“From the world of those who do not speak”

This is the title of a slide strip from 30 years ago, presenting various animal stories. For kindergarten kids (including myself), those slide strips were fascinating, really, some sort of a National Geographic of the era preceding 1989. I can recall them even today, not so much the stories, but those images, descriptive, realistic, sad, melancholic, of a dominantly warm hue, with short texts, sad ones too. They were probably not as sad as I remember, but that’s irrelevant. I watched them and I dived deep into the story, always too short, of the beautifully painted mutes. A sort of… compassion for those poor animals condemned to a life of no words came over me. To top it all! The story seemed packed with action, feeling, desire, all experienced without a single word, in an illustrative graphic style that betrayed nothing of the subtitles of those slides through animal mimic. I best recall a few images from a short story with two turtle doves…

I had totally forgotten about these slide strips until I came across a box of lantern slides and my memories related to kindergarten projections (perceived as huge events back then) were instantly transformed by the experience accumulated as an artist. And I do not mean the stylistics of those images nor the type of graphics used, but the succinct and melancholic narratives in “The World of Those Who Do Not Speak” (E. Gârleanu). Thirty years later, I find myself in a world of human typologies where words are not the prime vehicle of communication. The philo-logos is something secondary, muted, something that often works post restante, incoherently or elusively. Let us just say that, to a great extent, visual artists (but I candidly guess that creators in other categories as well) do not always have a readymade answer. If you ask them what have they worked in the studio (or the terrible and excruciating question: “what have you painted / made lately?”) their first gesture, before uttering a sound, will be to look away from the face of the interlocutor in any direction suggestive of what their answer should contain. There are artists with a well tried, eloquent, even virulent logos, but the percentage is small, and furthermore, eloquence and verbal force should not be mistaken for vigorous talent. I rather think that this kind of speech is a transformed one and is secondary to plastic discourse. Of course, it is good to have it and intense, too, it might even be pleasing to listen to an artist speak, but this “success” is just the fruit of an exercise, it is not intrinsic to a creator of images. The flow of ideas in the case of a visual artist is not channeled in the area of the centers of speech, writing, rhetoric, but on the other side of the moon. Still, how nice! The world of arts has created its own antibodies against verbally impotent artists and the art critic (the curator!) takes over the task of speech as an active organ of the artistic sphere. And not that they do not do it well or that it would not be necessary, only that at some point this “organ” (I am almost calling it organon) turns autocephalous and the logos becomes a chaotically and uncontrollably multiplying cell…What am I saying? That verbal discourse tends to fill in for content. Curatorial discourse started to “take up” more functions than needed, pushing an exhibition route into the area of theory. This might lead to the birth of an artistic hybrid, if it has not already, but the symbiosis of text, image, space, sound, movement has already been turned on all faces in theater, and not just yesterday. But we are not talking about theater, our actual subject is art. Contemporary art. If the philo-logos, the text, helps more than it should, then the image (on display in an exhibition) might very likely be limited to just some complex and attractive illustration to a curatorial text. If so, it loses me, as a lover, creator and consumer of contemporary art. There has been much talk and writing about what is, how is (and whether or not there is) a visual language, a language of art, we all know the books, but after the experience of the last 20 years on the dance stage of artist-curator, we may know more about what is NOT plastic/visual/artistic language. It is not the nicely printed text glued with extreme precision to the exhibition entrance wall, it is not the excerpts from press releases or invitations, it is not the bibliography to study to be able to intellectually browse the exhibition, it is not the endless and elevated speeches at the microphone at the opening, it is not, it is not, IT IS NOT. Just like in those slide strips where the humanizing text on the life of some animals had nothing to do with the mutes, just the same, the exhaustive theoretical incursion into the world of artworks that function through something other than the medium of written or spoken language, creates an easily spotted dissonance that is still willingly accepted in the ways of contemporary art.

Yeah, no one says it is easy to assimilate contemporary art, just as contemporary symphonies are not an easy treat. Not even our own history is easy to grasp. What is to be done? Nothing spectacular. Let us accept the challenges of contemporary art, let us cross the threshold of “strange” exhibitions without life vests, let us engage in a dialogue and understand as much as we can, as much as a work of art can offer and let the story come to life by itself. Basically (I like the eternal return to basics), we need to become more aware of the fact that, when watching an exhibition, we enter the “World of mutes”, if it is possible. If it cannot and cannot be done, and if one must absolutely read every “phrase” in the footnotes, then the encounter is probably not with visual art, but with the hybrid I have mentioned before, a cross between the hyper-savant ideas of a curator and the superb works of a potential artist.



Hassium by Anca B.