Callosum : Curated by Adriana Blidaru
In the exhibition 'Callosum', six artists have devised different poetic strategies for reframing the reality they live in. The common thread running between them is their negotiation of the physical reality of Central and Eastern Europe, and the globalized and connected culture of the art world.
Andreea Anghel, Hortensia Mi Kafchin, Botond Keresztesi, Lea Rasovszky, Anetta Mona Chişa & Lucia Tkáčová, curated by Adriana Blidaru
August 23-September 25, 2019
Opening: August 23, 7-10 pm
In the exhibition ‘Callosum’, six artists have devised different poetic strategies for reframing the reality they live in. The common thread running between them is their negotiation of the physical reality of Central and Eastern Europe, and the globalized and connected culture of the art world.
Creating an analogy between these artists’ mode of operation and the brain’s function of mediation, the name of the exhibition references the corpus callosum, the white matter structure which facilitates the flow of information between the right and left cerebral hemispheres.
While the brain is still a mystery, science is slowly shedding some light on its operations. Each neuron in the brain is connected to up to 10,000 other neurons, and we have a basic understanding of how the information between them is transmitted. We also know where specific aspects of our conscious experiences reside in the brain: things like smell, memory, vision, language, movement, and so on, have already been physically mapped out. The left and right hemispheres are almost like independent brains, capable of processing information by themselves, capable of developing independent personalities and realities. But it is the Corpus Callosum which threads these subjectivities together into a coherent reality.
Callosum, the exhibition, takes this correlation as a starting point to create a figure of speech for the role and the positioning of these practices as ‘inbetweeners’. Similarly to the role of the fleshy white matter, corpus callosum, which has evolved to facilitate a better distribution of information between the two hemispheres, so are these artists conductors of ideas and aesthetic sensibilities between the local and the global, the personal and the universal.
Focusing on the gray areas between ideological extremities like West and East, reality and dream, contemporary and traditional, digital and handmade, religious and secular, the key concept of the exhibition becomes the ‘in-betweenness’ as a fertile ground for mining, generating, and transmitting new information.
Of course, the geographical perimeter that connects these artists plays a very important part in their general practice and, more specifically, in the works on display. Except for of Lucia Tkacova, who was born in Slovakia and now lives in Vyhne, Lea Rasovszky, Anetta Mona Chisa, Botond Keresztesi, Andreea Anghel, and Hortensia Mi Kafchin, were all born in Romania. Most of them now live in other neighboring countries: Botond Keresztesi has been living in Budapest for some time, Andreea Anghel lives in Wroclaw, Anetta Mona Chisa in Prague, and Hortensia Mi Kafchin in Berlin.
The installation Criers by Lea Rasovszky, is composed of two busts of crying men surrounded by flowers. The formal contrast between the two (one is painted black and the other is white) represents the diversity of suffering in the spectrum of humanity rather than a direct contradiction with each other. Alluding to weeping statues, the artist was inspired by a broad range of religious iconography from Catholicism to Ethiopian Orthodoxism, and further combined this research with her style derived from pop / urban aesthetics. The embodiment of the two sturdy men tearing up could also be read as a sensual undermining of the stereotype of Eastern European macho-ism. Thus, Lea creates her iconography, one which is both local and universal simultaneously. To investigate human suffering, Criers pulls the secular into the sacred penetrating the borders of the duality that keeps them in opposition.
Also interested in themes surrounding religion, secularity, but infused with politics, are Andreea Anghel’s two pieces in the exhibition. While using a sensual lens to investigate the profane, the work An Absolute Unit, a chrome installation made of disassembled modernist chairs skilfully combined with church candles, and the video Hi mom! , both, feature the artists’ hand. This imagery references the sleek aesthetics of advertisement.
In the short video Hi mom!, two bodiless arms are in disagreement: one is gesturing a white-power sign while the other is trying to stop it. The work looks at the causes of the rise of the Far-Right movements like nationalism and neo-nazism in Europe and elsewhere (first observed by the artist in the Polish context). Anghel calls this ‘a choreography of dissent’.
The installation An Absolute Unit, combines 3d and 2d elements, and includes an image of the artist’s hand with an old hand cultivator tool used in farming. Andreea overlaps several references that could be interpreted as a loose portrayal of current society in Eastern / Central Europe. The piece alludes to labor concerning agrarian history, counterbalanced by its current fetishization and by its development in relation to technology. In making this piece, the artist specifically considered Romania, her homecountry as a region that has been perceived ‘backwards’ for many years, due to its relation to agriculture as its economical sustaining foundation. Moreover, through the use of church candles, the work raises questions regarding the ongoing influence of religion on this social and political context.
Hortensia Mi Kafchin‘s four paintings in the exhibition, all made at different points in her life, represent moments caught between past and present, between personal accounts and different histories, between childhood and adulthood. The painting “The house in the countryside,'' made before her transition from male to female, depicts a classic rural Romanian landscape with a modest backyard. In between the overgrown weeds are a few spaceships and futuristic cars which seem abandoned and broken–a familiar sight in rural contexts in Romania.
Like in the rest of her works, it seems as if the viewer is placed in a Future Perfect Continuous; where one needs to project herself forward in time just to look back.
The paintings Sleep (Forehead Operation) is a self-portrait undergoing an operation. Rooted in a dream-like atmosphere, the human figure is almost disappearing into the background, whilst the medical tools and the white skull are the first to come in sight. The intimate still life The Lower Jaw, also alludes to the transition process that the artist has been going through, through multiple hidden references to the body. The fourth painting, Yachts and My Religion is a visual metaphor depicting three yachts, an abstracted body shape, and an orthodox icon. In an interview, Kafchin recognizes how the influence of orthodoxism worked its way through the deep psyche of an entire Eastern European nation, including her own, and how now this stands in contradiction with the desire to embrace the freedom, affluence, and glamour advertised by the West.
Approaching a similar strategy in layering his works and lacing them with a touch of surrealism, Botond Keresztesi, much like Hortensia, uses references from popular culture, video games, and art history, as well as personal memories and dreams. The two works in the show My father’s Car I and My father’s Car II, depict two different car dashboards: Dacia and Oltcit (Citroen) - both popular car brands in Romania dating back from communism. These works are inspired by the artist’s childhood memories, from when he and his family were driving every year, for nine hours, from Hungary to Romania. The dashboard, painted in a realistic way becomes the frame of the painting whilst the windshield takes the role of a screen. The screen opens up a surreal territory, a mix between reality, dream, and video games, where airbrushed roads get lost in pixelated landscapes, and where fragments of both classical and modernist sculptures are hidden within, or abruptly interrupt the compositions.
An intuitive interpretation of reality is presented by the artist duo Anetta Mona Chisa & Lucia Tkacova in their two works. The Prophecy of Things depicts abstract images born from broken screens, and then further reinterpreted as hand-woven tapestries. The beautiful visual coincidences open up a conversation about the materiality of displays and that of the digital world, transforming the screens from windows to somewhere else, into worlds in themselves. Similarly to the way Keresztesi paints pixels, so is the artist duo interested in reversing and reappropriating the digital into the handmade, blurring the contrasting distinction between the two - and with this, disturbing the ideological structures built behind these categories.
The second work in the show: Nom de Guerre looks at the impact of delimiting the world through language, as to maintain and establish hierarchies, borders, and differences between subjects, and between objects. Nom de Guerre is made of multiple golden chains on which small golden initials hang together, spelling: “activate amok, not a causal chain”. Whilst also being an actual anagram of both of the artist’s names, the phrase above is a poetic appeal to break and overcome the limitations and determinism of language.