The city has built its own form of retaliation, patiently integrating it within the spirits of its dwellers. It is a history thousands of years old, but has picked up speed in the last two centuries, leading to forms of revenge more and more surprising through their variation as the advance of technology modifies our daily behaviour.

The exhibition A short history of retaliation. Duel or murder? is not necessarily a story on what men have quarrelled over throughout their lifetimes, no matter the historical period. Instead this exhibition aims to offer a concise presentation of an urban phenomenon that oscillates between daily and political life, towards social outskirts often ignored.

We do not aim to broach the area of the pathologic with the image of Nero gazing down from the Capitol at the burning of Rome, or the force of ideology, which can shape entire generations through the events of a single decade. The point of interest here is identifying the determining factors in the preservation of seeds of aggression in urban environments despite the fact that the city has set in place social and political systems that have de-structured autarchic or absolutist hierarchies, offering communities the right to freely express themselves. However…

Competition rules in urban environments, life is tense. Everyone is rushing. This results in an increase of aggressive behaviour for each individual, becoming perhaps an indispensable component of each individual’s behaviour. Aggression leads to violence. There are very rapid changes in tastes, way of life, expression. People tend to imitate one another, and follow the ways of life presented by the media. New habits emerge and are popular for a while until being replaced by others. As in fashion. Trends that do not really follow any moral or health-related perceptions. This explains the rise of psycho-somatic pathology. The consequences cannot be entirely foreseen.

The rhythm of change is very accentuated. There are constant changes in the areas of sexuality, of nutrition, of leisure activities, of individual physical activities. Physical effort is rarer and rarer. All these elements have a major anthropological significance.

The changes appear systematically, sometimes emergently, and their effects demand a rapid adaptation to the new situations created. In only ten years mankind will feel the effects of today’s market trends.

The most sensitive social area, where the city tends to experiment with ways of retaliation, remains the periphery – the outskirts. Not only in an administrative sense, but mostly in a social sense. The social underground has always evaded institutional control because it has had different historical experiences. To calm ourselves we do not need control, but knowledge. In our daily life, the “above world”, we have gotten used to defining things in words fit only for ourselves – things like the icebergs that rear their heads in fragments, social accessories unfit for the orderly world: beggary, vagrancy, crime, prostitution, alienation, suicide, witchcraft etc. Are all these unpleasant social realities not forms of manifestation of the Other, of the nocturnal, warnings for the “diurnal” world, signs that communication is necessary, that knowledge should extend beyond its currently secondary role encompassed only in the dry statistics of forensic medicine, criminology or social work?

From the chivalrous tradition of the duel, abiding by a set of rules often imposing the acceptance of a rematch, enough to quench the thirst for retaliation or revenge, there is but one small step to the plotting of murder. The exhibition A short history of retaliation. Duel or murder? presents the story of the last duel in Romania, having taken place in 1989 in Bucharest, for the very first time. A duel which unfortunately ended in the death of one of the duellists, Emanoil Lahovary. The spot where he died in nowadays marked by a monument built in 1903 by the wife of the victim, Zoe Şuțu, in the United Nations Square. It is most likely the only monument of its kind in Europe. The exhibition also presents the clothing worn by historian Nicolae Iorga upon his assassination in the Strejnic Forest, at the beginning of the year 1941.

The exhibition will feature the duelling kit that belonged to ruler Alexandru Ioan Cuza as well as a series of corups delicti, elements from the inter-war social underground. These artefacts are tied to certain events, warning us and reminding us of what must be healed in the life of the city.

The exhibition has been organized in partnership with the “Dr. Nicolae Minovici” National Institute of Forensic Medicine, part of the exhibits having been brought in from the Institute’s didactic museum, and shown to the public for the first time.

Adrian Majuru