In the EUROSCOLA project, members of the Infinity of the Bird in Space team at Motru Technical College have proposed to promote the work of Constantin Brâncuşi to the community. On this occasion, the students intended to conduct thematic interviews to inform readers about Constantin Brâncuşi’s influence in the European space.

Oana Bogdan, an architecture diplomat in Romania and Belgium, continued her academic work in Belgium where she taught architecture and urban planning at KU Leuven University for seven years. Oana Bogdan gives us an overview of the contribution of Constantin Brâncuşi’s work and thinking to the European cultural heritage in the interview she gave to the members of the Infinity of the Bird in Space team from Motru Technical College for Europunkt.

Photo: Saskia Vanderstichele

Foto: Saskia Vanderstichele 

Citeşte versiunea în limba română aici.

Vladimir Adrian Costea: To begin with, please tell us about the role Constantin Brâncuşi plays in the formation of the Romanian identity in the European space. To what extent is the identity of the Romanian people found in Brâncuşi’s works?

Oana Bogdan: When we talk about the Romanian identity in Brâncuşi’s works, we immediately ​wonder how his work would have ​been, if he had not gone to Paris or if he had not been inspired to a great extent by ​the Romanian ethnography. But this question​, most probable, has no meaning ​when it comes to great artists. They transcend​ ​national or group identities, ​they ​are universal. This is especially the case of Brâncuşi, whose work marks a point of reference in modern art, ​I would even ​dare to say that it is the origin of modern art, far exceeding the influences from the Romanian folk tradition or from the European art. Thus, the Romanian ​identity is found in Brâncuşi’s work in a sublimated form, ​through ​its ​​universal​ity​.

However, I want to clarify one thing: national identities are fluid social constructs, and the story of assimilating Brâncuşi’s work in our country is proof. This was first rejected in Romania, being considered decadent and lacking in artistic value at the beginning of the 1950s. It was only later recovered, but in an ideological key, as a „people’s artist” from the people. More recently​,​ Brâncuşi is assumed from a nationalist perspective ​and he has been transform​ed into a „national symbol”. It would be an error​ to remain like this​, because it would reduce a universal work to a provincial value.

What are the elements characterizing the work and philosophy of Constantin Brâncuşi? What is the originality of Constantin Brâncuşi?

Brâncuşi’s originality comes from the rupture he imposes on ​the status quo of ​sculpture. He had the chance to be part of the modernist ferment in Paris and the power of not adhering to any of the ​era’s ​currents​ ​(Dadaism, Cubism, Surrealism, Supremacy).

Brâncuşi has created his own artistic language by stylization, purification and abstraction, even though he ​rejected the abstraction by ​naming „idiots” those who call​ed​ his ​art ​​abstract​, when in fact this was realistic, since real is not the outer form, but the idea, „the being of things.” Brâncuşi did not carve birds, but their essence, the idea of ​​bird, namely ​the ​flight.​

In the context of the different crises and cleavages you identify in the European space, how do you assess the influence of Constantin Brâncuşi’s work and thought?

Like any great artist, he is the creator of a universal language that transcends ​crises​ ​and​ ​cleavages​.​

What is the role of the Romanian sculptor’s work and philosophy in consolidating European identity and European heritage?

Brâncuşi undoubtedly has his place and his well-established role in the European artistic movement at the beginning of the 20th century, ​being part of an extremely complex artistic context, which radically changed the way of perceiving art as an artistic vehicle​,​ but above all spiritual. You can not talk about Brâncuşi without ​mentioning Picasso, Dali, Modigliani, Kandinsky.​ ​Still, Brâncuşi and his art do not play identity roles. The art of great creators is, by definition, universal, so that Brâncuşi’s work is part of the world heritage.​

What is the image ​promoted ​by ​Brâncuşi ​in the European and Transatlantic space?

