The Romanian artist couple Monotremu was inspired by their toddler son to create Minitremu, a playful project that aims to bring art into kid’s lives at an early stage in an innovative and unpretentious way. Minitremu translates Constantin Brâncuși’s monumental works into wooden toys, colorful and meaningful objects which children can interact with and enjoy. As the artists state, “one of our first goals was to de-institutionalize Brâncuși and bring him toward a tangible dimension for kids.” To create The Little Table of Silence and The Little Endless Column, they used only non-toxic colors and children friendly materials. They also have The Gate of Kiss in the works which is intended as a teething ring for babies.
The artist duo Monotremu blends two opposing educational backgrounds, fine arts and sociology, in order to create works with social and political content. As they say, their work is a “response to the general apathy in a Romanian society traumatized by the neoliberal capitalism and its communist heritage, in the form of critical commentaries and sometimes a mockery of private and public actors who have unlimited powers to give shape and form to our everyday reality”.
Their project Minitremu is a non-profit with the declared purpose of bringing art and understanding of art to a very tangible and accessible dimension for kids. The initiative is “an attempt to reconcile the present with the future”.
Through the toys, children and adults alike can have direct contact with a minimalist and symbolic type of time and space representation, and also have the opportunity to evoke the uncommon life and biography of one of the most influential sculptors of the twentieth century.
Elena Richard: How has Minitremu evolved so far, and how has it been received by children and parents?
Monotremu: With very few exceptions it has been received very well. Somehow, due to the fact that these objects carry a tremendous symbolic weight, a certain complicity is created between us and the parents who get them for their children. We sense this especially when we receive photos of children playing with the Column or the Little Table. It’s a feeling that goes beyond beautiful words about the look of the toys or the idea itself. This thing about transposing monumentality into playfulness, the “toy-ification” of Brâncuși’s sculptures, so to speak, it seems to reduce tensions and release positive energies. There is still a constant trend from politicians or the Orthodox Church to appropriate Brâncuși in a form that fits a nationalist or populist agenda, and these toys have the exact opposite effect of the official speeches. As for the children, it’s all good, they take them as they are, it’s a very simple formula: they enjoy the shapes and colors.
What were your biggest satisfactions in developing the project?
We are grateful for the fact that Minitremu is understood as being an artistic project, not a commercial endeavor, and thus not subjected to the logic of marketing. Therefore, the lack of pressure from the market (Minitremu is a non-profit, not a LTD). We grow the project at our pace and we’ve entered an education-related phase with workshops that involve the toys. We somehow believe that the stakes are not as much in the present as in the future. The results will be noticed in time, and we are also curious to see how children will relate to Brâncuși and his legacy when they are older.
Were there any unexpected results that are gratifying to you?
One result is the fact that the objects became a landmark when it comes to art projects for children. At the same time, this may be double-edged, as it may mean that we have become institutionalized, and in fact, we started this process with the exact opposite intention, i.e., to de-institutionalize. Sometimes people take us for experts on Brâncuși and have some expectations on what should be reflected in our artistic behavior, and this is not the case.
Were the toys received in a different way in Romania than in other countries (I read about them being used in at least one kindergarten in the United States)?
The differences arise from different contexts. In Romania, it’s obvious that their perception is more politicised, meaning that the toys are viewed in a different light by people after being bombarded by electoral or advertising campaigns which use Brâncuși to the point of saturation. But if we ignore that aspect, the toys are playful objects with enormous educational potential.
Translated from the Romanian by Elena and Paul Richard.