Nicoleta Esinencu / Chişinău

Nicoleta Esinencu - Portrait

Nicoleta Esinencu comes from Chişinău in the Republic of Moldova, a country where the majority language is Rumanian. Her 2005 play "FUCK YOU,!“ brought her overnight fame in the Republic of Moldova and Rumania. When the work was published in the reader of the Rumanian Pavilion at the 51st Venice Biennale in 2005, it unleashed a political controversy in both countries. The play was at the heart of a long public discussion about the freedom of art, while its critical stance towards Europe triggered three questions in Parliament. "FUCK YOU,!“ was even dropped from the programme in the Republic of Moldova, but was eventually re-staged under a new name.

In the meantime, "FUCK YOU,!“, winner of the Rumanian "dramAcum“ theatre prize, has been performed all over the world. The attacks against it are, on the surface, targeting the political attitudes it expresses, its direct approach and drastic language, but they stem from a far more chthonic source: a post-communist society's aggrieved and resentful self-image, which Nicoleta Esinencu deconstructs from the perspective of a dual marginalisation (as a Moldovan Rumanian and a woman). After shedding a communist past and then, blind to history, donning the new ideology of Europeanism, Rumania's post-communist society felt provoked, challenged and humiliated.

As a young writer, Nicoleta Esinencu does not yet have a substantial oeuvre of dramatic works. Nonetheless, her existing plays are marked by two particular features: a powerful and aggressive voice and a critique of the processes restructuring Moldovan and Rumanian identity from a communist centralised state to a post-communist society where old power and gender relations continue to function under a democratic veneer. Her pieces address topics such as labour migration and racism, social indifference, or religious mania, nationalism and the suppression of women. Nicoleta Esinencu is the voice of an angry young generation seeking political and social orientation, a generation growing up with both state communist ways of thinking and the empty promises of capitalism.

Since Rumania acceded to the EU in 2007 and sealed its eastern border, Nicoleta Esinencu's homeland of the Republic of Moldova, with its majority Rumanian population, is a twice forgotten world. Although Moldovan citizens are ethnic Rumanian, they need a visa to enter Rumania. In some way pushed out of Europe by Rumania and the EU, the Republic of Moldova will remain, for years to come, excluded from economic prosperity, political stability and cultural integration. For the young generation, the country holds no future and they emigrate.

Foto: Florin Tabirta

In contrast, Nicoleta Esinencu has not turned her back on her country; despite scholarships in the west and years spent abroad, she always returns to this forgotten country to speak out for change. From 2002 to 2005, Nicoleta Esinencu worked as a dramaturge at the independent Eugène Ionesco Theatre. She has now established the Mobile European Trailer Theatre, her own theatre group in Chişinău. Since she is well-known for staging her plays at unconventional places, the new company's name can also serve as its motto.

Powerful and provocative but touching and gentle, with incisive insights and sharply polished language, Nicoleta Esinencu's works dissect the taboos of a world emerging from the rubble of a socialist utopia and feeding on greed and violence. Audiences in the west do not find it easy to cope with her plays either, especially where the author gives a voice to figures filled with hatred of foreigners and women. But it has to be. Nicoleta Esinencu says what the inhabitants of this new world are thinking, what they feel and desire: they want to get rid of the self-hatred of the demeaned and humiliated and pass it on.

Change presumes knowledge, confrontation and criticism. That is Nicoleta Esinencu's aesthetic programme: making, in the mirror world of theatre, the truth about the real world visible and worth enduring.

Marius Babias and Sabine Hentzsch.

From the preface to: "Nicoleta Esinencu. A(II)Rh+“, a German-Rumanian volume of plays, short stories and essays issued as part of the "Kunst im öffentlichen Raum Bukarest 2007“ project. The book was published by Buchhandlung Walther König and IDEA Design&Print Cluj-Napoca, and edited by Marius Babias and Sabine Hentzsch.