– Why did you choose sculpture?
I attended a high school of mathematics and physics, so I have a technical structure, quite related to science. The moment I decided to reorient myself towards art, however, I started from my passion for creating clothes, which meant an incipient approach to volumetry… Secondly, when I started studying art techniques I did not have a very clear direction to sculpture, but I realized where I do better. Unlike color where you have to have a native sense, a sense that I realized I don’t have, I felt the modeling much closer. I felt that I had a better control of working with space, with the technical part, because a sculpture involves a technical part. I’ve always liked working with various tools, I think you remember in faculty that I had a whole set of tools, so I was always armored with something like that. Therefore, I came to sculpture from close to close… the first time I turned to scenography, because it was the only section of textiles where I could give modeling, because in Bucharest this section was generally mandatory to give color. However, at the first admission it was difficult because I was not prepared, I had practically started from scratch. The second year I started in ceramics, so I started to deepen the modeling, and in the third year, when I started sculpting, maybe I would have deserved to go in because I fell first under the line. I had the right to an audience, but I didn’t have this chance in the end because the workshops were very crowded. In the fourth year, I was determined to follow the sculpture, practically in that year I clarified my route and came to Timișoara where I entered at the sculpture department.
– What is sculpture for you?
Considering that I did a high school of math-physics where I mastered mathematics very well, I had a special sense for geometry, algebra, even trigonometry. After finishing high school I entered the Faculty of Civil Engineering, again an approach to work with volume and space. But after a year I gave up because I realized that I was not interested. Returning to the question… working with space… this means sculpture for me. Over time, I learned almost all the techniques of making sculptural objects, I learned them during faculty and gradually I came to realize that sculpture does not only mean objects, but also implicitly means the creation of contexts for those sculptures. Gradually I started to build environments, the first one I made in 2001 when I was in the fourth year, an environment composed of light, video, water and a material called foamglas very easy to process in a sculptural way. I did the video editing in the lab at the college, sitting overtime and working on an old editing table, the version with buttons and levers.
– What studies do you have in the field?
I studied for five years in the class of Professor Peter Jecza, a traditionalist sculptor who gave us freedom, in the sense that he did not impose any of the rules of traditional sculpture on us. He let us develop… as a result, I think that in our series, none of us was left with influences from the teacher, each found his way. Perhaps the best example is my colleague Viorel Rai who specialized in 3D modeling and reached a very advanced level with this type of modeling. Later, I did my PhD on Media Sculpture, because in the meantime, from 2001 until I finished in 2003, I also tried other possibilities to insert virtual elements in the objects, such as video or audio. The final work of the five years consisted of a series of objects with sound inserts, I think you still remember the work with suitcases that was installed in the basement also in the form of an environment. Later, in my doctoral dissertation, I studied the stages of transition from objects to environments during the twentieth century. It is about that deobjectualization that we remember today and some are scared by the disappearance of sculpture in the traditional way. I don’t think it’s relevant that objects disappear, they don’t disappear, they are dispersed in an environment with sculptural and perceptual effects, technologically induced by light, sound, etc.
– What are your favorite topics?
It also depends on the challenges an artist has. My work is largely a kind of site-specific, not one hundred percent, starting by taking the necessary elements from a given context, which is usually inappropriate, and these elements connected to technological devices ultimately lead on a certain topic, which must also be part of the general theme of the project launched by the curator.
– What are your favorite materials?
The most convenient for me is to work with virtual elements because I think it is easier to move with something like that. But, paradoxically, to generate virtual elements you need a whole technological arsenal. Therefore, I freed myself from the weight of physical objects, but… I actually end up carrying the equipment that simulates the virtual illusion of those objects… It seems that we never get rid of carrying objects in this physical-material world… I am very passionate about 3D modeling, but I don’t have much time to specialize in this, but I have the knowledge and passion to do simulations. In fact, 3D simulations are an essential stage for me, which, although it does not appear in the light, gives me the general data of the projects that eventually materialize.
– What are your favorite sculptors?
