The afternoon sun shines wearily on the street. The cold shadows of the tall, old buildings, most of them with neoclassical facades, cause passers-by to increase their pace. Holding hands and a camera, two youngsters ask a man to capture their love in a picture. 13, Tribunei Street. Mă gândesc la ea/Non-stop (I think about her/At all times).

Ahead of me, the lovers’ smiles. Behind them, an abandoned commercial space, with broken windows. Dust covers the emptiness of the ruined show-window and the scribblings on the door, the glass… Time has erased all traces of colour. The only thing that reminds of the careless contemporary nature is the garbage in the window – a sign that this place is visited by living creatures too, not just by the ghosts of past loves.

An Ideal Place to Lose Oneself

If you start an investigation asking passers-by about who wrote the words on Tribunei Street, you will be surprised by their thirst for stories. Some may tell you about a shop-owner in an unhappy love-story, or about a mischievous lover who came upon a non-stop shop and, when nobody was looking, painted his feelings on the façade. Perhaps She will see it and recognise his writing…

Few people know that, in fact, the tag was a planned intervention by an artist from Bucharest. And when I say planned, I can picture a young artist who, after a long walk on the side streets of Sibiu, came across an abandoned shop. An ideal place to lose oneself. Using calligraphy letters, the artist tries to let go of his affection, by writing it on wood, in black and white, at the feet of the past, for passers-by to see.

The Two behind the Tag

She, the addressee of the love message, was once a human being, a girl in a transient love story. Time went by, and she became a mere memory of the artist’s life, like a portal to a dialogue with himself. And, as the message was given to the street, She became anyone, any warm image in the mind of somebody slowing their pace on Tribunei Street.

He, the man in the love story, is Mircea Nicolae. In an old interview, Mircea talks vividly about how, at some point in his life, he felt compelled to leave his house, thus reaching the public space, where he tried to let go of all the unrest he could no longer hold within. He says that his first love was the written word. Everything else came from this and, in time, made him turn his eye towards urbanism and visual arts.

The Counted Artistic Interventions

The project “100 Interventions” began in 2007 and included various artistic manifestoes, from street tags, to installations and shows in public spaces. In a place, some leaves swept as an arch (55), in another place, his lovers clothes in the window of an abandoned shop, whose door says “closed” (60, Calea Victoriei St.). Some interventions failed because of the guards who caught him “red-handed” and made him leave. On an abandoned pastry-shop, he left a barely visible text written in chalk – “My soul is dead” (57). In some cases, he took the decision to do nothing (47).

Mă gândesc la Ea/Non-stop is intervention no. 42 and the most popular, alongside Hainele iubitei (My Lover’s Clothes), as he says, “because it survived, had a bigger impact among the general audience, which hasn’t happened with the other gestures in the project”.

Liberating Gestures

Generally, old, dusty objects, abandoned places, abandoned houses can also be seen as decorative sculptures. They have their own beauty, which belongs to no one now, perhaps not even the viewer. Somehow, this is the background of my interventions, a certain peacefulness of ruins, as they cancel time and people. Of course, the world sees and stops at the text, but the ambiance, the context, the façade which was already there is just as important. Had I painted some writing in a Mall, the content and the message would not be the same.”, Mirces states. “The intervention was a rather therapeutical gesture. The aim of this project was for me to make gestures that have a strong value for me, which I can communicate to others as well, and which can exist for a while.

Asked whether he thought about how much the inscription on Tribunei Street will last, Mircea replied that, from the very beginning, he took into consideration that all his interventions might disappear. This particular tag was designed as a temporary gesture and it so happened that it is the only one which survived from the whole project, which ended in 2009.

The Lyricism of the Abandoned Place – Cared for by Passers-by

Mircea Nicolae revisited Tribunei Street last year, but not to repair anything. Most probably, he came to relive the joy felt by artists when present outside their self, a feeling caused by any act of creation in a public space. His artistic gesture no longer belongs to him, but to the people of Sibiu, who can do whatever they believe fit – cover it with trash and oblivion, or care for it.

Photo Credits: Cornel Moșneag

English Translation: Camelia Oană