​The original ​image of the ​”peasant”​ ​retired in ​his own workshop​ has long ​persisted​. His workshop was ​a pilgrimage site for artists of the time​, who have recognized his value​ during his lifetime, which is out of the ordinary.

His constant refusal to revolve against one of the current times and the pivotal role ​played ​in the transition to modern sculpture​, have ​led to ​​Brâncuşi ​being considered the initiator of modern art.

To what extent can the recourse to Constantin Brâncuşi’s opera and thinking represent today the chance to revive the European heritage?

European heritage is more vigorous than ever, I do not think we can speak of a revival.​​ Brâncuşi could inspire us, however, in cultural innovation, especially in economically poor areas​,​ but rich in traditions. This synergy tradition-innovation can lead to the revival of some countries, if we are ​anyway ​talking about revival.​

To what extent do you consider that Brâncuşi’s work is capitalized to the maximum potential in ​the ​Romanian and European space?

It is very difficult to appreciate what would be the maximum potential to which an artist’s work can be redeemed. Brâncuşi​’s work is found in the largest museums in the world. Unfortunately, Communist Romania denied h​is work by refusing h​is offer ​-​ the workshop in ​​Impasse Ronsin​,​ as well as 200 works. Thus, Brâncuşi first gained international recognition, being later „recovered” by the Romanian state, especially for propaganda purposes.

What are the steps that you consider opportune to include​​ Brâncuşi’s works in universal ​cultural heritage?

His works are already part of the universal ​cultural heritage, there is no need for any extra certificates or ​attestations, with the exception of the inclusion of the ensemble from Târgu Jiu in the UNESCO world heritage. Moreover, the sad experiences in recent history with ​the ensemble of works on Târgu-Jiu​’s public space,​ prove that in Romania ​​Brâncuşi’s works should be placed under strict protection, being vulnerable to vandalism and amateurism. However, even more importan​t is the development of artistic culture in Romania, so ​that ​Brâncuşi does not remain ​an ​isolated​ case​.

What did Brâncuşi’s trial say? What were the main activities that took place during this event?

You are referring to Brâncuşi vs. US Customs? In that case, Brancusi’s ​bronze ​birds, who arrived at the US Customs in 1926 before a New York exhibition, were not considered​ ​”works of art” (and therefore exempt from taxes), but were classified as falling into the „household and sanitary items „. ​A lawsuit followed​ and was eventually won by Brâncuşi, ​notwithstanding​ ​humiliation. It is certain that ​during that lawsuit, which ​had as witnesses great ​art ​critics of the time, what we call modern art today ​has been defined.

At the end of this interview, ​we kindly ask you to send a message to young people who have not yet been able to understand Brâncuşi. What is the lesson Constantin Brancusi offers to young people today?

Brâncuşi does not give lessons, but inspires. Let the young people get inspired to follow their vocation and passion. ​They should be free as ​a „M​ăiastra” Bird.​

Oana Bogdan la Festivalul Sustenabilitate

Oana Bogdan at the Sustainability Festival

As co-founder of BOGDAN & VAN BROECK, Oana Bogdan has been questioning the traditional role of the architect, advocating new ways of looking at how to organise the spatial presence of mankind. Next to that, she is member of the Unesco Experts Committee for the City of Bruges and a regular jury member for awards and architecture competitions.

Oana has been guest tutor at various architecture programs at the University of Leuven, member of the Advisory Committee for Architecture and Design of the Flemish Government and of the Royal Committee for Monuments and Landscapes of the Flemish Region. She won Europan 7 in 2004 and the Bucharest Architecture Bienale in 2010, and has been twice nominated for the Mies Van der Rohe Award.

In July 2016, she took on the position of Secretary of State in Romania, coordinating the field of cultural heritage from the perspective of heritage as strategic resource until the Parliamentary elections at the end of 2016, with the aim to position Romania in the world as a country rich in natural and cultural heritage. She is currently using this valuable experience in both architecture and advocacy work.


Interview realized by Infinity of the Bird in Space team, Motru Technical College.


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