Carmen Acsinte: An Artist Who Decided to Take a Plunge

Carmen Acsinte, The Comet

Calina Gallery, 28 february 2011

Curator: Olivia Niţiş

Photos: Carmen Acsinte, Ciprian Chirileanu, Constantin Duma, Ugron Reka, Ionuţ Staicu,Cristian Tzecu

Preparation

Exhibition

Interaction

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Carmen Acsinte is an artist who decided to take a plunge in this thicket, and she did it suddenly, in one go. She retains the same directness when talking about it, too, manifesting her thoughts through an installation. She showcased it in Bucharest, then made it an exhibition in Timişoara. Interestingly enough, she connects the issues of power-catastrophe-panic-political control by using two adhesives that make a mind game out of her project when placed in proximity to each other. Needless to say, the little cogs in your brain will start turning because of this mind game. The semantics of the project is indeed its first virtue. It starts from the skin of a bear and, conceptually, from the significations (metaphoric or not) of comets. And in between the bear skin and the phenomenon of comets lie the broken and at times scattered strings of several hundred red and white balls.

The supporting discourse of the installation quotes from the writer and journalist Demostene Botez and from playwright and publicist Caragiale. As a side-note, such references seem to appear for the first time in the Romanian contemporary art landscape. There are few people who could imagine contemporary art works that are conceptually connected to a character such as Demostene Botez.

The texts reference the context of the economic crisis from the beginning of the previous century (I wonder, where have I heard that before?), when people were confronted with the dangers of an even bigger crisis. The Comet was coming! First of all, the text authored by Botez (1928) compares the political man with a comet-like character, a kite that flies at low altitude with the help of a magic tail, without which it would go down just like any other toy kite. Caragiale’s text (1899) speaks about the comet as a phenomenon (one that his contemporaries were actually trying to withstand, following the press and rumors about the evolution of Comet Biela). He describes this “hairy star”, a star “with follicles”, as something that is capable of inducing specific social behaviours, which were excellent cannon fodder for his observation and his pen.

But what is it with all these things? The catastrophic has been part of political imagination for a long time. If there’s anything that can happen out of the blue, unforeseeable and impossible to control or stop, that is a good political ally. The powers that be have good astrological relationships. So, why go to the lengths of building – politically-wise – a more resilient world, when it is more profitable to fish in the muddy waters of the humours caused by such phenomena, fishing in a pond of emotional turmoil for which panic, fear and terror can provide fertile ammunition? Living in fear of the Comet, being terrified by the huge and empty space from the void of which something destructive could always come flying in our direction (this type of fear is not fictitious, it’s called cometophobia), is an example revealing the complicity between typical authorities and the defensive humours of man.

The announced catastrophe, probable or imminent, takes place exactly by not happening. It subsists by the communication of its’ probability, by feeding its’ possible condition. As such, the catastrophe happens via perpetual postponing. The announcement and the postponing are old accomplices of the authorities exercising their powers on the psyche of the masses. And since we are talking about the masses, about the people, and the primary connections that keep collectivities together, the bear – the savage that is not completely foreign to us, this non-human that is close to us humans – can be a good representation of human irrationality. This is what Carmen Acsinte’s installations speak about. As an artist, she touched the theme of the regnum animalia before: Luminiş (Clearing), Antologia muştei (The Anthology of the Fly) and Zoomagia are previous series of images giving off a great sense of nature because of the animals, insects and birds they portray. The red and white balls, on the other side of the installation, project everything into a wide, cosmic horizon (with all the inherent irony which the artist declares right from the start). In this horizon, the human fears fly through space with the speed of the planetary ball, launched in a game of pool with otherwise honest rules…if it weren’t for the darned comets. In fact, they are garbage. Garbage from a picnic on the side of the road between two galaxies, leftovers from the forming of all cosmic marbles and balls. The comet is a residue nobody calls their own, a disoriented bunch of leftovers haunting galaxies that indifferently play pass the parcel with it. A potentially chaotic leftover from the arbitrary order in the cosmos that is our mind.

Carmen Acsinte is an artist who decided to take a plunge in this thicket, and she did it suddenly, in one go. How does she talk about this? Directly – through an installation. She showcased it in Bucharest, then made it an exhibition in Timişoara. It is interesting to see in her project that she connects the issue of power-catastrophe-panic-political control with the help of two glues whose proximity makes a mind game out of her project. A mind game with a catch that makes the little cogs in your brain turn. The semantics of the project is indeed its first virtue. It starts from the skin of a bear and, conceptually, from the significations (metaphoric or not) of comets. And in between the bear skin and the phenomenon of comets lie the broken and at times scattered strings of several hundred red and white balls.

