Art ex­hibit at Ro­ma­nian ex-prison show hor­rors of com­mu­nism

Kuwait Times - - LIFESTYLE -

An art ex­hi­bi­tion went on dis­play Fri­day at a for­mer Ro­ma­nian prison where com­mu­nists tor­tured and killed po­lit­i­cal pris­on­ers in a grue­some re-ed­u­ca­tion pro­gram. The col­lec­tion of 11 sculp­tures at the Pitesti Prison, south­ern Ro­ma­nia, aims to re­mind vis­i­tors about the hor­rors that took place there from 1949 to 1951. The 3.5 me­ter-tall grey, poly­styrene fig­ures de­pict de­tainees who were tor­tured and hu­mil­i­ated to force them to be­come com­mu­nists.

Sev­eral thou­sand pris­on­ers who had fallen foul of the com­mu­nist regime un­der­went what was known as "The Pitesti Ex­per­i­ment." Pris­on­ers were forced to stare at light­bulbs, eat fe­ces, given elec­tric shocks and head butt each other. They were also en­cour­aged to in­form on each other and tor­ture fel­low in­mates. About 100 died from mis­treat­ment. Alexan­dru Bog­danovici, who was im­pris­oned be­cause he'd been a mem­ber of the fas­cist Iron Guard, was co-opted to re-ed­u­cate fel­low pris­on­ers.

But the prison com­man­der later con­sid­ered him dis­loyal and he was beaten, de­nied wa­ter and even­tu­ally died. For the ex­hibit, artist Catalin Bada­rau sculpted con­torted, anony­mous fig­ures which lie in hall­ways or in for­mer prison cells. One fig­ure stands awk­wardly on his head, oth­ers have their hands tied be­hind their backs or are cov­er­ing their faces. Bada­rau says the over­sized fig­ures, of a mot­tled grey color which is sim­i­lar to the prison walls and floors "show the fragility of hu­man be­ings."

"They were strong peo­ple when they went into prison but they came out phys­i­cal wrecks," he told The Associated Press. "But con­versely, they be­came spir­i­tual giants." Among the de­tainees that sur­vived Pitesti are Ro­ma­nian Or­tho­dox priest Ghe­o­rghe Cal­ciu-Du­mitreasa who spent 21 years as a po­lit­i­cal pris­oner and Cor­neliu Co­posu, an anti-com­mu­nist politi­cian and well-known dis­si­dent who died in 1995. An es­ti­mated 500,000 peo­ple, mem­bers of the pre-com­mu­nist in­tel­lec­tual and po­lit­i­cal elite, were locked up in po­lit­i­cal prisons un­til a gen­eral amnesty was de­clared in 1964.

Sim­i­lar art ex­hi­bi­tions will be held this year in other cities that housed po­lit­i­cal prisons or had anti-com­mu­nist re­volts, spon­sored by the Na­sui Col­lec­tion & Gallery and a gov­ern­ment in­sti­tute tasked with in­ves­ti­gat­ing crimes of the com­mu­nist era. Bada­rau said his sculp­tures chal­lenge peo­ple to ask them­selves: "What would I have done? Would I have be­come a vic­tim or a tor­turer, or both?"

In this photo, artist Catalin Bada­rau speaks dur­ing an in­ter­view with the Associated Press in Bucharest, Ro­ma­nia.

In this photo, pho­to­graphs of pris­on­ers are pro­jected on walls at a for­mer com­mu­nist prison in Pitesti, Ro­ma­nia.

AP photos

In these photos stat­ues de­pict­ing a tor­mented pris­oner is placed at a for­mer com­mu­nist prison.—

In this photo, works not yet com­pleted by artist Catalin Bada­rau hang in his stu­dio.

In this photo, works not yet com­pleted by artist Catalin Bada­rau sits in a glass en­clo­sure in his stu­dio.

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