Last Christmas of Ceaușescu

A seismographic search, dysfunctions of a system, 30 years after the 'stolen revolution' in Romania
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© Anton Roland Laub | Last Christmas (of Ceaușescu)

At the end of 2019, 30 years after the system change, an EU resolution was passed calling on the Romanian state to officially process the past events. While the overthrow of communist dictatorships in 1989 was mostly peaceful, Romania's revolution ended in a bloodbath. To this day, the dead have not been atoned for. Perpetrators who have not been called to account remain a threat, like the undead, sucking the blood and thus the life-force of the living, as the vampire myth puts it. 

© Anton Roland Laub | Last Christmas (of Ceaușescu)

Through a rapid visual choreography, artist and photographer Anton Roland Laub recounts the fall of Romanian dictator Ceaușescu. On his escape on December 22, 1989, Nicolae and Elena Ceaușescu are arrested at Târgoviște, of all places where Vlad the Impaler, aka Dracula, once resided. On Christmas Day 1989, the couple is sentenced to death in a brief show trial. The death sentence is carried out immediately. On December 26, the Christmas mass was broadcast live on Romanian television for the first time. The images of the execution go around the world on the same day. This look back in time includes historical image crops and stills from the TV screen underlaid with television noise, similar to the disruption images in television in the 1980s. Parallel to this, a typewriter is shown in front of a green-screen, telling of the surveillance of the system's critics, a look into the interior of a draconian regime, broken, tangled and gridlocked.

© Anton Roland Laub | Last Christmas (of Ceaușescu)


After his trips to China and North Korea in 1971, the personality cult around Ceaușescu took on absurd traits. Mao-Cescu was called the dictator behind closed doors. As the Titan of the Titans, Genius of the Carpathians, Honey of the world, The chosen one, Ceaușescu, allowed himself to be worshipped. During the 1980s, there were persistent rumours of a bathroom of pure gold that was supposed to be found in the Ceaușescus' private house in Bucharest. This rumour articulated the people's powerless rage about the vast discrepancy between the rulers' wealth and the people's own extreme poverty.

© Anton Roland Laub | Last Christmas (of Ceaușescu)

From the empty bathroom that can now be visited, the banality of evil looks back at the viewer. Ceaușescu's private home has been opened to the public, as have the place of execution and the Casa Poporului, the ironically named "House of the People", for which an entire historical city neighbourhood was demolished. Anton Roland Laub deals with all three places, which today are museums and at the same time "traumatized" places, silent witnesses of an undead past, degraded to curiosities for tourists, in which the echo of the personality cult still sounds today. 

© Anton Roland Laub | Last Christmas (of Ceaușescu)

The work is a seismographic search, using images to permit painful questions about the stolen revolution of 1989 and to break the walls of silence that have blocked the just processing for the past 30 years. The photobook Last Christmas (of Ceaușescu) was published by Kehrer Verlag in Heidelberg in December 2020.

© Anton Roland Laub | Last Christmas (of Ceaușescu)

About

Born and raised in Bucharest, Anton Roland Laub lives and works in Berlin and Bucharest. He received an MA degree from the weißensee art academy in Berlin in the class of Prof. Andreas Siekmann and Prof. Alice Creischer. Previously, he completed his studies at the New School for Photography, Berlin, and graduated from the media and communication science department at the University of Bucharest. In his artistic practice, he engages with subversive approaches in decoding reality constructions, proxy strategies and phantoms of power. His recent photo books Last Christmas (of Ceaușescu) and Mobile Churches, both published by Kehrer Verlag, Heidelberg, address Romania's contemporary history as well as the legacy of Ceaușescu's dictatorship. In 2018, he was a finalist for the New Discovery Award at the International Photography Festival Les Rencontres d'Arles. In 2017, he was nominated for the Dummy Book Award at the Unseen Photography Festival in Amsterdam and also at Les Rencontres d'Arles. The resulting photobook Mobile Churches was shortlisted for the FOLA Photobook Award in Buenos Aires. He has exhibited at FORMAT Photography Biennale, Derby; European Month of Photography, Athens and Berlin; Photo Saint-Germain Festival, Paris; MakeCity Festival, Berlin; atelier35, Bucharest. His work is included a.o. in the Book and Media Art Collection of Staatliche Museen Zu Berlin, the Archive of Les Rencontres de la Photographie, Arles; the Collection of the Berlin Wall Memorial Museum; the Collection of the Bucharest Municipality Museum.

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