“Orthodox is Better” is not so much a critique raised against the institution of the Romanian Orthodox Church, as it is a critical attitude towards the sterile debate which covers its activity. Starting from the supposition that the connection between religion and secularity should be resolved a priori in a democratic society, Visual Kontakt does not limit its perception strictly to the forms of the discourse as being ludicrous but regards the mere existence and preservation of such a discourse as an absurdity. Thus finding its setting in a network of conceptual nonsense, the project is a review of the hybrids that are incompatible with life and which lacking any ontological consistency, find their ideational manifestation in society and their objectified representation – in the gallery.
If dialogue is understood in the Romanian society as a forced juxtaposition of two self-sufficient entities, “Orthodox is Better” suggests a series of secular-ecclesiastical syntheses by producing objects, spaces and architectural projections which forcedly combine the views that are not looking for appeasement in a debate which cannot exist from a conceptual point of view. Blasphemy, as a favourite instrument of the anti-clerical rhetoric, meets the monumentality, opulence and symmetry pertaining to canonical forms, and principles of the ecumenical doctrine find themselves integrated into objects and situations of daily life, making their way through and conquering secular territories. Concept-objects generate ideational syntheses by intending to acquire impossible or useless functions, of which the sole purpose is to reconcile industrial and relativist modernity with dogma and canon.
The “Orthodox is Better” project takes place in a gallery-like setting, which allows an intuition of the religious element on a monumental scale. The numerous architectural mock-ups allude to the congestion of ideas and viable possibilities in what regards the transformation of urban ensembles into ecclesiastical constructions. The creation of mock-ups as a process within the project is a semblance of the power the institution of the Romanian Orthodox Church has over the collective psyche and its role as a forum of decision-making in Romanian public affairs.
The infusion of the religious phenomenon is suggested by the absurd eclecticism of a frieze which conveys an architecture built in the spirit of modern and post-modern functionality. The traditional Romanian crucifix (troița) transformed into a concrete monument, the garages and apartment buildings, the gas station and the supermarket are just a few of the elements sharing their place in the contemporary world. The unifying element which appears symbolically in the public domain is in accordance with the belief that an institution as is that of the church can intervene as a legislative power in our lives, without any concern for one’s individual spiritual conviction.
The exhibits displayed as part of ”Orthodox is Better” represent metaphors of the superposition of a traditionally Orthodox Romanian spirit and a lack of rationality preferred by the Romanian people in handling social and political crises throughout history. The inconsistency that is present in this status quo is evoked in the Visual Kontakt Laboratory, which entices to an exercise of imagination in what regards the inclusion of the religious phenomenon into the secular one and the possible consequences of this, which could transpose us into an actual reenactment of the myth of Plato’s cave.
PhD Olimpia Bera & Gabriel Miloia