Călin Dan

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Romanian art critic, curator and artist, based now in Amsterdam. Born in 1955 in the Transylvanian town Arad (next to the border with Hungary) in a middle class family, Cãlin Dan had a mixed career under the Ceausescu regime, managing to achieve a reputation in the art circles while keeping a low political profile, and he survived the dark eighties as an art historian and journalist.

He was therefore quite well trained to enter the chaotic period after the bloody 'television revolution' of December 1989. Together with the artists Dan Mihaltianu and Iosif Király he formed in 1990 the art group subREAL and started to produce conceptual installations. Their style was dirty and minimal, full of ironical references to Romanian history and to the political moment--the dubious post-communist leadership of Ion Iliescu. In 1992 Cãlin Dan was appointed director of the Soros Center for Contemporary Arts (SCCA) Bucharest. In that position he initiated the first media art event in Romania, Ex Oriente Lux, which opened in November 1993.

The government withdrew all funding for Arta in 1994. The same year, Cãlin produced another mega-event, the exhibition 010101..., using for the first time in the Romanian context features like community oriented projects, interactive displays of content, on-line communication. The event generated an important body of work produced in collaboration with 14 artists, a documentary film and an impressive catalog. In 1995, Cãlin Dan and Iosif Király (by and since then the only members of SubREAL) were invited for a one year residency in Künstlerhaus Bethanien, Berlin. They traveled there with the photo archive of Arta, practically saving it from destruction by neglect from the part of the authorities.

As a result of the works produced there, subREAL became almost synonymous with 'artists & archives'. Unlike in other cases originating in the Former East, subREAL did not intend to reveal any scandals about compromised artists or alleged secret agents, working for the powerful (at the time) Securitate. The 600 kg heavy archive was primarily material illustrating Art History as a concept. Nevertheless, this was the archive of a communist, state-controlled art magazine, closely tied to the rich and influential Union of Artists, an organization embodying the official ideology as far as the art scene was concerned. From 1996 Cãlin established himself in Amsterdam as an artist. After having worked during the years with video, after using the computer mainly for word processing and e-mail, he entered abruptly in a media recuperation phase, and produced a lot of graphic material commenting digitally on (again) art history (mainstream Western art this time). After that he got engaged in the exciting world of 3D computer games.

In collaboration with the newly established V2Lab For The Unstable Media, Cãlin developed between 1998-1999 the interactive installation Happy Doomsday!. Cãlin chose for the purpose two fitness chairs used for training the arm muscles, and interfaced them with the computers through sensors reading the movements of each user. The machines are performing the functions of joy sticks, generating navigation/participation in a multi-user 3D environment, which is a simulator of European war history based on the political map of the continent.

See also