Sorin Oncu









YU/RO is a project that contains a series of self-questioning works determined by apparently false animosity between the ethnic and the national identity. The friction between legal and cultural determination of one self in shaping one's identity only deepens the confusion lived between what you are identified as (a Romanian in Serbia - a Serb in Romania) and how you identify yourself (a Serb with no Serbian cultural identification or a Romanian with no provided Romanian legal determination). Identity from this perspective seems to be volatile and shapeshifting just like the borderland itself (from Yugoslavia to Serbia and then to Europe).

Conjunction, 2012, mixed media with two books (blue book written in Romanian about Yugoslavian communist heroes, red book written in Serbian "Othello") 6,5 x 23 x 24 cm


Citizenship as a form of membership with its dimensions although defined by the individual's affiliation to an exclusive group is perhaps best shaped into sense by the individuals without citizenship, in absence of the rights and privileges it offers, it is much more clearly outlined for those who do not have it than for those who do have it automatically. The political forum in relation to incoherent imagery of a compact nation exploiting exclusivity as a means to gain power from the privileged, although real, it is significantly more present in the consciousness of the excluded. For this reason, concepts such as citizenship, nationality, ethnicity that determine sense of belonging, imply an introspective format leading me to investigate this as an autobiographical specific personal situation rather than as a global phenomenon. Growing up in Serbia, as ethnic Romanian I have never been discriminated against, although the sense of belonging was provided by my ethnic affiliation and not by my nationality. Until the break-up of Yugoslavia the sense of national belonging for those around me (since I was too young to understand the complexity of what it meant to belong to an ethnic minority in a country found on the edge of a civil war) was successfully provided by the Yugoslav citizenship which was shaped as a supranational membership outside of the ethnic cultural political agenda, though this agenda existed in some degree inside what seemed ethnically undivided Yugoslav society. The break-up of Yugoslavia saw the shift from a citizenship swiveled around a legal status provided by the Yugoslav nationality to a more ethnically oriented sense of belonging certified by a historical cultural majority. Although involving almost the same feelings regarding the sense of belonging, in a short time we went from being Yugoslavians to Romanians from Serbia, detaching ourselves from our legal national affiliation and turning towards our cultural ethnic determination. This situation brought in perspective Romania as the true and only possible motherland and not the impervious abusive adoptive state that Romania has turned out to be especially when regarding the sense of belonging. The Romanian authorities failed at delivering the much-needed sense of belonging curiously by excluding within the Romanian ethnic identity, selectively granting the Romanian citizenship to Romanians outside of Romania. By creating this double standard for immigrants and ethnic Romanians from Serbia who are not entitled to the citizenship on one hand and ethnic Romanians from Ukraine and Moldova to whom the citizenship is ceremoniously given on the other, favoring some communities and excluding others, directly contributes to the tension between those included and those excluded. The Romanian authorities are weakening the very fabric of Romanian ethnicity and in a manner of an illiterate, ignore those who belong to the same sociolinguistic space yet forcing immigrants of non Romanian ethnic origin living in Romania to comply to it, altering their identity through the xenophobic naturalization process. Furthermore, EU integration of Romania increased exigency not just for those requesting citizenship but also for those who require the right to stay and are not EU citizens. The complicated process of obtaining the citizenship or the right to stay in Romania and the arrogant attitude of the included towards the excluded exposes the nature of the six year old EU member which abused in turn becomes as abusive since its product is now an EU citizenship and apparently values more. Additionally the EU citizenship that transcends nation-state's borders is more a symbolic supplement for the sense of affiliation and far away from a citizenship which confers rights on equal grounds, since it's origin and power is conferred throughout the national citizenship of a Member State which is extremely diverse legally defined by state-based policies. Nothing illustrates this perplexity better than the generous palette of contrasting principles that describe what citizen is, what are his rights and how you become one, followed by the EU Member States. While some states grant certain rights, others prohibit them. This type of divergence is determining EU citizenship to be a confusing parallax of unequal distribution of rights, not only selectively granting the legal status but also establishing a variety of principles to follow in determining that legal status, subsequently this atrophies the sense of belonging and amputates any chance of inclusion. The 2013 European Year of Citizens unconvincingly exposes the harmonious and idyllic atmosphere of EU citizens rejoicingly collaborating with no effort to overcome social issues. A glance through its report enumerating necessary actions to overcome the obstacles in the way of achieving the ever closer European Union of citizens, shows that the focus is not to disestablish the bureaucratic continuous-loops and ensure equality but to celebrate the rights of the included, ignoring the excluded. Addressing the issue of EU citizenship on an individual level while ignoring its national dimension, which is in fact still providing and defining it, building up ethnic tension among those included is leaving the EU citizenship visible only as a design of documents issued by the EU members rather than as a profound part of all social dimensions.

ID - Not a Number
The work "ID - Not a Number" is a collage-installation made of cut out numbers from different documents used by myself in the past 15 years, a visual depiction of shouting in frustration "my identity is not a number!". While we are constantly interested in expressing our identity and we seem to attribute it a mandatory presence for our existence, our identity plays no part in our identification. We are permanently identified with a number, containing our date and place of birth or our sex, expressing the order in which we take a certain position, without any trace of our personality and in absence of our profound self. We only count as a physical presence numerated by a state configured code, which is precisely calculated in determining our identification number but completely random for our hybrid identity. Since our hybrid identity is permanently developing and shaping our complex individuality in absence of any form of algorithm, a permanent identification through a fixed number is next to impossible. So the interest of an authority is to go around the identity and the individuality in its identification effort. In fact any form of authority in relation with an individual is dependent on numbering and enumerating the individual into mass, the easiest way to process an identification is for the identified to have almost no identity and even less individuality. We allow our identification to undermine our identity to a point in which our identifiability proves the existence of our identity. Wouldn't identity be possible without identification? If you don't have a Social Security number do you not have an identity? Of course the identity exist without identification even though the identification by the authorities predates identity itself. It is almost like our identification is as basic to us as our Freudian id, present from birth, defining our basic sociality as a national characteristic of a certain date and place, satisfying the authorities instinctual drive to identify us while dissolving our individual identity.
ID - Not a Number, 2013, collage-installation, mixed media, documents (birth certificates, identity cards, temporary residence permits, passports, authorizations, visas, student card, forms, applications, requests), dimensions variable
ID - Not a Number (detail), 2013, mixed media, cut out numbers from documents (birth certificates, identity cards, temporary residence permits, passports, authorizations, visas, student card, forms, applications, requests) 28 x 34 cm