The supporting discourse of the installation quotes from the writer and journalist Demostene Botez and from playwright and publicist Caragiale (references with I think that appear for the first time in the Romanian contemporary art landscape, if  am not mistaken. There are few people who could imagine contemporary art works that are conceptually connected to a character such as Demostene Botez). The texts make a reference to the context of the economic crisis from the beginning of the last century (I wonder where did I hear these terms before?), when people were confronted by the dangers of an even bigger crisis. The Comet was coming! First of all, the text by Botez (1928) compares the political man with a comet-type character, a kite that flies at low altitude with the help of a magic tail, without which it would go down – just like any other toy kite. The text by Caragiale (1899) talks about the comet as a phenomenon (one that this contemporaries were actually trying to withstand, following in the press and through rumours the evolution of Comet Biela). He describes this “hairy star”, a star “with follicles”, as something that is capable of inducing specific social behaviours, which were excellent fodder for his observation and his pen.

But what is it with all these things? The catastrophic has been for a long time now part of the political imagination. Whatever can just happen out of the blue, unforeseeable and impossible to stop, is a good political ally. The powers that be have good astral relationships. So, why go to the lengths of building – politically-wise – a more resilient world, when it is more profitable to fish in the muddy waters of the humours caused by such phenomena, fishing in a pond of emotional turmoil for which panic, fear and terror can provide fertile ammunition. Living in fear of the Comet, being terrified by the huge and empty space from whose void something destructive could jump in our direction (this terror is not fictitious, it is called cometophobia), is an example through the way in which it shows the workings of the complicity between authorities and the defensive humours of man.

The announced catastrophe, probable or imminent, takes place exactly through not happening. It subsists through the communication of its probability, through feeding its possible condition. As such, the catastrophe happens through perpetual postponement. The announcement and the postponement are old accomplices of the authorities exercising their powers on the psyche of the masses. And since we are talking about the masses, about the people, and the primary connections that keep collectivities together, the bear – the savage that is not completely foreign to us, this non-human that is close to us humans – can be a good representation of human irrationality. This is what Carmen Acsinte’s installations talks about. As an artist, she touched the theme of the regnum animalia before: Luminiş (Clearing), Antologia muştei (The Anthology of the Fly) and Zoomagia are previous series of images inhabited with great naturalness by animals, insects and birds. The red and white balls on the other side of the installation project everything into a wide, cosmic horizon (with all inherent irony which is declared from the start by the artist). In this horizon, the human fears fly through space with the speed of the planetary ball launched in a game of billiards with rules that are otherwise honest. Honest, were it not for the damned comets. They are rubbish, in fact. Rubbish from a picnic on the side of the road between two galaxies, the leftovers from the forming of all cosmic marbles and balls. The comet is a residue nobody calls their own, disoriented leftovers that haunt galaxies that play pass the parcel with it, filled with indifference. A potentially chaotic leftover from the provisory order in the cosmos of our minds.

The light in which Carmen Acsinte’s installation can be displayed is not indifferent. The side-lit little balls form a queue and are imbued with two hemispheres: a shining solar one, and an obscure one which is dipped in the pitch darkness out of which all these bodies seem to take life. The bear, trailed by balls, presents an indisputable grandiose sight, something which is superhuman and cosmic – although in an ironic register. This happens in part because of the physical dimensions of the installation and the huge/insignificant contrast between its elements. The brown, opaque fur lays prone on an entire black wall, floating above the void, just like the red balls it leaves behind streaking the darkness. The comet would be a nice cosmic character if it would not threaten us with extinction. How many other celestial bodies having long hair (in Caragiale) or fur (at Carmen Acsinte) do we know anyway? The murk in which the comet’s tail is lost is also a semantic connector: the long hair of the political-comet man mentioned by Demostene Botez are in fact the bunch of twisted and knotted hairs and the gaseous turbulences of our emotion. “The Comet“, Carmen Acsinte’s installation, creates all sort of loops of meaning. I would add others to the above.

Adriana Oprea, Art critic & curator

 

 

 

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