5 rooms in The Tanks
Examine the role of museums and focus on activities that usually happen behind the scenes
Ciprian Mureşan’s Plague Column #2 2016 asks what histories museums might choose to ignore or hide. At first glance, Plague Column #2 seems to be an abstract sculpture. Looking closer, we see body parts embedded in its surface. Mureşan copied these fragments from sculptures in the collection of the Museum of Art in Cluj, Romania.
The sculptures he chose to copy are no longer on public display. Instead they are held in the museum’s storage facility. They reflect historical periods at odds with contemporary politics and cultural values. Some are examples of Soviet propaganda art from the mid-20th century. Others were made under Romanian president Nicolae Ceaușescu’s repressive communist regime (1965/7–89). Mureşan’s research focuses on the impact of ideology on culture. He observed, ‘In the catalogues of the Museum’s collections, some periods have been as if purged’.
Mureşan has made several works relating to these undisplayed sculptures. He cast the body parts in Plague Column #2 in polyester resin and fibreglass matting from negative moulds. These moulds were remnants of an earlier work by Mureşan, so these casts are ‘copies of copies’. Plague Column #2 explores how to engage with historical legacies and artefacts. Mureşan comments: ‘I think a lot about how to negotiate history or deal with heritages and traces of the past.’
The work’s title alludes to memorial monuments created in Central Europe from the 14th to the 16th century. These depicted religious figures, to thank them for ending plague epidemics.