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The Bureau of Melodramatic Research

Above the Weather

(11’, 2015, Romania)

In Reza Negarestani’s Cyclonopedia: Complicity With Anonymous Materials (2008), the members of the Naphtanese cult believe that fossil fuels represent “…the black corpse of sun.” In the 50s melodrama Written on the Wind directed by Sirk Douglas, spoiled southern belle Marylee Hadley fails to win the heart of the earnest geologist Mitch Wayne. After her brother’s death, heartbroken and bitter, she remains the sole heiress of her father’s oil company, while Mitch takes off with her brother’s widow. Weaving melodramatic and geological references, Above the Weather by The Bureau of Melodramatic Research (Irina Gheorghe & Alina Popa) disguises itself as an exotic low-fi imitation of Douglas’ film. It is set against the backdrop of Gheorghe and Popa’s hometown, Ploiesti, a place renowned for oil exploitation in Romania. Contrastingly glamorous, in their convertible vintage Mercedes, Gheorghe and Popa seem to be involved in small talk about the weather. One starts to wonder: is that really what they are talking about? Unlike their conversation, all the radio programs they stumble upon drop eschatological references. As we sink deeper into the work, the two artists renounce their socialite masks and break into a deep, dark Turkish song. It is the 1980s Eurovision hit Pet’r Oil, an anthem about the pervading influence of oil. And thus, we come to realize that their small talk about the changing weather may in fact be about climate change, and, as their song suggests, about humanity’s fatidic dependence on fossil fuels. Artists Alina Popa and Irina Gheorghe are experts of false appearances, imitations and masquerade. One of the most important tropes in their work is in fact the mystical image of the Eastern European woman. Through strategies such as playacting, faltering accents and amplification, they challenge clichés and stereotypes associated with the Eastern European woman as superficial, politically disengaged and submissive. Consequently, what seems to be a poor copy is actually a reenacted myth and the random small talk delivers a corrupted prophecy.

Irina Gheorghe and Alina Popa founded The Bureau of Melodramatic Research in 2009 as an independent institution investigating the affective modulations of contemporary politics and the emotional performance of labour in the new economy. As special agents of The Bureau, their explorations gradually extended to the intricate workings of passions that connect humans to a nonhuman world. Their most recent project is a performance and film trilogy taking the form of instructional shows also performed as live sessions, reflecting affects of the current economy of moods. Their work was shown at Guandong Times Museum, Guangzhou (2016), WING, Hong Kong (2016), MNAC, Bucharest (2015), BAK, Utrecht (2013), mumok Vienna (2013), DEPO Istanbul (2013), Ujazdowsky Castle, Warsaw (2013), message salon, Zurich (2011), Centre for Visual Introspection, Bucharest (2011).