Catalin Gheorghe
The Periferic project - a social message

Iasi is an universitary city, former industrial, with approximately 400 000 inhabitants. A small community follows with interest and consistency the development of an event of contemporary art: the International Biennial of Contemporary Art PERIFERIC.
Periphery is a theme decongestioned by the proliferation of the discussions regarding the legitimacy of the cultural globalization policies - and we are not to go into the details of the economic globalization - opposing in a constructive way to the ideological claims of the centre to owning the privilege of communication and circumscribed evaluation of the contemporary art acts and production.
Without counting the exact histories, the PERIFERIC project, in its classifiable sense of visual cultural event, manifested itself first as an annual festival of performance, initiated by the artist Matei Bejenaru who gathered around the first partner institution, the French Cultural Centre, the most interesting performance artists in Romania, and extending afterwards through an exhibition format based on the relationship with the public and the artistic localization, first from the inside, of the city.
Starting to be organized once every 2 years from the 5th edition, by the Vector> Association, the PERIFERIC project was formally named as a biennial, being thus exposed to any critic of this recipe. However, in its development, this project negotiated its cultural location in reference to the centers of significance and hierarchy that were trying to attain visibility in order to acquire the best resources, from the material to the critical ones.
The 6th edition of the project, which had as a curator the Swede Anders Kreuger, was the first case of archaeological self-awareness of the condition and situation of the city of Iasi, from its social structure to the value of its alternative history and from its professional openness to its affective complicity. Focused on the concept of the future, that edition of PERIFERIC tried to speculate the image projection of a city which urban dynamic would exercise through the collective effort to reactivate the creative vitality and the strategic availability. Seen as a "prophetic corner", a space which secrets confiscate the certainties, the city of Iasi was re-orientating its rhetoric towards a promise. The dislocation of cultural life through an art manifesto was destabilizing the routine, compromising the conservative effort. The public action was counting on the context's chronic reconsideration.
The mere "prophetic" de-conspiracy of the bended corner of the map, made place for speculation on what was to follow. The evaluation of the impact became directly proportional with the instigation to responsibility. What was left to estimate was the reflexive correspondence between those who played the role of curator, the artists, organizers, financing bodies, partners and those who assumed the status of the public.
The investigations' extension from the limit of the prophetic corner to the open scene of confirmations now resets a territory which administration belongs to the correlation of the cultural policy to the stimulation of social awareness. The concept of "focusing" aims at redistributing the public opinion and invoking the cultural action.
The artistic act becoming instrumental from the perspective of offering services, reinterpreting commercial products, exercising critical discourse and generating knowledge helped reforming the understanding of art's provocation as an active medium of integration into the practices of daily life.
The 7th edition of the PERIFERIC project is "focused" on the city of Iasi from the perspective of three distinct concepts, which determine the field of action and relation in reference to the level of expectancy and participation of both the specialized and the broad public.
The concept proposed by Marius Babias and Angelika Nollert, "the social process", emphasizes the modalities of configuration for a motivation of political intervention upon the conventions of arts' reception, through an ensemble of suggestive socio-cultural practices. Art thus becomes an instrument for the activation of the process of social alertness, instituting an alternative frame of communication in view of regenerating the interest in debate and in activating the abilities of investigation, argumentation and change.
In its turn, Florence Derieux proposes the concept of "strategies of learning", starting from the premise of knowledge exchange aiming at articulated understanding of a context. Coordinating import and export of information, using specific strategies, can facilitate the flux of cultural intentions, offering a lucid perspective upon the circumstances of relativity and knowledge's modes of use. Relying on the idea of a collective and collaborative memory which would determine considerably the configuration of local contemporary cultural identity, under the circumstances of the awareness of non-hierarchical circulation of information and the inter-subjective exchange, one raises the problem of reconstitution, rather than reconstruction, of the recent art history in Romania, understood as the product of a social construction.
Last but not least, the title proposed by Attila Tordai, "Why children?", opens the analysis on the social situation of abandoned children who are the victims of history and of the update of administrative systems in Romania. On the verge of European Union integration, the invention of placements for abandoned children doesn't have its origin in the local social imaginary but rather in the application of the European structures' directives, without taking into account the real situation of these children who are forced to live in isolated and artificial environments.
The PERIFERIC project has a social message. Proposing public debates, ideas exchanges, reactions and positions towards problematic situations that have an impact on the daily life, images and processes of different occurrences of individual or collective consciousness, this project programmatically focuses on the need and the pleasure of acting on the social through the artistic practice.

C?t?lin GHEORGHE is art critic and theorist,
co-editor of Vector> art and culture in context publication,
and collaborator of
Currently he teaches The Theory of Art Criticism seminars
at the University of Arts in Ia?i.