A smaller ideological battle took place over the past couple of weeks in the western Romanian city of Temesvár (Timişoara), between those promoting tolerance and some vandals purporting to protect Christian values. The works showcased at the outdoor exhibition entitled Tolerance Posters were damaged almost daily because a campaigning politician claimed on Facebook that some of the creations overstepped moral boundaries.
As the foter.ro news portal pointed out, art rarely has such an effect as this project had in Temesvár, demonstrating how some people relate to the issue of tolerance.
The Tolerance Posters show was opened on November 16, on the International Day for Tolerance, in the square named after Prince Eugene of Savoy (1663–1736). The exhibition was organized as part of an international campaign called the Tolerance Project, which tackles the issue of social acceptance. Founded by artist-activist Mirko Ilić, the initiative showcases posters designed by artists from around the world.
At the Temesvár exhibition, there were works by artists both from abroad and from Romania too. As it was organized during the campaign period for the parliamentary election, a politician of the People’s Movement Party (Partidul Mişcarea Populară, PMP) did not hesitate to try to build up political capital by posting appalled Facebook comments. He found it especially offensive that on one of the posters, the rainbow colors of the LGBTQ community were displayed on an Orthodox procession banner.
His comments did not go unnoticed: Some vandals decided to deal with the problem by stealing or tearing off one poster almost every night. Organizers kept on replacing the works without a word, as they did not want to fuel the party’s campaign, which otherwise defines itself as a center-right Christian-democratic political organization. As the election is now over, and the exhibition also closed this Monday, the curator recounted the whole story to the media. The police have already detained an individual from the southern Romanian county of Buzău. When asked why he stole a poster, he gave a rather odd answer: He said he wanted to throw it into the courtyard of one of his acquaintances.
The curator noted that the perpetrators were focused mostly on the LGBTQ-themed works. The organizers were aware that the show might have some reverberations, but they did not expect that repeated acts of theft and vandalism would be carried out in the center of Temesvár during a nightly curfew. Nevertheless, the curator reminded the PMP politician that the exhibit had no political connotations and was not financed from public money.
Title image: Vandals stole or damaged posters almost daily while the exhibition lasted