Thursday, September 18, 2014

Because We Navigate on Different Lanes

8 May – 12 July 2014
Salonul de proiecte (MNAC Anexa, Bucharest, Romania)
 Artists: Cristina Amelia Candea, Vlad Basalici, Madalina Lazar, Szilárd Miklós, Veda Popovici

Because we navigate on different lanes is the second exhibition of the current season to present proposals selected following open calls aimed at encouraging young artists active as part of Romania’s contemporary art scene. This time, the selection of works produced especially for the occasion was carried out by the Little Warsaw duo from Budapest (artists András Gálik and Bálint Havas).
For Vlad Basalici, a historical event cannot be pinned down within time in order to create a coherent narrative; what is preserved is an accumulation of moments, of micro-events that refuse to be connected with each other. Cristina Amelia Cândea puts forward a video installation that attempts to elucidate what occurs when “the zero moment of creation” arises. Spontaneous interactions with various objects translate into a series of impulses that cannot be framed within any concept. In the case of Mădălina Lazăr, the starting point is a work by Gerrit van Bakel, entitled Tarim Machine, first exhibited at Documenta 7 in Kassel in 1981, her own work forming an extended meditation on movement within space, a movement that is conceptualised as an exercise in endurance and patience. Veda Popovici is preoccupied with the issue of the migration of Romanian citizens to various parts of the world; she reflects on the condition of citizens who have no real status in the societies where they make their living, proposing an exercise that activates ethical conscience, designed to lead to an awareness of the huge difficulties confronting this social category. Szilárd Miklós brings to our attention an important landmark of Romanian contemporary art from the 90s – the performance festival from Lake Sf. Ana, a chapter too little revisited in the last years, here being approached from the angle of the difficulties which arise through attempts of historicising this moment from the present perspective.
In a period when a significant part of Romanian society has come to perceive visual art (if it perceives it at all) solely as a market product, when institutions that play a major cultural and educational role lend their support to art markets where dissonant promotion, jumbled registers, the validation of false reference points, and the instrumentalisation of art for commercial ends is unequivocally asserted, in such a context contemporary art that wagers on critical reflection, which claims an educational dimension for itself, which is deliberately non-spectacular, which prefers to question and to doubt, marks out a marginal place for itself, constructing for itself an identity separate from the non-productive and troublesome rhetoric that monopolises the public space. Unfortunately, even in this niche of contemporary art, the discourse is more often than not simplistic and focused on the spectacular, as institutional performance is today evaluated in terms of the number of visitors, or else it is opportunistic and calculated, wagering on the institution’s international image, all of which is to the detriment of the production of content and the establishment of a real relationship with the public and the local artistic scene. In this part of the year, events such as Art Safari, Galleries/Museums Night, and the Bucharest Biennale have forced us to re-evaluate once more the local context within which we operate and to re-affirm, via this exhibition, Salonul de proiecte‘s commitment to supporting the critical art produced by the local scene.
During the period of the exhibition, the Little Warsaw duo of artists will give a presentation of their artistic practice and Veda Popovici will organise a public debate that will be accompanied by a reader containing various personal accounts, studies and strategies connected with the topic of migration. Details of the events are to be announced.
Salonul de proiecte is a curatorial program initiated by Magda Radu and Alexandra Croitoru functioning within MNAC Anexa. This program envisages the organization of exhibitions, presentations and debates focusing upon Romanian contemporary art and placing young artists’ productions into a broader generational context.

