Together we stand: there, she fixed it
To create a SAFE SPACE
Have we learned something? Anything? We shall learn soon who did and who did not, in the context of Romanian artist Wanda Hutira’s work(s) of art from the SAFE SPACE MURAL, created during the project In a Relationship, organized by Fundația Friends For Friends (Romanian NGO) and Avon Cosmetics Romania. In a relationship was a project meant to give voice to young people on the subject of violence in relationships, and precisley through this initiative we have learned that we recreate the violence we see in our families starting with our earliest relationships, be it verbal abuse, physical abuse or emotional abuse ( all or any combination of the three).
Going back to the Safe Space Mural: the event took place during Street Delivery 2017, where between June 9 and June 11, 11 brave Romanian artists painted the empty walls on a finally empty and open Arthur Verona Street in Bucharest. The MURAL was giving a visual conclusion to the In a Relationship project, as part of a Respect Campaign by Avon, meant also to draw attention upon domestic violence in Romania. At Street Delivery you could also find more about the results of the 10 young researchers who managed to talk to 1,500 high school students from various cities in Romania starting Fall 2016: “2 out of 3 teenagers said they have witnessed a scene of physical and/or verbal violence in a couple of their age”, “32% of the girls and 28% of the boys admitted that the person with whom they had or have a relationship has read their texts without their consent”, “more than half of the teenagers who had been in a relationship said their privacy was breached after it ended” and “¼ of them admitted they also spread rumors about their ex-girlfriends or ex-boyfriends”. There was also an exhibition of 24 works by young artists ages 16 to 19 from 8 Romanian cities, created during an illustration workshop held by female illustrators Ioana Șopov, Evelin Bundur and Paula Rusu from Visual Playground in May 2017. The teenagers were: Bianca Atomei, Teodora Bîrliba, Raluca Docan, Ingrid Enache, Martha Goldstein, Ana Maria Gușu, Cristina Iancu, Bianca Ivan, Daniel Lupu, Monica Neagu, Andreea Radu, Adrian Popa, Cristian Rosiu, Andra Semciuc, Mihai Simion and Bianca Stăncescu.
The theme of the aforementioned MURAL was Possible Gardens (RO: Grădini posibile) and having had a whole exterior white wall of a house at their disposal, they chose to leave behind a SAFE SPACE, meant to survive until the next Street Delivery event in 2018. The Safe Space was created with both hard work and strong feelings, without any thought of profit and/or monetization! Let us stop for a moment to congratulate the Romanian artists who made everything possible and to reflect upon the importance of such a space on the unfriendly streets of Bucharest, especially at night, especially if you happen to be a woman or if you happen not to fit into the heteronormative status quo. As I have already mentioned, they were 11: 10 wonderful female artists and one wonderful male artist: Iioana, Irina Mocanu, Alina Marinescu, Serebe, Livia Fălcaru, Anca Anrlor, Max Dima, Mădălina Fiive, Andra Semciuc and last but surely not least, Wanda Hutira. ( “special lettering guest artist” Livi)
To destroy a work of art as a form of violence: vandalization & everything after
As for myself, it all started when I was in a car with Vivian Dünger, Patricia Luiza Blaj and Emil Costruț. We were all outraged to see the terrible injustice done to one of our favorite works of art from the MURAL: Wanda Hutira’s “N-am simțit nimic” (ENG: I DID NOT FEEL A THING ). We all loved the original and it hit us hard to see it vandalized. I felt it all and I knew I had to do something, anything. So I wrote about it on social media. I wrote about how her work of art was preyed with a clumsy black and white sign. The person who did it tried to occupy a space opened for both women and men, by women and at least one man who are not only activists and feminists, but real change makers.
Disclaimer: I make use of the dichotomy man/woman because I believe many people in this country are not even ready for gender equality and the ideal of accepting gender fluidity is further away than I’d like to admit. Baby steps are better than none.
Coincidence or not, I wrote about Wanda’s I did not feel a thing in the context of the #metoo hashtag, where people from all over the world were trying to minimize abuse and through this gesture they were also occupying the space opened by the victims of sexual and emotional violence. Those victims were mostly women and young men and the abusers were mainly men. This is not a generalization, some men do this and this does not and should not reflect poorly on those men who do not and will not ever abuse anyone in any way. As for the vandalization, it really made me sad. I had the support of Fundația Friends For Friends, Karin Budrugeac and Avon Space. They all made the process of gathering information and gaining a more profound perspective much easier and I am both impressed and thankful. This is how I found out that there were actually 3 vandalized works of art from the Safe Space Mural: Wanda’s, the one by Andra Semciuc and Livia Fălcaru’s. The latter female artist had her whole piece covered and it only exists now in the memories of the people who saw it live or in the pictures of the event from this summer.
You can imagine the happiness and hope I was filled with when Karin told me that Wanda had decided to paint another work of art over the vandalizaed one. I felt maybe for the first time in my life that standing for something you believe in is not only liberating, but it can have real consequences in real life. This is not about me, though. Wanda Hutira is the one who gave us another work of art, saying “N-am învățat nimic.” (ENG: We did not learn a thing.)
When she posted on social media about it, she captioned the image: There, I fixed it. Indeed she fixed it, but did so much more. As I stated at the time, (some) men occupying women‘s spaces and silencing us is nothing new. However, if we stand together, we can actually make change happen. Wanda decided to take back her space and with this gesture it felt like she opened a space for us all. Her new gift to us was freshly painted and I knew right then and there I will give her and everyone involved in the project something back. So, thank you.
