through the new means of mass communication and the fulminating rise of science as the main imaginary universe of the urban collective mentality nowadays.
Secondly, let’s move to Maria Manolescu, who has a background in humanities, and has undergone a migration herself, from spiritual readings and writings, markedly suffused with Orthodox and esoteric views, in the 1980s, to a spectacular opening in the 1990s, until today, to the latest linguistic, scientific, logical and aesthetic theories, seeking to create a craved synthesis, yet to be explored, with artistic potential.
By all means, 2META group is a rare case of perfect equality and equity between the two spouses who make it up, in the Romanian artistic world where, most often, women artists sacrifice and dedicate themselves to their husbands’ career, who forget to integrate them into their own career and acknowledge them as part of their own success. The 2META group is a polar, but harmonious structure: Maria Manolescu is the theoretical mastermind, so to say, the one who delivers the motivational discourse, often times extremely sophisticated, while Romelo Pervolovici is the one who sees ideas, feels forms, and delivers the final visual discourse, often stunning and challenging. Although at first one could sense the gender division of labour between the two, over time, through mutual energy and information exchanges, the group has fused into a coherent whole that works inseparably and flawlessly.
But what I find even more interesting in the case of 2META is the fact that the group took on their own shoulders, and very seriously, the need of renewal, of experimentation in all directions, of opening towards the international scene, which appeared naturally and violently after the Romanian Revolution of December 1989. 2META was not only a group, but also a self-created, self-contained institution, a private foundation with its own resources, which has managed miraculously not only to survive until now, in a world where nothing, not even institutions last for long, but also to have their own research programme, scholarships, annual colloquiums and exhibitions that have created their “brand” and have progressively strengthened their reputation. Even The Biennial of Young Artists, organized by 2META until 2014, the first international biennial for visual arts in Bucharest, was a “family business”, so to say, as in its tremendous planning efforts the 2META couple involved their son, architect Radu Pervolovici, as well, during the past years. And it is worth highlighting the exemplary work of this “artists’ business”, driven mainly by the desire for renewal and evolution, by the ambition to synchronize the small, but highly dynamic Romanian artistic world of today with the rest of the globe.
Why META, we might wonder? Where does this slightly pretentious, slightly mysterious name come from? Probably because they are a theoretical-artistic group, and not just an artistic one, as there are many in Romania and abroad. What’s certain is that it has to do with the group’s explicit programme, emphasized by various theoretical texts that have accompanied their exhibitions: a programme that envisages, obsessively and bravely, even if sometimes ambiguously, the research of mental, linguistic and visual mechanisms which make the artistic act become real. Therefore, 2META is programmatically oriented towards self-reflexivity and self-referentiality, with their corresponding discourse-about-discourse, fiction about fiction, hence meta-language, meta-logic, meta-fiction, meta-narrative, etc. And generally, a search of awareness and experimentation in the theory and production of art – which explains the touch of sophistication and interdisciplinarity, of experimentalism at any price, and sometimes the artificiality of the “META stance”. A stance obviously placed within the broader field of conceptualism as dominant aesthetic paradigm in the international environment over the past 40-50 years.
Yet who has not admired the exuberant inspiration and conspicuous playful dimension of many visual meta-fictions signed by 2META? Who didn’t wince when seeing their installations in 1999-2002 about the miners’ attacks in 1990, 1991 and 1999 that took place in Bucharest? Who didn’t admire the play on words and ideas in “Art Is My Weapon“ (2001)? Who wasn’t amused by the “EuRoFlag” paintings, with the stars of the European Union, in 2004-2005? Who didn’t enjoy the huge light blue floating jellyfish, in Sibiu, in 2007? Who didn’t appreciate the video-installations entitled “I’ve Seen Someone that Wasn’t There” in 2008 (with its hypnotic eyes), or “User Guide to Art” in 2009, or “Interactive Self-Portrait” in 2009, or “Water Drop” in 2015, and many, many others? Who has not vibrated at the constant references of 2META group at the traumas of communism and post-communism, as well as at their openness towards the new universalism of today, called globalism/glocalism? Who hasn’t noticed the implicit critique aimed at conventional art institutions, such as museum and vernissage? Who hasn’t stopped to reflect on their invented concepts, such as “anartomy”, “sousveillance”, “realism after realism”, “artopology”, and especially “imposition”, a defining concept of the 2META type of research, as opposed to the concept of “exhibition” and implying attention to interiority and the complex cognitive and emotional processes of creating images?
I think that the theoretical and visual eclecticism of the 2META group illustrates, better than many other projects and cultural productions in Romania, the versatility of thinking and postmodern artistic stance (which in my opinion still persists today): fragmentation and mix of incongruous visual techniques, intertextuality, irony and paradox, textual and visual manipulation, de- and re-contextualization of theoretical and imaginary information, multiplication of cultural references and levels of meaning, in a word, a sweeping conceptual and playful experimentalism that appropriates local and international items, dissociates and recomposes them creatively within its own discourse in order to support its own manifesto and cultural influence.
Through everything it has created and continues to create, I think that 2META group is a distinguished representative of the 1980s, both visually and theoretically, as the direction of this decade was reformulated after 1989, and through the most creative and dynamic aspects of this generation. And the fact that 2META was a forerunner on its own, of the experimental-conceptual openness between 1990-2000, long before the conceptual-experimental effervescence of 2010 and that of the latest generation representing them, who sometimes forget their immediate predecessors who are still very productive, is, in my opinion, a confirmation. A confirmation of the role-model part that 2META has played almost by itself, despite all difficulties and obstacles, on the Romanian visual scene over the past two decades, both discreetely and brilliantly.
Art critic and historian, curator