Auspices of a variable sky
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
– 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.
, 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
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
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
.This book accords special attention to the exhibition Ciel variable
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