Issue #45, 2014

Art In The Age Of Informational Redundancy
Alexandru Polgár in Conversation with George Crîngașu

George Crîngașu is an artist dipping his toes in the digital genepool, while suffering from reality related afflictions. Born in 1988, Focșani, he lives and works in Cluj, and is currently represented by the Sabot Gallery.


Alexandru Polgár π We are living in the age of self-accomplishing nihilism. The meaning of life is that it has none. (I understand that the sky is blue, but there is no why for the existence of the sky.) There is no other overarching project of our humanness, but accomplishing the task and the world of Capital: “aimlessness counted in billions of dollars and yens, in enormous quantities of energy, etc.“ (Jean-Luc Nancy, for instance). Art is no exception. The market establishes the price. This is the objective level. Everything else is a story people tell about themselves and their lives. The real world has become a fable, Nietzsche’s sentence sounds sharper than ever. “But is there an objective level?“ – this suspicion itself is the proof that everything has a radical tendency towards becoming a story. Is art a story? Is it a language to tell an (often personal) narrative, as many believe? Personal stuff sells sometimes well, but is there anything else to art? Is art a simple means of communication for various brainchildren stuck into someone’s obsession? Or is there another side? A side on which in the very practice of art something else gets caught, something that is not story-like and it is difficult to even fathom, something more sovereign than Politics and its states, something we might call the Destiny or the Program in its actual real development as our world? Is there a way out of the programmatic pragmatics of living in this particular world, with its institutions (or the lack of them), with its possibilities of doing (to which doing art is also subsumed)? Should we try to escape? Towards what?

George Crîngașu∫I do believe that the world has become a fable. A fable that, in a certain way, repeatedly digests itself, and with each new digestion certain things are retained, while others get erased. But this process is a formula more than a thought, and I believe it is a formula cast upon the current state of humanity by humanity’s own craving for itself. One of the more peculiar traits I inherited from this past century (alongside the boom of everything everywhere, with its good and lesser good aspects) is a certain nostalgia. Once everybody plunged into enthusiasm for the new millennium emerging at the beginning of the 2000s, I came upon a blank realization that everything was starting to have a repetitive rhythm. People were still baking in the uplifting stories of the past century, an understandable approach considering the fact that, for the most part, I believe we have around us more information regarding this era than any other. It is our closest relative, so to speak, and I think people turn to this relative for future clearance. Moreover, our entire advancement as a civilization brought us to a point where we cannot really fathom a world without it. We consider our past as much part of our daily lives as everything else. Even if we are witnessing only “archival“ footage of it, if you look at the growing rate of global awareness, people always carried the same preoccupation for a type of interaction based on fiction. It is the basis of evolving, they said. The rise of the movie industry did not help much, uplifting stories, characters perusing a plot until they accomplish whatever the plot states. That is the issue, I think. People identify with stories and they can supposedly manage their everyday concerns through the prospects of fictional characters, fictionalized “real people“ in “reality“ shows, and, more often than this, clinging to the notion of “answers in the least place you would expect“. As far as art is concerned, I cannot really imagine it being a story as a whole. It used to be in a time when constructs had indeed a certain meaning, when life itself was dictated by a set of clear patterns (patterns that have long gone down the road of obsoleteness). Art attached itself to the manner in which life has been perceived and explained, and when all this gradually started shifting to a less enchanted view, people gathered around individual stories. Like going back around the campfire and debating stars, instead of attending an academy in which sedimentary knowledge was in no way to be disproven. Returning to the past century, I do believe that this was the right time for the “personal story“ aspect to come into the limelight. It was a time when everybody got unified (in tragedy or accomplishment, and, indeed, hope). Unfortunately, being the close relative that I talked about earlier, it also infused in the next generations an offspring of similar values. While this in a normal state is natural, the next generations were filled with themselves, social networking developed in such an abrupt way that everybody was everybody and the then and now have fused together. We currently have “everybody’s stories“ in our pocket, but those stories keep having the same plot and the same ideals. No answers, no riddles, it is just the tale that was told for millennia in a manner in which it exists today. So, as far as I am concerned, the art world is filled with more of the same. People try hard to bring us lyrics and I am not sure that there is a way to escape this. Sure, one can escape, but this usually comes through forms of alienation that sometimes can prove futile. As to “where“ to escape, this would also become a story in itself, a small figment of an imagination of “where to“, just not “here“. I think the escape comes while in a state of unawareness. You realize it while in development.

πI read your exhibition in February 2014 (The Ocean and the Friendly Shore,Sabot Gallery, Paintbrush Factory) as an attempt at grasping the planetary informational ocean in the age of meaninglessness, a sampling that might bring us to the historic essence of the whole. To my mind, there is no friendly shore out of this, even if you try somehow, through a specific signal – a sort of tube that takes us from the realm of the “ocean“ to that of the “friendly shore“ –, to guide us towards something else. What is this? Some, in fact, have even noticed that the “friendly shore“ is more unfriendly than the ocean...

