Dead Man’s Capitalism
by Mihaela Michailov
The discussions around gold exploitation in the historical mining site at Roşia Montană (in the Western Carpathians) have brought about the formation of an alliance between the Romanian state and Roşia Montană Gold Corporation (RMGC). Both the state and the corporation have obsessively promoted a discourse of job creation, sustainability, high wages and a better future for the children of Roşia Montană in order to camouflage the drive for excessive profits and the destruction of community and environment alike. In the name of “development”, President Traian Băsescu has been one of the most ardent supporters of the exploitation project put forward by the Canadian company Gabriel Resources (the company behind RMGC). One of the most cosmopolitan areas in Transylvania in the 19th century, Roşia Montană holds the largest gold ore in Romania, evaluated at roughly 300 tons of gold and 1.600 tons of silver. The ore has been leased for exploitation to RMGC.
In august 2010, dramAcum directors Radu Apostol, Gianina Cărbunariu and Andreea Vălean, together with playwright Peca Ştefan and video artist Andu Dumitescu undertook a two-week-long research in Roşia Montană for the play About Roşia Montană – Physically and Politically, a co-production between the Hungarian State Theatre in Cluj and dramAcum. Every scene in the performance is conceived as a chapter in the town’s daily life, both past and present. As a whole, it takes a radical political stand against the double manipulation of state and corporation, exposing as fraud their deceitful portrayal of the area as a magical land of opportunity where young people would never have to leave to work abroad. The pro-community discourse aims to mask the antisocial abuses of the state/corporate initiatives which aim at transforming the area into a commercial space, regardless of the consequences for the environment.
The performance opens with a series of questions which focus on the manipulative mechanisms of both state and corporation: “If someone gave you 800.000 euro, would you move?, How much did your vote cost?, So what if a mountain vanishes? Is the Romanian state mentally retarded or what?, How much does an exhumation cost?” All of these hint at the stake of the performance: where are the people in this web of economic interests and how can they prevent the exploitation of an area where they would have to move their dead to make way for the cyanide mining?
What you can leave behind is the most confrontational scene of the performance. A sick father rejects his son’s negotiations with RMGC for the relocation of his wife’s tomb. For the father, Roşia Montană is where he buried his wife and he refuses to move her to another cemetery, as the RMGC representative suggests. This scene is relevant for the confrontation between the symbolic capital of the place – its emotional value – and financial capital – treating the place as a source of profits. For those buying, every parcel of life and death costs and must be made profitable. You only matter if you become a quantifiable amount.
About Roşia Montană – Physically and Politically was staged for several months before being cut by the Hungarian State Theatre due to “low attendance,” while Gianina Cărbunariu has been told by several people that they could not buy tickets to see the performance because it was allegedly sold out. Tompa Gábor, the director of the theatre, also interfered in the composition of the trailer, removing the statements “a theatre performance against Roşia Montană Gold Corporation” and “a theatre performance against the Romanian state which has abandoned its citizens” because they allegedly sounded “bombastic” and ”cheap” (to whom?). This paternalistic concern represents an infringement of the freedom of speech, since an artist has the right to be pathetic, sentimental or wrong as long as he acknowledges it. An institution cannot make “adjustments” without the artist’s approval.