The Bureau of Melodramatic Research

Ghirtoiu/Stanescu Archive, 2009

A bit over a week until The Return of Memory, we introduce you to the first duo at our exhibition. Founded in 2009 by Irina Gheorghe and Alina Popa, The Bureau of Melodramatic Research (BMR) is an independent institution investigating the affective modulations of contemporary politics and the emotional performance of labour in the new economy. Since the commence of the project, their explorations gradually extended to the intricate workings of alien, anonymous passions which connect us to an inhuman world at the core of ourselves. BMR projects include self-help guides and performances around the etiquette of crying in public, safety trainings for the post-Fordist emotional workplace, cooking shows using lovegold as a composite for an expanded economy and, more recently, a road movie relocating the tropes of classic 1950s Hollywood melodrama to industrial sceneries in today’s Romania.

Their project, Ghirtoiu/Stanescu Archive is a fictitious archive of film stills, created presumably by the Stanescu sisters in Romania in the 1940s, just before the full indoctrination of communism in the country. The Stanescu sisters were using an aesthetics inspired by melodrama to put together a feminist revolution of the femme fatale. They were rediscovered by chance exactly when the artists set up the Bureau so it was their first case study, and it deals with unofficial histories and suppressed memories. The Ghirtoiu/Stanescu Archive ultimately led to the establishment of the Bureau as an institution, initially set to deal with these histories, and which was inspired in its form by Romanian official institutions dedicated to communist history (e.g. Institute for Investigating Communist Crimes).

Alongside the film stills, the installation includes items of clothing associated with femininity – a dress, a pair of shoes, a cabinet filled with a row of handkerchiefs – building a tension between the emotional overtones of melodrama and the rigour of the official archive.