Maria Mandea

Maria Mandea (born in 1991) is an artist working with the medium of play. She graduated from the Product Design department at UAUIM Bucharest in 2017 and is currently enrolled in the Doctoral School at UNArte Bucharest, where she researches play design in a social context.

With a background in product and stage design, her recent work explores participative situations in which she invites visitors to become performers and co-creators of the artwork. 

She developed “Micul Haos” in 2013, a toy design project based on an original concept on the border between toys and participatory art objects. In 2021, she co-founded Știrbei47, an open studio and space for emergent and participatory art in Bucharest.

More about Maria on her website and on her Instagram profile.

Q&A with Maria Mandea

When did you discover your passion for art and what does art mean to you?

I am still searching for the meaning of it, I’m not sure I’ve discovered it yet. I can say I am curious to find what it is and how it relates to everything else. Maybe other people know better. The ones who play for sure do; children, for example. And the artists we sometimes label as art brut. They have discovered something that I am also looking for. Or maybe just asking questions – it must have something to do with art.

Describe yourself briefly: what triggers your emotions or what makes you angry?

Super Serios is a name I identify with. It’s the name of our studio. Neither too super, nor too serious, I guess both concepts go well hand in hand.

I can be moved by a line or by one color next to another, just as I can be moved by a life situation or revolted by a social injustice. Not because they are equivalent, but because they are all part of our human experience. All these experiences are in a way political, as they are always about people.

Describe your artistic vision: sources of inspiration, techniques, messages you want to communicate to audiences.

I work primarily with the medium of play, with ludic experiences and attitudes. I find playfulness necessary in order to relate to the contemporary context. Daily interaction with technology, the current economic system, mediated relationships between people – all of them imply ludic possibilities.
I am approaching the current trend towards play with a critical eye in order to shape possible situations that are otherwise difficult to encounter, to model or to discuss. Conflict and aggressivity are part of what I do just as much as collaboration and the joy of being together. I think it is necessary that they can be experienced in order to be deconstructed and understood. Current and sensitive topics can be encompassed through play and their limitations can be debated and negotiated in a safe context, with a wider resonance.
The game is present and it is serious.

Who influenced you on your path and how?

Every person I’ve interacted with has influenced me in one way or another. But those who have had the greatest impact were those with whom I was able to establish a relationship of friendship and mutual learning: parents, teachers, friends.To name one person, that would be architect Teodora Ungureanu, with whom I founded Super Serios and with whom I have worked very close, starting 2015, on many projects in an interdisciplinary manner.

What work of art your produced you like best and what does it mean to you?

I feel some of my artworks start new courses, new areas yet to be explored. For example, Divided, created at Ars Electronica Centre in Linz (2019-2020), opened many ideas I wasn’t aware of at that time, but they are part of my practice now. It is a large-scale immersive installation, but minimalistic from the visual perspective: one dynamic line that divides two colors – a border. I use this language of basic elements to emphasize movement, relationships between participants or between them and the space, in a dynamic and collaborative composition.

What moment in your career made you happy?

For me, success means a sum of moments. Indeed, I enjoy each moment of success, but my greatest satisfaction stems from the opportunities to create spaces for negotiation, spaces for coexistence and open dialogue. I enjoy each reaction and I try not to save my joy for the big moments that are always in the future.

What do you expect from Accelerator programme?

I see Accelerator as one of the many programs necessary to develop a solid artistic infrastructure. Accelerator can create the space which enables the development of relationships in a currently evolving field. I enjoyed meeting the whole team, from the mentors, to the artists, to the organizing team.

I enjoyed the discussions and the fact that there were diverse opinions. I believe that more actors in the local arts sector are beginning to realize the importance of similar programs, and I hope that, in the future, Accelerator will be part of a larger endeavour, with the aim to strengthen the role of art for the society.

What other artists inspired you and why?

I feel an affinity towards the (re)discovery of basic formal languages in the 20th century avantgarde, Kandinsky, Klee, Miro, Dubuffet – from a visual as well as from a theoretical perspective. I find myself drawn by the anarchic spirit of dada and actionism. I was influenced by the games of George Brecht and I am also intrigued by the limits that Blast Theory are pushing. I find concepts and ideas in art forms that are not necessarily characteristic for my practice, such as in music, theatre or dance. Some examples are Wim Vandekeybus and Ultima Vez company or the work of Marlene Monteiro Freitas. And currently, I am curious about Geta Brătescu ideas – those related to an alternative pedagogy – which lays between play, movement and visual language.

What are your future plans?

I am interested in a more critical pedagogical approach with regards to the artistic process itself, but also in continuing to find the possibilities of play to shape and model inter-human relations and power structures.
An ongoing game.

Work of the Artist

in Back to Where It All Began Exhibition