James Turrell is the sculptor I study diligently and I want to make some didactic insights inspired by his work on immersive light. He is an artist that I consider paradigmatic for the transition from object to environment. I even had a presentation a year ago, related to the applications of immersive light in the visual arts, and there I identified the stages of deobjectualization that Turrell achieves with the help of light, through its ability to immerse the viewer in the work. When you immerse the viewer, you dilute the boundary to the object, bringing it inside the work. These are already the stories we all know, but they are worth remembering and it is worth noting that Turrell in his work contains all these stages. Ever since the 1970s, during the period of minimalism, when the favorite theme was that cube made of various materials from mirror to metal, he made a cube of light. That was perhaps the first work that abolished the boundary between the viewer and the object, because in this cube of light you could immerse your hand. His approach develops and ends up doing those works without objective corporeality, but still which creates the sensation of volumetry through successive layers of light. Finally, he realizes those openings to the sky, a kind of spaces of contemplation, of meditation on the vacuum, on the lack of corporeality. Returning to his entire approach, he begins his work by defining the concept of hand-in sculpture in that cube of light… later body-in sculpture in de-spatialized environments… not finally reaching mind-in sculpture… in those light tunnels. All these degrees of immersion in the sculptural work are defining to understand the transition from objects to environments.
– What projects are you working on now?
Now I’m trying to learn programming. There is no specific project for which I want to make an appointment, but I want to learn it in general. I want to master that dose that will help me to design works as close as possible to what I want to do, not to work with predefined elements, as most of us who do not know programming do. Because there is a very high risk of overlapping with things that have already been done, because any simple element, for example a circle, in the programming language is written the same by everyone. However, it becomes complicated when you want to define more complex things that have not been written before you. In fact, it matters a lot what you do with these simple programming elements, how you contextualize them. It is really admirable the example of Ioana Vreme who, with the help of predefined electronic elements, manages to make her own writing, extremely original. So far, we have only taken small steps towards scheduling due to lack of time, but also due to the fact that it is an expensive road. Another important element is that the digital world brings with it synesthesia and what is called proprioception, that is, that perception of the work with the whole body. In this sense, I want to add the important role of sensors in determining the degrees of interactivity and immersion in the work through an extension of perception, because we usually perceive in the classical sense. We know that there is an information field around us, but we only perceive it within certain limits … But working with sensors means programming again, and in the happiest case, it means designing your own sensors, which it means a lot of engineering. There are also artists-engineers who create their own devices, especially in the area of biofeedback sensors.
– Do you think that your projects have or can have a social impact?
It depends on what you mean by that. I don’t go so far as to make a kind of activist media art, but I believe in the principles of Joseph Beuys, who says that the work of art has the possibility to awaken in man his creative capacity, to trigger the point where man can transform reality around him in a constructive way. I think technology is finally leading to the point where we can all define ourselves as artists, that we as humanity can exorcise ourselves through art.
– But do you think the projects of other local sculptors have a social impact?
A case that can bring the object into the sphere of social involvement, a sculpture that descended from the pedestal among people, is the work of Bogdan Rață, the one with the boy talking on the phone, a work with which at least people take a lot of photos. I think this is the first step towards a social sculpture.
– What projects do you dream of?
The projects I dream of are the ones where I end up collaborating with specialists from various areas, and my last passion is related to cognitive neuroscience. I would very much like to collaborate in this area with those who understand and resonate with the fact that with electrical technology something changes in our perception. It is as if reality is reversed, internalized, the work becomes immersive between two worlds, physical and virtual. In fact, what changes is our consciousness, and it has its roots in a physical-chemical support. It would be interesting to see in real time what is the difference between the classical perception, recognized as fragmentary, and that induced by technological augmentation, and I assume this is integral. I have some devices like this, but they require technological expertise and programming and also phenomenological expertise in cognitive neuroscience. For example, I recently found out that there are seven centers in the visual cortex, one part taking its information from the spatial coordinates induced by the relationship between light and dark and the other part from the chromatics. Well, I’d like to see how that happens. Art, to a large extent, is “a priori” or “a posteriori” of scientific theories ?!… Or maybe they go hand in hand⁇
– How do you see sculpture for over 100 years?
Lyotard’s theory says that in the conditions of a post-solar system, humanity will no longer use them to have a physical body. And for one reason only, the biological body is not prepared for the journey into outer space to find a new outpost to continue its existence. I strongly believe that intelligence… in my opinion… improperly said artificial… will help us to adapt properly to future conditions, whatever they may be. Therefore, I grant special credits to the advancement of technology and especially to its interference with art, which in fact represents the creation that unites everything… The sculpture will eventually be dispersed in a type of interactive-immersive environmental work telematically mediated… If Marshall McLuhan once said that the world will end in a book… I believe that the world will rather end in an <integrative media work of art> capable of bringing all reality together.
An interview by Rareș Moldovan (Sphere / The Causal Garden, June 15, 2020)
READ MORESFERA – Aura Bălănescu