Issue #44, 2013

The Right To Opacity
Diana Marincu

Alex Mirutziu, Each Thought’s an Instant Ruin with a New Disease
Sabot Gallery, Cluj, 15 November 2013 – 24 January 2014


One of the most widespread and circulated principles of the contemporary world, marked by the phenomenon of globalization and the overrating of a communication based on the diversity and plurality of perspectives, is transparence – the transparence of the relationships between people, the transparence of the țux of information, the transparence of the process of globalization, all of them under the sign of a terminology which is way too decrepit. Édouard Glissant, the well-known Caribbean writer and theoretician of post-colonialism, further complements the semantic field of the utopia of globalization with an opposite notion, which is essential for the ethics of human relationships: the right to opacity. This term is not synonymous with the right to being different, but signifies instead the limit up to which the Other can be known and his or her acceptance in spite of inaccessible, coded peculiarities.

Alex Mirutziu does not explain, does not represent and does not demonstrate through his works something that, as soon as it reaches the public, would “close“ itself within an interpretation. The question that the artist uses as a point of departure is “what happens when the objects, bodies and all things from our surroundings stay silent?“ Their language is untranslatable, their background empty and their field of reaction fragmented in a multitude of different temporalities, desynchronized. By Each Thought’s an Instant Ruin with a New Disease, which is his second personal exhibition at Sabot Gallery in Cluj,Alex Mirutziu keeps on resisting to a visual regime based on transparency and certitudes about reality disguised in artworks. He claims the right of objects to withdraw from the invasive gaze of the visitors, in other words, their right to opacity. The concepts supporting this exhibition are “pending works“ and “bureaucratic objects“. The first has already been tested in quite a few formulae up to now, the most “extreme“ being PW#4, a work hidden by the artist in the Swiss Alps and for which he promised a reward of 10,000 €if somebody finds it and brings it to the Barbara Seiler Gallery. Another “postponed“ work, Five Moments of Silence for Pending Work #7, from the exhibition What Is the Reality of Never? (IASPIS, 2012), has been a performancecarried out by six people “conducted“ by the artist into a few moments of silence dedicated to this work, which has initially been formulated in the guise of a contract with Rüdiger Schöttle Gallery from Munich. The idea of works suspended in an indefinite time or never concretized is not new and marks undoubtedly the creation of all artists. But Mirutziu sees in this postponement of transposing the idea into an object a limit of human perception in covering the conceptual territory of the work and the duration of the process. A “pending“ work is always too big for the geographic space in which the artist is located and for the present moment. These “pending works“ test not only the perception of the public about an absent thing, but also the mode of functioning of the relationship between work and art market and between the artist and the gallery owner. The validation mechanism of an artwork goes through a short-circuit and is replaced with the complicity between public and artist in order to form a fissure in the very roots of art.

The concern for the aesthetic form is substituted with a network of ideas that do not exhaust reality, but accept its irreducible and often hazy core, according to the theories of object-centered philosophy, whose partisans (such as Bruno Latour or Graham Harman) are among the documentation sources of the artist.

The performance that took place at the end of the exhibition from Sabot, Scotopolitic Objects #2 [for one performer], triggered precisely the situation mentioned by Graham Harman in his writings, namely the one in which the object proves itself to be immune to the attempts at deciphering it. The scenario of the performance has been thought out in such a way as too cover both the empty space of the exhibition and every corporeal presence. The artist used five big ceramic pots placed one next to the other, in which he has placed five microphones in order to create an unpredictable sound platform that included all sounds from the space of the gallery and all movements of the visitors. These improvised sound tools reacted and changed their vibrations or the volume of the sound according to the gestures of the artist (each move of his palms have been captured by the microphone) or to the distance between the objects. The failure of the public in clarifying the sonic and visual situation placed the artist in the posture of continuing his action, improvising and reactivating the potential of objects otherwise “calcified“, as he calls them.

Using all possible media, Alex Mirutziu outmaneuvers our perceptual habits and brings the exhibition in a new zone of tension between the sensorial qualities of the objects and their mental representation. In 2009, Mirutziu has formed an artistic collective with one of his alter egos – the artist at the age of 29 – and all works made in this way are based on the body as a primary tool. Within the exhibition, The Artist as Himself at 29 is an example of a paradoxical object which migrates from medium to medium. After the process of fabricating the physical mask of the artist, this mask has become a drawing tool in a performance and, simultaneously, an extension of his own body, one of the conditions of making this drawing being the permanent contact between the mask, the hand and the paper. Finally, the mask-object has been exhibited together with a video that documented the performance and has been placed next to the final drawing as a radiogram of the whole process. Following the same subtle link between sculpture and the ephemeral performative gestures among which the artist finds many affinities, even though they seem incompatible at first sight, two photos – Weight of Sleep as Temporary Sculpture Present in țesh of Face – try to capture the moment of waking up in which the body is the raw material for an ephemeral sculpture. The traces on the face of the artist keep the memory of abstract forms imprinted on it, their source being quite enigmatic precisely because everything has taken place during sleep.

