Interview with Andrei Venghiac


Andrei Venghiac (b.1990) is a Romanian artist currently living and working in Gothenburg Sweden. Andrei has studied in multiple art schools, holding a BFA in Photography (2013) from George Enescu University of Arts, Iasi, Romania and a MFA in Fine Art (2015) from Valand Academy, Gothenburg Sweden. Also during his MFA programme, Andrei has spent one term on an exchange scholarship in Dublin, Ireland at National College of Art and Design. Andrei Venghiac has participated and presented his work in solo and group exhibitions throughout Romania, Moldova, Ireland, Denmark and Sweden. In 2015 Andrei has been awarded the Theodor and Hanne Mannheimer Award, and the Eric Ericson Foundation Stipend. Furthermore, Andrei self-published his first book, Alexithymia, and Valand Academy has issued a monograph in his name comprising his works from 2014 to 2015.

How would you describe your art?

Focusing on the romantic idea of the tragic hero, my works aim to address the self- portrait as a micr-history through staged photography, with the camera as witness and companion. I am drawn to staged photography by means of reconstructing past events, memories and places. The work revolves around site-specific relations, considering site-specificity not from its political premises, but more from its poetic approach, as a ‘psychogeography’. Furthermore, they assume a non-specific forest or cityscape as the mise en scéne, and embody a deadpan aesthetic that builds a strong sense of silence throughout the whole practice. An important aspect of the works is represented by the slapstick quality of the images, through its depiction of absurd actions that retain a distinctive gravity. The absurd and comical thus shift to longing and melancholy whilst the idea of man imitating nature, nature imitating man, (or, rather, man versus nature) subsists in the struggle against fate.My use of subversive humour, in what can be understood as a game of hide and seek with oneself, allows me to interrogate the self-portrait in relation to its performativity aspect. This occurs as a reflection on the concept of play, where play is seen as a performance or a role within an artistic practice.


Could you tell us what does the romantic idea of the tragic hero mean to you?

The romantic idea of the tragic hero portrays the solitary artist isolated in nature, in his pointless attempts for a sublime experience. The romantic, tragic hero illustrates the greatness in human nature and human freedom, but at the same time it shows human weakness and human limitation. It also follows the same premises as a tragedy play, man versus himself as an internal struggle, man versus society as a moral struggle, and man versus nature as a struggle against fate.My depiction of the hero is overcome by ambiguity starting from the hiding of the face, the commonness of the surroundings, and to the relations between the hero and his actions in the frame. This brings into question the premises of his actions; the difference between appearance and reality and between expectation and realization remains the struggle of his experience. The images created don’t intend to inspire a state of futility to their audience, but rather produce an emotional release that is shared as a common experience.


Tell me about your relationship with your work?

I could describe my relation to the work as a constant investigation or reevaluation. An enquiry driven by the presence of my self-confided thought, a mind map of memory, a journal that is reconnecting thought and reminiscence. As a form of social alienation, I investigate the experience of volatile, fleeting memories in relation to the notion of wilderness of nature as evocative for the sublime.  An important aspect of my practice is the role of the camera, which assumes the role of the creator, of producer of events, rather than the recorder. The dialogue or relationship with the camera is one of egocentric nature; by means of framing, constructing, and executing the image. The presence of the shutter release cable in the frame, even though barely visible in some situations, supports a sense of isolation in the process. It is only when the work is exhibited, and when I become the spectator that I can be aware of this isolation and can take a step back from the process and look at the images and myself. 


What do you think about the relationship between photography and videography? 

Even though they have distinctive qualities as mediums, I am concerned by their capacity of recording, as a performance in itself. In the case of photography, which is a suspension of a moment, the performance takes on the instability of the gesture. Similarly, my videos are constructed just as a staged photograph, but with one moving element within the frame. This moving element can be viewed as a behavioral living sculpture. It is important to understand that, the photographic or video representation is not secondary to the performance that happens before the camera and the image created via performance is the priority. 


What inspires you? What inspired this piece/idea? 

O retragere temporară / A temporary withdrawal (2015) is an enquiry into the writings of symbolist Romanian poet, George Bacovia (d.1957). Forming a dialogue with his poem Destul / Enough (1930), the work focuses on establishing a relation between the artistic process and withdrawal. I have made a 5x2.5meters banner on which I hand painted two lines from his poem and later installed it the forest. The intention of the work is not to illustrate, or to create a visual representation of his writings, but to further them toward a statement within my artistic practice.


“Voind să descifrez ceea ce era șters, Aproape, nu mai știu ce-am voit...”


“Wanting to decipher what was erased, Almost, I do not know what I wanted…”

What else should we know about you and your work?

Performing in front of the camera is for me a liberating experience, whilst constantly obscuring identification through the hiding of my face. Triggering this relief is the rejection of exchange of information that then emphasizes isolation. Even though my intentions in this concealing are withheld, photography is a means of exposing, of making visible, and in this sense the work interprets an act of estrangement that mimics the artist’s capacity to see oneself as someone else. This occurs when the works enter the public realm and are presented to an audience. The aim is to identify the spectator with the hero in the presented image and therefore, the viewer’s interpretation of my performance can be generated also from their own micro history.


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