∫To say that I wanted to grasp the planetary informational ocean in the process of its expansion is probably a bit too much, but, indeed, I tried to convey a certain type of propagation that I observed in this particular system (art). While, for the most part, the idea of what an artist does is mainly readable as a formula (you “find“ yourself, do what it is that you do, stick with it, brand it, slap it, stick it on a poster and voilà), I have had this feeling that once you decide on these kind of factoids and you go with them, you tend to fall on a steep slip into repetition (and not the kind that is the father of learning). Being my first gallery show, I always got the vibe from people around that this was a moment to bring to the world the who and the what of my practice, which seemed a bit off as a task (mainly because it was a task). So, I thought of it more of illustrating a system I observed within my own interests, but which also extended towards the way everything was moving all around. The friendly shore was never meant to be friendly. I do not think it is in the real world, but rather in an abstract preoccupation. It is an area where strictness and implemented thought is king, and the shifting of nuance on the friendly shore had to do more with afflictions coming from entropy rather than a conscious intervention. Like the cabinet of shitty porcelains people keep in a certain order for years, until they seem immutable, completely like they have grown in that particular spot. In actuality, the build of the show had the purpose of pinning a more positive light on the initial phase of things, where alterations come into play and where the permeance of thought is much more easily obtained. In the end, maybe people who are invoking maturity in this field are right and as general functioning human beings we are supposed to tidily set our mess in order and put it up on shelves for other people to witness. But I believe it is a bit pretentious to behave as if everything finds purpose through method and order, or maybe it is my own immaturity that gets in the way. For a quick loop to the beginning of your question, I consider it nearly impossible to discern among pieces of information that we receive today via any kind of media. Very few come with a batch that actually feels real. They all feel like narratives on soap operas, dramas on British television, they are simply untrustworthy, thus, I believe that one does not need to take their meaning into account, but rather the way they exist and their expected reactions, a way highly fractured with shrapnel revolving around the world to no avail.

πStrangely enough, your guiding tube runs from a part of the “ocean“, in fact, from its horizontal “sky“ above, which seems clouded by a trilemma: painting, photography, real; the option for any of them seems futile. You intervened on a painting, creating a strange effect on a historical masterpiece. You took a photograph of the gallery’s entrance and projected it on the opposite wall on this manipulated picture, all covered by the transparent projection of a piece of unevenly cut glass that was hanging close to the middle of the room that hosted the “ocean“. There are so many filters, so many limitations to the light that escapes from the ocean (this is why one might need guidance). The viewer enters through the bottom of the ocean and is surrounded by a strange world. The reflections on the bottom of the ocean are becoming his or her plaything through a piece of transparent plastic that reflects the light of a projector. On a wall there is a screen playing relentlessly some informational rubbish – information that become tired, over-used in its very materiality, an effect obtained through the successive copying of it. On the opposite wall, blue and half transparent veils mark the place of two portraits of Alex Mirutziu, presented in a previous exhibition; a memory, a sign that is readable only to those who have seen that exhibition. This self-referentiality sends us directly to the addressee of the trilemma. Of course, the general viewer, but also, more closely, those inhabiting this space – most of them painters or artists in other media (almost the entire School of Cluj); but I admit that such a reading might be too narrow. I don’t want you to be more specific on this, but I noticed that there might be also something of a local dialogue on art. However, in spite of this speculation, it is obvious from what I called the trilemma that a dialogue with art itself and its manifold medialities takes place or, if not that, at least a statement is made, a statement whose full meaning, I admit, escapes me. It is literally untranslatable, and perhaps there is no need for something higher than the fact that a debate must go on about “what to do?“ in art on the ocean/age of informational redundancy. So, here is my question, and I always like to ask this from artists: what is the task of art? What is your task? Is there any (for art and for you)?

∫The show at Sabot was build on the premise that information started at some point to achieve a hoarded status, with a predilection for the visual type. It was mainly “the travels of a *.jpeg“, if one would like to feel romantic about it. The many filters you have noticed where based on the notion of wear and tear, trying to convey something that can trace a segment in the process of information self-digesting itself. Of course, being built in a specific place and time, this ethereal process had become “tainted“ by conditions generated there, ultimately transforming itself into a trait of the parcourse created. To call it untranslatable would be almost right, you already made a step in translating it when you overlaid it over a certain context. You can pin it to many equivalent interpretations, but none of them can be singled out as the only framework of reference. All of these are just systems, alternations of already solved equations that occasionally transcend into some kind of prophetic nature (but no more that the average prophecies about sets of coincidences we already witness all around). Ultimately, I have a strong feeling that there are people who engage in art in order to keep themselves on balance somehow, to manage an already crippling scenario in ways that allow some sort permeability of thought, but the means of achieving these things are in no way a universal language. Crowd control will still be in effect.

