State of exception is the first artistic intervention – a site-specific installation – from a larger project with the same name which will take place in Summer 2012 at Fort 13 Jilava. It is not only an art exhibition but also a civic initiative which aims at a critical approach to Fort 13 as a collective site of memory (lieu de mémoire).
Alexandru Potecă builds an anti-memorial as a pretext for reflecting on the limits of a museum-based approach to a past marked by the extreme situation of the state of exception. Placed in the Black Chambers of the Fort, the two sets of objects from the private human sphere are reduced to an expressive common denominator, losing their use value and personal significance. In this way the objects become autonomous and inaccessible. Since they did not belong to those who were imprisoned here, the objects lack documentary value and cannot be reduced to their memory as witnesses of the past. In this manner the necessary distance needed for the personal effort of understanding is created. What matters lays beyond this frozen scenography of objects as the materialization of the distance-memory. Our position as spectators becomes a privilege and the impact of the place’s authenticity represents the chance for a personal evaluation of the situation. We are free to think and understand beyond the official media, in the original space of the abuse engendered by the state of exception.
The term state of exception is taken from the juridical literature and refers to those historical situations in which governing crosses the boundary between the juridical and the political, as well as between democracy and absolutism in favor of the political and of absolutism. It is impossible to unidirectionally emphasize the succession of states of exception from the last century of dictatorial abuses without falsifying the history of Fort 13. This, alongside the almost intact conservation of the original conditions of detention, make Fort 13 the ideal setting for a mediation on the ways in which past facts find their correspondent in present practices. Past worship for the sake of memory alone does not tell us anything about the role memory should play in the present. Memory can be threatened by both the erasure of information and its abundance in official histories and databases, which direct the public’s reception of information. In addition, the selection and organization of past facts can be motivated by political purposes.
Fort 13 cannot be visited without official approval due to its politic-administrative position and the lack of a separated entrance from that of the active penitentiary. Hence, the temporary solution for public access is the organization of temporary events. Lacking financial resources, the Bucureşti Jilava Penitentiary has striven to conserve the Fort, which is in an advanced state of disrepair. The prisoners have the task of maintaining, cleaning and repairing the Fort. They are also the ones who helped in putting together this on-site artistic intervention. The management of the National Administration of Penitentiaries as well as that of the Bucureşti Jilava Penitentiary support those cultural initiatives that target the opening of Fort 13 to the public.