Contemporary, local and global society is marked by two phenomena that are taking place simultaneously. They seem to divide our world into two, and directly influence the way we relate to reality.

In some areas of society, the idea of togetherness, of community is totally ignored in favour of the me first concept, where individualism is glorified and we are all in a race to the top which, once we have reached it, turns us into supermen. In this reality, greed, social division and injustice are accepted as part of the natural order of things.

On the other side of the barricade, there is an oversaturation of the idea of community, which is often mocked as frivolous, utopian, exaggerated. And rightfully so in some cases, because belonging to a group sometimes attracts the rejection of other alternatives, of the idea that we can live together in diversity. Such attitudes give rise to chauvinism that, instead of paving our way to communication, throws us back down the path of extreme individualism as the only viable way of being and navigating today’s world.

Mona Vătămanu and Florin Tudor shift the paradigm of the discussion about community and the meaning of the concept of being together. They invite us, the conventional members of their audience, to put on a new outfit, a creator’s outfit. This is how we acquire a new role in relation to art, that of co-creators of a dialogue in which we all learn and reflect and to which we all contribute.

The two artists propose The Tree of Life – located at the “Corneliu Miklosi” Museum of Public Transport, an installation that serves as a place to gather together, to share experiences, thoughts, ideas, a space where each of us can reflect without constraints. Its essence lies precisely in participation and involvement, because the whole framework is so conceived as to reformulate the idea of school – changing it to encourage a new, closer to nature approach.

In the middle of The Tree of Life installation there will be a birch purchased from a nursery near Timișoara. It is like a game in which one plays with the idea of a commodity tree, an item removed from the economic cycle. The Seating Area around the birch is decorated with woven rugs with archaic motifs. These rugs come from different geographical areas like the Balkans, Anatolia, Bessarabia, the Caucasus or Iran. Kilims carrying different stories and traditions reinforce the call to gather together, share ideas, and discover the world while sitting side by side.

In such contexts, free of social pressure, discussions can arise that push collective consciousness forward and safely explore possibilities outside the norm. This is what sustainable progress looks like.

Above all, contemporaneity means living with the legacy of 150 years of industrialization. Living in a space shaped and created mostly by humans. For many of us, the connection with nature remains in the background. And fundamental questions about who we are and where we are heading don’t even manage to take shape in words.

In order to highlight the discussion about the purpose of man and nature in an object-driven society, in which objects take precedence over living beings and ecosystems, artists turn to everyday life. Bags of Flour, by Mona Vătămanu and Florin Tudor, draw attention to a product that, though essential to life, is often ignored. Through textual overlays, the artists integrate on the surface of the flour bags passages from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights translated into several languages. The utopia in which we are all discursively engaged is thus revealed: we have equal rights in the context of the market economy, of mass production.

Laws that are both abstract and artificial govern the life not only of all men, but also of the entire natural world. In the face of such great power, it is almost impossible not to feel despondency and helplessness at least at some point. This is how we realise that the world is not built to serve us, that we must navigate it and bend it to its will. It is an exercise in humility that tests us all sooner or later, for a longer or shorter time or just for a moment. One significant question remains – what can we do from now on?

The answer, however easy, is difficult to apply: being together, sharing, gathering together, building a community and living with the others is an indispensable condition of life. However, the co-modification of the idea of togetherness and the belief that that “togetherness” will always be there is a danger that lurks in silence. The idea that we don’t have to work to stay together, that others will always be there and we can pick them up like puppets, has done nothing but fuel the distrust in the other. And our interest in contributing to the common goods – to care for, to protect what belongs to everybody has both diminished and changed into the idea that the good or the common good belongs to nobody.

It would be easy to blame capitalism with its exacerbated cult of property. It is a difficult exercise to be honest with ourselves and those around us. And the revelation that we have all set out on a journey to discover the world and ourselves – an adventure that is mostly enjoyed if we stay together – is the possible reality we can hope to experience. But only if we create it.