LAST CHRISTMAS (of Ceaușescu) is a seismographic search that examines the dysfunctional dynamics and institutional memory of the Romanian Revolution three decades later. I visited museums that bear witness to the events of that time and questioned their transparency, or to what extent it is only claimed. The focus is directed at the agency of things and what they reveal or conceal. The work questions constructions of power and the latency of controversy related to (in)justice and (dis)orientation.
Dealing with the fall of the Romanian dictator Ceaușescu on Christmas Day 1989, three places are at the fore: the execution site in Târgoviște, the city where Vlad the Impaler alias Dracula once resided, Ceaușescu’s private house in Bucharest, and Casa Poporului, the never inaugurated ruler’s palace. How do they look back on us today? All three are ‘traumatised’ places, silent witnesses of an undead past.
Parallel to this, I photographed my father’s old typewriter in front of a green-screen. Every year in the 1980s around Christmas, my father had to register the imprints of each key and submit them to the police (miliția), who archived the profiles of every single typewriter in the country. This way, they could identify the typewriter, should it be linked to any critical writings, leaflets etc.
At the end of 2019, 30 years after the system change, an EU resolution was passed, calling on the Romanian state to officially process the past events. While the overthrow of other East European dictatorships in 1989 was mostly peaceful, Romania’s revolution ended in a bloodbath. To this day the dead have not been atoned for.
Anton Roland Laub, born and brought up in Bucharest, studied at the Weißensee Art Academy and the Neue Schule für Fotografie, Berlin. In his artistic practice, Laub engages with subversive approaches in decoding reality constructions, proxy strategies and phantoms of power. His recent photo books LAST CHRISTMAS (of Ceaușescu) and Mobile Churches, both published by Kehrer Verlag, Heidelberg, address Romania’s contemporary history as well as the legacy of Ceaușescu’s dictatorship. He is a finalist of the New Discovery Award, International Photo Festival Les Rencontres d’Arles. Selected exhibitions include Photo Saint-Germain, Paris; FORMAT Photography Biennale, Derby; EMOP, Athens and Berlin; atelier35, Bucharest; Kaunas Photography Gallery, Kaunas. His work is represented in the book and media art collection of the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, the Berlin Wall Memorial; the City Museum Bucharest; in the archive of Les Rencontres de la Photographie, Arles.