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Auspices of a variable sky
François Quintin
(p. 11-13)

The crystal-clear ringing of the chimes can already be heard from the Schoolyard.
When entering, on the opposite wall, a simple piece of newspaper, torn-out from Le Monde is encircled inside a Plexiglas cover.The title has been transformed by two red “S”s, allowing the visitor to read it as a new enigma : LeS MondeS. There would be several of them then, placed one on top of another, like a disorganized layer-cake. For this, the artist only needed a red felt pen, just as the surgeon only needs his scalpel to reach the heart. The fine gothic architecture of these printed letters, these few characters on which our resigned reading has been based since the Western world of Gutenberg, are thus etched out by a radically economical artistic gesture.
Mircea Cantor declared in the past that he no longer wished to take photographs as such. Even so, he comes from the world of images, from photography, graphic design, and video, but he always finds himself confronted with the cruel question of the vanity of producing “yet another image”. Even though he makes things visible, what he produces is not motivated by the desire to create images, but to create meaning, to present objects of strong symbolic density. Mircea Cantor creates works like monuments, with the ambition of saying things once and for all.However, his propositions are never doctrinal. It is a work of affirmation, but he confers on the viewer the entire responsibility for his interpretations, his reading. He transforms ideological barriers into translucent surfaces through which one may read unpredictable futures. He unfolds certainties in order to give form to all that is uncertain, and through shapes to materialize a serenity in the irresolute, since we are indistinctly under the auspices of a variable sky.

The tinkling of the chimes accompanies us more precisely.
Since we have opened our dialogue about the exhibition, I have been struck by Mircea Cantor’s ability not to answer questions, but rather to give them new perspective, taking enough distance always to be able to consider the poetic outcome.The question of economy, for instance, is omnipresent.Whether it is this Chaplet – barbed wire drawn onto the wall by pressing aligned inked fingerprints, surrounding the space – or Stranieri – a modest table on which four loaves of bread have been cut into by kitchen knives, and whose open wounds seem to be oozing salt – or the work which gives the exhibition its title, Ciel variable – written on the ceiling in candlesmoke – these works all demonstrate the artist’s power to reach the sensitive and the human, with a great economy of means. Rosace, majestically welcoming the visitor, evokes more precisely the question of an alternative economy.The work was generated by the encounter of a woman on Beaubourg’s square, overshadowed by the Parisian temple of contemporary art.She makes star-shaped ashtrays out of soda cans.When asked how much they cost, she answers : “give me what you want, and take what you want”. Mircea Cantor was troubled by this imposition of an unusual economic relationship requiring humanistic responsibility, unquotable on the stock market, in which the simultaneous presence of individuals and their mutual trust instantly overtake monetary value. Mircea Cantor wanted to involve the work of this person,who had so simply formulated a human economic utopia, in his symbolic construction. The piece takes the form of a rosette. It not only evokes the stained-glass windows of the Cathedral, but also, in a more ecumenical manner, yantras or other types of shapes used in iconoclastic worships… Mircea Cantor decided this after noticing the air vent of a building in Rheims, the result of an ongoing mutation of forms coinciding with the alchemy of ideologies, to which the artist is particularly attentive. In this anecdote the symbolic power present in this mutation of the object emerges, a way of formulating a desired future freed from instructions, allowing the conception of a different organization of the world and its values. This position may be found in the philosophy of Charles Fourrier or in the writings of Henry David Thoreau. Mircea Cantor told me to what extent the assurance of Thoreau’s theses, in total counterpoint with his time, had accompanied him during the conception of this exhibition.

The pure, metallic tinkling spreads like a rumor.
Climbing the stairs, we find ourselves face-to-face with a drawing depicting a kind of French garden in the clouds. It is a collaborative work, which the artist has been carrying out with his 10-year old nephew. In this exchange, which has evolved over a period of five years, Mircea Cantor has entrusted this particularly bright child with a series of tasks, such as inventing worlds, playing a game in which the rules are made up along the way, or drawing the artist’s biography. Here, Alex Mura˘rescu, after reading the passage of the Apocalypse of St John, offers his interpretation of Celestial Jerusalem. This call for creative candor by the artist who becomes commissioner, subtly foregrounds the question of intellectual authority, since the singular work only exists in the non-referential balance of this exchange.

At last the tinkling reveals the source of its gentle alarm.
Monument for the end of the world is the anticipatory commemoration of a future event. It is the model of a city made of fragile pieces of wood, featuring a dominant crane from which the chimes are suspended.With the wind, the jingling of suspen- 12 ded musicality delicately warns us of an impending end, the end of the world, perhaps that which was promised to us, or those lost in the process of standardization. This is not the project of a monument to come, but the expression of a different kind of monumentality. The first concern of the maker of monuments is its resistance to time. Made of bronze or of stone, the commemorative object must last as long as possible. Here, the monument consists of fragile materials, as perishable as we are, as the worlds we cross and we share, still captive of the resonance of the chimes, inviting us to rethink our visit of the exhibition, while considering that the end of the world might begin with the rumor.
A narrow corridor leads to the last room. In the dark, a 16mm film shows the slow combustion of a flag of which we only perceive the shadow – the negative of an icon – the last moments of a black square on a white background. The looped film reminds us how much its own consistency is degradable and fragile. The shadow of the flag that begins to burn, evokes in a way the anxiety of the first projectionists, when movies were printed on highly inflammable celluloid film.With Shadow for a while, Mircea Cantor conveys the vulnerability of the emblematic affirmation of pre-established communities, nationalistic or otherwise. He thus refutes their power to erase singularities.
In parallel, the small painting entitled The Spring presents a dawning sky obstructed by dead branches, with a burgeoning nest in the middle. For Mircea Cantor, there is no real community when there is collective blindness. He is, himself, a very active member of an artistic and intellectual renaissance in Romania, particularly in his native city of Cluj. The nest, whether familial, social, cultural, or intimate, evokes our capacity to tuck in our individualities, our power to build worlds the stability of which only becomes possible with our desire to share.
I wish to thank Mircea Cantor here for his extreme generosity. I would also like to thank Mihnea Mircan, as well as the great artist Ion Grigorescu, for their participation. Finally, my thanks go to the Lycée Val de Murigny in Rheims, where Mircea Cantor was able to work in residency and produce Shadow for a while.This book accords special attention to the exhibition Ciel variable, while also bringing together a great number of the artist’s works, as well as an original portfolio testifying to his attentive observation of the worlds, full of signs of an unforeseeable future.