Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Mircea Cantor (b. 1977, Romania). Short notes on a personal discovery

I discovered Mircea Cantor by chance, leafing through a French art magazine. And I immediately liked his works. In the beginning it was the UNPREDICTEBLE FUTURE: the handwriting on a steamy, wet window. I think each of us has, at least once in his life, put his finger on a dusty car or a steamy window, wrote something and left there a short message. A message addressed to everybody, to who ever happens to pass by and spot it.

In Mircea Cantor's work the letters leave their traces as they start to melt, before they will disappear. Letters: evanescent, living traces...
The spelling mistake is charming and it made me think of a child having written this on his way to school, home, to the playing ground, ... through life.
A short poem on fragility, evanescence, surprise, hope and the imagination.

The artist is renown for his film entitled Deeparture, in which a wolf and a deer were brought in a white, empty gallery and left to watch each other, make each other nervous and unsettle our own senses and expectancy. The tension surfaces from challenging the instincts, from the crude beauty of bringing together two creatures which in a different environment (their natural one) are destined to play the roles of pray and hunter. The viewer of this film witnesses the exchange of glances between the wolf and the deer, their breathing, restlessness and calm.

This is a simple, almost minimalist film. Bringing together the two animals is a challenge Mircea Cantor addresses to death and survival instincts (both violent and fully natural) and it is also an invocation of the unexpected. Things no longer happen according to a preconceived scenario.

When I read in his CV that he lives ”on Earth” I remembered another work, also made in a minimalist manner, namely by adding a single letter: the French title Le Monde becomes for Mircea Cantor Les Mondes. The critics read in this an anti-globalisation message; I rather see it as a small manifesto of freedom, an apparently simple game, with letters and a marker: the artist-child and the artist-protester play with the world, correct it, complete it. The artist’s toy, the world, becomes a multitude of toys (les mondes). There is a Dadaist feeling in his work, drawing back to the Romanian inception of modern art. 

In a video entitled The Landscape is Changing a group of protesters carry mirrors instead of banners with slogans. In their mirrors you see how the environment changes while the people themselves walk and change their position. As the artist himself confesses, he is interested not in a global discourse, but rather in a universal one. The protest takes places in an unknown city, no words are written anywhere, there are only people and the world they transform. The image (the reflection in the mirror, the video itself) mediates between us and the world.

Although The Title is the Last Thing, (Philadelphia Museum of Art, 2006), I confess I like Mircea Cantor’s titles: Changing Sky (Ciel Variable, Frac, Champagne-Ardenne, Reims, 2007), Born to be Burnt (GAMeC, Bergamo, 2006). Works such as The Second Step and Double-Heads Matches raise my good spirits: a double-headed match is a sign that the world keeps on being reinvented.

The second step: is it Armstrong’s second step on the moon, taken out of anonymity by the artist or does it belong to another lunatic astronaut? In both cases, it is a fresh, cheerful and optimist imprint upon the open world we live in.

I like Mircea Cantor’s humour: regarding the for or against discourse on globalisation, he brings in a mischievous smile: ”I hear a lot of this official, left-winged discourse about the periphery. Berlin, Los Angeles... I myself came to live in Paris in order to be at the periphery of Romania. It’s my manner of keeping a distance from everything. (”J'entends beaucoup ce discours officiel, de gauche, sur les peripheries. Berlin, Los Angeles... Moi-meme, je suis venu habiter a Paris pour vivre a la peripherie de la Roumanie. C'est ma maniere d'avoir une distance avec tout”, Beaux Arts, No.275, May 2007). The artistic credo of a man living in exile, but ”on Earth”.

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