Issue #44, 2013

From Object To Subject
Anca Benera, Arnold Estefan

Anca Benera and Arnold Estefan use art in the conditional clause: what if foreign debt could be erased by an agreement upon the promise of commitment to a set of values? What if national țags were only colourful balls of threads, in which the fabric of identity gets deconstructed and unraveled? And what if an exchange of diplomatic gifts could change international politics and stop conțicts, wars, colonialisms...?

The two artists present in IDEA Gallery a series of cases where politicians and other international public figures offer gifts to their guests or hosts, expressing reverence, gratitude or friendship, reminding of historic injustices with the hope of not repeating them, sealing contracts, joking about clichés and misunderstandings. Each case is researched and presented over a background that evokes the current political headlines and their haunting character.

From the Trojan horse to the Panda diplomacy in China, diplomatic gift giving has a spicy tradition, some of which can be read in the selection here. However, whether we look at the more symbolic tokens or at the tribute-reminding, carefully chosen and often expensive presents, what we see are not emblems of an economy of the gift, but steps in rituals of diplomacy, meant to brush the road in which middle the two partners meet, weather with good or with hidden intentions.

By looking at different examples of these encounters and discovering patterns following which one can create possible diplomatic gift-exchanges that never took place, Anca Benera and Arnold Estefan place this rather anecdotic aspect of bilateral cooperation onto the ground where politics becomes imaginative, where it bypasses rigid rules and technical discussions, sees humanity in stiff leaders and reads between the lines of behind-closed-doors agreements, where it appears as contingent and permeable to change. (Raluca Voinea)


Working as a duo since 2011, Anca Benera (b. 1977) and Arnold Estefan (b. 1978) have been performing and exhibited at Der Brancusi-Effekt, Kunsthalle Vienna, 2014; Sights and Sounds: Global Film and Video, The Jewish Museum New York, 2014; Art Under a Dangerous Star: The Responsibility of Art, Budapest, 2014; Ways of Working, According to an Office Desk, Upominki, Rotterdam, 2014; Mom, Am I Barbarian? 13th Istanbul Biennial, 2013; We Were So Few and So Many of Us Are Left, Bucharest, Budapest (solo shows), 2013; Like a Bird: Avian Ecologies in Contemporary Art, Trafó Gallery, Budapest, 2013; Intense Proximity, La Triennale, Palais de Tokyo, Paris, 2012. They co-founded the Centre for Visual Introspection in Bucharest, where they generated a series of workshops, public art projects and publications, between 2008 and 2012. /