Censored mural by NOM Crew
In April 2015, NOM crew, three Romanian artists who frequently collaborate in mural projects – Obie Platon, Irlo and Kero, were invited to paint a mural in the center of Bucharest, on 5 Băniei Street, Saint George Square, near the Old Town and close to a poor neighborhood next to which there is a church.
Whenever a mural opportunity appears in Bucharest or in other Romanian cities, it becomes quite a happening, as there are very few street art initiatives here (view our recent coverage of those in the Port of Constanţa and Craiova). People tend to be surprised and curious at first, then are either happy with the result, confused or upset because the level of understanding such projects is quite low for the vast majority of people, who find it difficult to differentiate between vandalism and an artistic intervention, which may be rather conceptual or convey a message through the use of symbols and metaphors, and not necessarily be decorative and colorful, so in a way they could perceive as beautiful and nice.
In the first few days of painting, we were present at the location to capture the full process of what was to be a new addition to the several other murals and street art interventions existing in Bucharest.
When the mural was almost finished, we heard about the chance that it would risk being buffed, because the priest from the church near the wall complained it was disturbing due to its “unorthodox” representation of the battle between Saint George and the Dragon. We asked one of the artists why the crew chose this theme and what is the message they want to convey. Besides the reference to the context of the location – Saint George Square, which inspired them, the mural highlights the battle with the ego, the fact that no conflict is constructive and that the idea of a battle against the forces of evil is not a solution to annihilate it, but rather an inner confrontation resulting from our lack of understanding the other. The subtle change in roles between the good and evil characters shows the change of perspective in how each one sees and interprets the battle. This is, basically, the relativity of human relationships, that something good for some may be bad for others, while this does not equal encouraging egocentric, irresponsible and careless behavior, but a more open approach to understanding and respecting each other in a society that can be united and not divided by its differences.
Unfortunately, the mural was not perceived as such, and we later found that it would soon be painted over at the pressure of church representatives. Will it be replaced or changed? We have no certain confirmation yet, but would it be a solution? Any change added to the initial version will remain as a permanent mark of its censorship.
Here is a video of the mural posted by one of the artists last month:
And here is a video we received announcing its censorship:
As we already pointed out, graffiti and street art censorship remains a major issue today, with murals and artistic interventions in the public space being partially or fully censored mainly because of their message (read more). However, this time it happens because of religious misinterpretation and ignorance. Just another example that freedom of speech is merely an illusion and only allowed to manifest as long as it suits the interests of those in power to decide what stays and what goes.
The project is an initiative of Interesting Times Bureau and Iustin Moldovan.