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Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Bucharest—Romanian Museum of the Peasant

Doorways were often treated as gateways
Staying in Bucharest for a few days.  First venture into the city alone was to the Peasant Museum.  I don't know much about Romania and have found it difficult to find much real information, so I thought I'd begin here with her heart.  The peasant seems to hold a revered place here as touchstone for identity and imagination, something I began to appreciate in the museum but on my return to the hotel was brought home by a member of the hotel staff.  She was deeply offended by my use of the word "eccentric" to describe the museum's curation even though it was surrounded by "wonderful," "charming," "most unique museum I've visited."  The closest American equivalent I can think of is if a traveller were to tell a Texan that cowboys were ridiculous.

The curation of the galleries was intelligent; sensitive; and, I mean this in the very best sense of the word, weird.  I was reminding of a sensibility you run into in some Russian and Polish film makers' work.  Here the intellectual and the emotional met in place Americans just don't go very often in general and almost never in museums.

Hand drawn signage for work included in a gallery
Let me give you a couple of examples.  In the information placed in the galleries, I ran across lines like "The museum is a road of initiation..." and for an intact peasant house in one of the rooms, "Part of the attic has been put on display, revealing a space not only for storage, but also a place of mystery, which arouses curiosity and fear of the unknown.  It is a gesture of trust and confession..."  In one gallery of wrought iron and wooden artifacts, we were encouraged to not concern ourselves with the intended use of these items, but rather to walk through the room as though through a garden.

Much of the work display was highly engaging and designed to be walked around; or through; or, with catwalks for some of the large structures, above.  There was a wonderful exception, however, in a small grouping of mannequins in peasant clothing (apologies for blurriness of photo)

who seemed more interested in enjoying the view out the window than being the object of any of our fetishizing gazes.

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