Performance lands Romanian artist in psychiatric hospital

Performance artist Alexandru Solomon was recently forced to undergo psychiatric investigation after a protest piece saw him detained — a sign of the troubling relationship between art and power in Romania

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On 26 October, Alexandru Solomon, a 51-year-old cinematographer, stood in front of the Bucharest Orthodox Cathedral, where a ceremony was about to begin. Patriarch Kirill of Moscow, a long time supporter of Vladimir Putin, had been invited to perform a religious ceremony together with the heads of the Romanian church. “It was utterly cynical that this visit was presented as a tribute to the victims of communism,” says Solomon, “while both [Romanian and Russian] religious institutions collaborated with the repressive regimes.”

Solomon had portraits of prominent Romanian and Russian political and religious leaders hanging from his neck. Pulling out a penknife, he drew the blade and pressed it to his left palm, drawing three cuts. Then he threw roubles and Romanian lei on the ground. The money became a magnet for the people piling up around him. At this moment the police took Solomon aside. “I have made a gift of money and blood for all the victims of Romanian and Russian communism,” said Solomon, standing in a Christ-like pose. The police asked for his ID and urged him to lower his arms. “This is not normal,” one young officer said.

The performance lasted just over a minute and was followed by seven hours of interrogations and psychiatric evaluations.

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