  Waiting for The Tarim Machine to Come

This is a project about patience and slow-motion. It is a motion produced so slowly that it seems to be integrated in nature, becoming a part of it.
            The starting point of this project is the work of Gerrit van Bakel, Tarim Machine, made between 1979 and 1980 and exhibited for the first time at the Documenta 7 in Kassel, in 1981. This work, like many of his other machines, is designed according to his Day and Night Principle. Relying on the differences in temperature (between day and night or the hot/cold cycle), the motion is generated by the expansion and contraction of the materials used in making the machine. In this case, the Tarim Machine would travel at 18mm per day and it was planned to cross the Tarim Basin in Tibet, which is about 1100 km wide. According to him the machine will cover a distance of approximately 1060 km over the course of 36,000,000 years.
Actually Van Bakel made an odd miscalculation (or exaggeration), because with a speed of 18 mm per day it would only take 170000 years to cover 1100 km.
Theoretically, the Blue Flame rocket – produced in 1970 – would be able to cross the Tarim Basin in one hour, while according to Van Bakel's calculations the Tarim Machine would need more than 30 million years to cross it. It is typical for van Backel's works to seamlessly combine aspects form recent history - especially those related to innovations in technology and physics - with moments taken from his personal background. Tarim Machine is actually an artistic response to the Blue Flame rocket. The Blue Flame was the rocket-powered vehicle driven by Gary Gabelich that achieved the world land speed record on Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah on October 23, 1970, clocking 622,407 mph (1.001,667 km/h), a record which lasted until October 1983.
I came across Gerrit van Bakel's works by various and often subjective ways of tracking the evolution of a technical element in arts, which metaphorically is called a "machine" or "machinery". Aside from the kinetic objects whose obvious purpose was to create motion, I discovered that van Bekel's attraction towards science also had other roots. His subjects come from science, recent history and his own personal past experiences. They also stem from his understanding of the connection that binds culture and nature, raw material and the technological object, the physical part of things and their metaphysical aspect, life and death. His machines do generate motion, but that's not their main purpose: it is to produce consciousness.
I don’t know if van Bakel’s machine is working or has ever worked perfectly. He accepted to be dependent on forces over which he can not have complete control, therefore the outcome might be unpredictable.
His work made me want to subject the viewer of my exhibition to an exercise of patience. I have create my own route for Gerrit van Beckel's machine, a route of 1837 km which crosses the Tarim Basin through these cities: Kashgar, Aksu, Kuka, Korla, Turpan and Hami, in northwest China. In this case, the Tarim Machine will reach its destination in approximately 280,000 years, 279,604.263 to be more precise. This imaginary road will follow the old Silk Road through the desert.

The project consists of a series of 6 drawings on Betonyp concrete slabs, 60x80 cm each (I), a 159 minutes long animation in a 4:3 format, displayed on six monitors 8 inches in diagonal (II) and a 30x40cm map, silkscreen on silk (III).

(I) The six drawings are depicting images relevant to the cities inside the Tarim Basin (scenery elements, architectural structures, etc.) which recreate – resembling something like a rite of passage – the itinerary of van Bakel’s Machine through the Tarim Basin, crossing the cities of Kashgar (the Kashi railway station), Aksu (apartment blocks), Kuka (the Kucha mosque), Korla (terraces on top of apartment blocks), Turpan (grape drying shacks) and Hami (the tombs of Islamic kings).
The choice of the cities through which the Tarim machine would pass was completely spontaneous. After randomly choosing my first three cities on a map in the northwest of China, I found out they were also part of the ancient Silk Road. This coincidence was a very favorable accident that I really felt I could use at that time and it gave me great deal of joy. It was the moment I decided to follow the same route and so the next three cities were chosen accordingly.

(II) The animation depicts a moving dot, a mobile objects representing Gerrit van Bakel's Tarim Machine which covers the 1,837 kilometres of my chosen route through northwest China, following the ancient Silk Road. The moving object has the shape of a square, mimicking the aspect of a pixel (in reality, it is 7 by 7 pixels). It follows the route by moving one unit every minute thus covering the total distance of 159 units in two hours and 38 minutes. No matter how much I would have liked to test the viewer's patience, it would have been impossible to have him wait for 279.604 years (because Van Bakel s Tarim Machine moves with 18 mm per day), so one minute of my animations equals 918,499,140 minutes of real time.
I needed the simplest of animations because the more basic a structure is, the more durable it becomes. When I began working on it, I remembered Theo Jansen's feverish attempts at creating new life forms, trying to find the perfect organism which will adapt and survive any change in its environment, and how he couldn't imagine a more versatile example than the worm which, even though it lies on the ground crawling and rolling at a tediously slow pace, is invincible. It is remarkable exactly because of its primitivism. According to Jansen's findings, of all the life forms he's researched the worm has the highest chances of survival.
            Therefore, I needed an extremely simple organism with movements that require a minimum amount of energy and I found it in the old and famous Snake video game, which was launched during the '70s and then reused by Nokia Mobile Phones in 1998.

(III) The map is an invented map, an atypical one, filtered by personal experiences and printed on a piece of natural Chinese silk. It is the sum of all my experiences related to this project, a product of researching and understanding the area, its inhabitants with their traits and trades, its climate and geography so that I will know what kind of perils the Tarim machine will have to face along its way. It's a collection of personal signs and symbols which help me map the area in a completely non-scientific manner. (Mădălina Lazăr)

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