Those who leave and those who stay: Romanian migration under spotlight at the Venice Biennale

Those who leave and those who stay: Romanian migration under spotlight at the Venice Biennale
Image: Tudor Constantinescu

9 June 2021

In the past 10 years, more than three million Romanians have left the country. About a fourth of Romanians live abroad — the highest proportion of any EU country. The social phenomenon is now drawing the focus of Romania’s pavilion at the Venice Biennale of Architecture, which this year centres on the question: “how will we live together?”

Mixing documentary photography, archive materials, text, and audio installations, Romania’s show Fading Borders, curated by the architectural practice POSTER, consists of two parts. One showcases Shrinking Cities by creative association IDEILAGRAM, a research project into a small Romanian town which has seen four fifths of its population leave since 1989. The other shows Away, a photojournalistic project by the on-the-road Teleleu team (journalist Elena Stancu and photographer Cosmin Bumbuț), that follows the individual stories of Romanian emigrants to Western Europe.

The exhibition does not frame mass emigration as a negative phenomenon, instead questioning the implications it has on urban and sustainable development.

“We’re interested in contemporary migration, which has become more rapid and short-term, rooted in aspirations for a better life — an optimistic migration,” curator Stefan Simion told The Calvert Journal. “Our idea relies on contrasting the permanence of architecture and towns, and the transitory nature of the people who move from place to place.”

Anina, Orașul Nou district. Image: Tudor Constantinescu
Anina, Orașul Nou district. Image: Tudor Constantinescu
Băilești, House of Culture. Image: Tudor Constantinescu
Băilești, House of Culture. Image: Tudor Constantinescu
Căciulata, former bookstore. Image: Tudor Constantinescu
Căciulata, former bookstore. Image: Tudor Constantinescu
Dorohoi, shops in the central area. Image: Tudor Constantinescu
Dorohoi, shops in the central area. Image: Tudor Constantinescu
Maria, 48, and Mihai Buciuta, 43, only went to the beach once in the summer of 2020. Maria works everyday, all day, cleaning luxury residences in the Algarve region in Portugal. Mihai has a job at a telecoms company in Almancil.
Maria, 48, and Mihai Buciuta, 43, only went to the beach once in the summer of 2020. Maria works everyday, all day, cleaning luxury residences in the Algarve region in Portugal. Mihai has a job at a telecoms company in Almancil.
Home and newsroom of the Teleleu team, Portugal, March, 2020. Image: Cosmin Bumbuț
Home and newsroom of the Teleleu team, Portugal, March, 2020. Image: Cosmin Bumbuț
Maria Buciuta, a Romanian woman who has been living in Portugal for 18 years, cleans a luxury residence in the Algarve region of Portugal. August, 2020. Image: Cosmin Bumbuț
Maria Buciuta, a Romanian woman who has been living in Portugal for 18 years, cleans a luxury residence in the Algarve region of Portugal. August, 2020. Image: Cosmin Bumbuț
Ghiță, 20, came to Portugal from Poienile de sub Munte, Romania, with his parents six years ago. He works at Auto Vasile Pneus, the wheel service shop of another Romanian from the same village. Loulé, Portugal, August, 2020. Image: Cosmin Bumbuț
Ghiță, 20, came to Portugal from Poienile de sub Munte, Romania, with his parents six years ago. He works at Auto Vasile Pneus, the wheel service shop of another Romanian from the same village. Loulé, Portugal, August, 2020. Image: Cosmin Bumbuț

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