This should be the end of the movie, feels like it, right? Life isn’t a movie, though. Yesterday we were confronted with the harsh and cold reality of the world we actually live in. I will not spend too much time or ink on what happened next. I feel like Wanda did what had to be done and the ones who were part of it in any way know that it is her victory and that the space is safe again.
The misogynist hiding in plain sight: a case of plagiarism and hypocrisy
Indulge us for a second, please. Take a look at the following print screen. Intelectual property is something many people who call themselves creatives do not even take lightly, they actually blatantly choose to ignore it. As long as it works, credits are not due for this cultural predators. When caught, they either change the tune, play the victim or claim their art is misunderstood. The man we are talking about is guilty of all 3 of these sins.
This is the original caption written by the male artist who thought it was a good idea to copy 1 on 1 Wanda Hutira’s works of art. Please take notice that he does not give any credit to the female artist, he calls it differently, yet so close to the source: “N-ai nimic” ( You have nothing in English, but in Romanian it’s missing just a letter and a word from Wanda’s vandalized work “N-am simțit nimic”). Now, let’s give the guy the benefit of the doubt. We are not witch hunters, after all. We were the ones hunted all along and no, we do not burn people at the stake. Feminists want women’s voices to be heard, things like gender equality, the space to express themselves and so on. Also, as any right-minded person, they do not enjoy plagiarism and/or someone just taking their works of art without giving proper credit, turning them into posters for sale, without even being asked if they want a “collaboration” or an intervention of any sort when they were already part of a project with an NGO. Guess what? Wanda did both works of art for free and for a cause.
She already fixed it: the man, the money and the unsolicited & dishonest act of solidarity
This is the part where things might get tricky and for the sake of good argumentation and doing justice to Wanda’s creativity, efforts and impecable execution, I will continue with precaution and calm.
If you go now to this Romanian male artist’s Instagram page, all the captions to all the works “resembling” Wanda’s art have changed. This happened only after Wanda herself called him out and his reply was something of this sort: of course I will give you credit, then he proceeds to mention that it is a good thing Raluca (this is me who he is referring to) kept it. Dear Romanian white male artist, I did not keep the original, I searched for it, I asked for it, Wanda helped, Karin helped as well, Fundatia Friends for Friends and Avon Space did the same. I wrote 3 separate posts about Wanda Hutira’s, Andra Semciuc’s & Livia Fălcaru’s vandalized works of art and in the last one I clearly stated that Wanda was the one who fixed the problem we were all fighting for and that everybody’s happy and grateful. Not to mention that in my last Instagram post I started from Wanda’s own words about having fixed the problem. So, she already fixed it.
Now, some of you might still scream angry feminists or just nasty women. Why? Because the captions are changed. Do not let yourself be fooled though. It looks like this:
Money come first, still: „glossy paper, for sale, contact me!”. Then he “gracefully” and finally gives credit to Wanda and claims that the message: ”N-ai creat nimic” ( You did not create anything) is directed towards quote “the bastard” who vandalized Wanda’s work. This post is from 2 days ago. He even dares to put a link to my original Instagram post where I was denouncing the same bastard, only one month ago. Although it is true that this particular work of “art” was initially posted on September 17, 2017, I still doubt his intentions are as noble as he claims. First, he proceeds to mansplain, as the protector of women he truly is, right? A woman calls him for being a copycat and his answer is dismissive, telling that woman that she missed the point of his artwork based on another woman’s creation. Man of the year, what can I say?
If you are still feeling sorry for him and thinking we missed the point, let me refresh your memory. Wanda Hutira has already painted another work of art in response to the “bastard” we were outraged about. True, with the contribution of other people as well, but it is actually her who did it, she managed to address and fix a problem and posted explicitly about it on November 4, 2017. Karin posted about it, I posted about it, many people were thrilled about it, be it in comments or posts shared or written by themselves. Problem fixed, no money were charged, congratulations to Wanda, Fundația Friends for Friends, Avon and everybody who actually tried to make a change and not charge!
The question then arises: why are you still asking for money, dear misunderstood white male artist? It is the end of November and you are still posting about those glossy posters, which are for sale. I rest my case, as any further response from the character in question is to be viewed with suspicion. Next time, give credit when credit is due, give credit in time, don’t mansplain and please, don’t ask for money without even talking about it with the person your art is “based upon”. Thanks, but actually, no thanks. We are not even angry, as it is a pitiful spectacle you created. A friendly suggestion: donate the money to charity, or better: buy supplies for our dear Wanda or for the recreation of the 2 other vandalized works of art, ‘cause these girls already know what they’re doing and they are not the ones in the position to have to explain their art. No hard feelings, this is just another case of a man trying to occupy a woman’s space with the sorry excuse that he is helping. You don’t get to be the hero.
We don’t need another hero, as Tina Turner already said
There, we fixed it again. Solidarity is about action and actual change not about glossy posters for sale and asking for money just because. Thank you, Wanda Hutira for the gifts you keep on giving to us. Thank you to all the other artists who were part of the SAFE SPACE MURAL. Last but not least, thank you once again to Fundația Friends For Friends and Avon for creating real initiatives and giving voice to talented people of all ages. In a Relationship is just one of the standing proofs for that. Feminism is for everybody, just not for anybody!