πI know that many artists at the beginning of their career, those who just got out of school, for instance, find it extremely difficult to do art, that is, the thing for which they were trained for years. They – most of them – must find various other jobs to keep doing art. Art is a bit like football, it is profitable only at the top, for those who, in a way or another, have managed to capitalize on some fame. Is the art of ordinary (often self-proclaimed) artists less? We know that artistic value is not fully reflected in market value. Should we take this as some sort of basic injustice and let the market be? Or is market a danger, a way of suffocating everything that is not marketable, but is artistically excellent? I know many artists desire a stronger market, one that can pay the bills, and this is only natural, but does art itself – as a general practice – suffer because of this need to adapt to the contemporary market conditions? Or are they completely neutral? Art and market are two separate realities, with rare exceptions when pricy art is also good. The good art of the past is extremely pricy, for instance, but how do things stay with the present? I mean, is there not a certain regime change in contemporary art, something that actually gives its most truthful profile? Expensive redundancy or cheap redundancy is still redundancy. Art has become the plaything of certain micro-circles (usually intellectuals), something that starts resembling a sort of isolated and often extremely sectarian subculture, a sort of ghetto for those who have the intellectual skills of enjoying it. Universalism in art seems farther removed than ever. Art in general seems to be a practice – a profession – that seems mysterious or even suspicious to many, a simple undecipherable sign on the planetary informational ocean, but a sign so enigmatic that one does not even try reading it, considering it something unworthy of a true social debate. Art seems always less important than anything else (politics, society, next month’s rent, etc.). Is it less important? How do you position yourself as regards these questions?

∫Well, this is the sort of status quo that has been the talk of the town ever since I got acquainted with the educational system. People were questioning the education/training/possibilities that come with engaging in a study cycle that extends throughout most of their formative years. While the reality is that, for the most part, schools and careers rarely mix in this little part of the globe we inherit. There is also the question of how many people come to a point in which they are able to grasp their intention for themselves. As I was saying, for the most part of early life, the routine comes into play and structures begin to form in a place, barely grasping the materials at disposal. I have met people that have chosen to study art at various stages in their lives and they usually face the same issues as any other careers would have imposed. It very much depends on the individuals really. I am not a great football fan. I actually could not care less, but this sort of thing has more to do with congregations, with sedimentary knowledge that the art world was build on. While artistic value may not be reflected in market value, we are talking about a much more expansive horizon than we may perceive. Crops of artistic production are flowing into society more than ever and it is no surprise that there is a certain amount of disdain for the whole gearing of things. It is, in fact, overwhelming. Adaptations and changes in order to appease the market are yet other factors that I find to be in sort of a twist. People think of the practice of an artist as a “one liner“, a series that can shift towards areas of interest only if the timing is right. Frankly, this is a dumb perspective. If you can access this area as you please why not integrate market values in your artistic research. You can dance to more than one rhythm is what I am saying, and I think it is futile to try and stay in one part of the field or the other, it is about timing and circumstance, and about decision making at its very core. As to the influx of artistic practices that I was underlining earlier, it is only natural that the general perspective gets shifted towards a practice oriented activity. People understand that there is this market, that they can follow certain patterns and embrace ideologies for the sake of confirmation.

I do not really consider the market as being this type of sordid entity that feasts on redundancy and poorly conceived art. It is a side that has always been present and always had this shadowy aspect to it. It is just that I believe it was more difficult to witness firsthand the dynamics which it implied. Being oversaturated is not a new thing. I think that this is in a certain way part of the definition of a market. Products travel near and far, and empires are built and destroyed. It is a dynamic recognizable in any type of market. The main challenge I think is not discerning between what would be called good art or bad, you get those without the market per se (markets can also be built like golems out of mud and given the breath of life by empowered people). For me as an artist who has yet to be part in the marketable area, the market represents a “side-quest“ that intrigues and I believe it necessary beyond the aspect of livelihood. On the other hand, as far as the artists who turn to compromise in order to “feed the machine“ are concerned, I believe that some may lack a certain perspective of the world they have chosen to thrive in and their own preoccupation for the arts. As I was saying, I find it useful to integrate market research even at a basic awareness level in order to find the moving parts of things. There is no guarantee that what one will find answers there, but at the same time this is true to any type of murky water environment one explores. In all fairness, art is a plaything in itself. Micro-circles or not, starting from the artists and ending with the institutions and collectors, every party involved gets to play with a sort of notion that empowers or discredits fictitious mechanisms. The end would be when one manages to find solutions for himself among all the rotating parts.