“The bureaucratic object“, another important concept for the exhibition, is a conglomerate of oppositions to which the artist leaves open a way to reciprocally reconcile or annihilate each other. The language of the bureaucratic object is political par excellence. Each word through which we explain reality bears within itself an intentionality and a power of manipulation highlighted by the poetry of post-language. One of the works in the exhibition is a “prepared“ poem that generates two extra works – a video and a series of sculpture-objects. The visual allure of a text is what pushes the artist to research and renegotiate the identity of each word. Starting from the poem Politics by Graham Foust, Mirutziu cuts out and inserts certain passages from Our Circumlocution of W. H. Auden, reflecting upon the time of pronouncing a text, the pauses between the verses and the spontaneous alliances between words. The tridimensional objects extracted from these imbrications, Architecture for Page Turn, coincide as form with the empty spaces between the lines that determine the entire architecture of a page of text. The utility of these small lead objects is to keep open the page of a book in different angles, covering more or less the words and contributing to a certain kind of reading. Each glance at a text, even when the latter is not complete, inevitably determines the spontaneous selection of a set of words with which our mind creates new semantic contexts.

Each Thought’s an Instant Ruin with a New Disease passes finely over the invisible membrane that coats the idea, the object and the artistic process in order to create a new conceptual relationship between human and non-human, solitude and togetherness, artist and viewers, marked by opacity and the lack of a common language. The theories about postmodern networks of objects (called “plasma“ by Latour) always ignore the irreducible properties of individual elements, while privileging their relations. Instead, Alex Mirutziu interrupts the circuit and awaits to see what comes out from notions such as opacity, failure, impossibility, closing and postponement.

“The rhetoric of silence“, the phrase by which in her “The Aesthetics of Silence“1 Susan Sontag names the resistance strategy of art before the imposture or erroneous interpretation, can be viewed as a “zero degree“ at which the intentionality of the artist or the aesthetic frame disappear, leaving a void right in the middle of the stage and provoking the spectators to rethink their own position towards art; in this “aesthetics“ silence is nothing but an attempt at liberation from the spectator, client, evaluator or any other type of constraints, a decision that brings with itself also its other side – the dialectics of a symmetric exchange, in which one could answer to the void with the substance of ideas, to silence with the eloquence of the demonstration, etc. Sontag refers to André Breton’s concept of “pleine marge“ in order to explain the tendency of art to isolate itself in a (spatially and mentally) peripheric zone, the central void pushing to the margins the true, authentic experience. The result – new ways in listening, viewing and understanding art – is a conceptual and sensorial exercise of transgressing the eternal mediation task of art and of denouncing the “bureaucracy“ signaled by Alex Mirutziu. This is why dominant terms in the contemporary discourse about art, such as “to exhibit“, “to illustrate“, “to discover“ ,“to share“, “to translate“, “to demonstrate“2 should be removed at least for a split second from the art vocabulary, just as in a workshop of “potential literature“ (starting from the OULIPO3 experiments) in order to create new “constraints“ and “liberties“.  

Translated by Alexandru Polgár


1. ‑Susan Sontag, “The Aesthetics of Silence“, in Styles of Radical Will, Picador US, 2002.

2. ‑Observation borrowed from the essay “Opacity“ by Ulrich Loock, published in Frieze Magazine, no. 7, winter 2012 and read at     “Imagining the world in terms of opacity as a chaotically resonating whole appears as an unparalleled challenge to current notions of the global. In this light, it was striking to see the terms used in the exhibition catalogue for The Global Contemporary (2011) at the ZKM in Karlsruhe to describe the artistic aims of individual works in the show: examine, uncover, unmask, expose, reveal, reflect, illustrate, comment – a language of transparency that translated the works themselves, whichever part of the world they came from, into a dominant aesthetic of allegory.“

3. ‑Ouvroir de littérature potentielle, a group for experimental literary creation formed in the 1960s by writer Raymond Queneau and mathematician François Le Lionnais, which considers voluntary formal constraints to be effective in the stimulation of creativity and imagination. This group functions today as well and, periodically, they propose new “constraints“ for an “anti-hazard“ practice.