“I am fascinated by the route that systematically violates the classic museum motto, Please, do not touch!”
Aura Bălănescu is a graduate of the Sculpture Department (2003) of the Faculty of Arts and Design and of the Doctoral School (2009) of the West University of Timișoara. Aura is known for its interactive-immersive installations, with varying degrees of participatory public activation. He presented his installations in exhibitions, residencies and festivals, such as Br41n.IO Hackathon / Ars Electronica, Linz (2019), Art Danube Novi Sad (2018), Elektro Arts Cluj (2018), Baroque II Urban Timișoara (2018) . His research has been exhibited at international conferences, Zip-Scene Analogue and Digital Immersive Environments / Moholy-Nagy University of Art and Design Budapest (2018), Light Edu Symposium / Faculty of Architecture and Urbanism Timisoara (2018), Stereo & Immersive Media / Lusophone University of Humanities, Lisbon (2018), Media Art Histories, Science and Technology, RE: TRACE / Danube University, Krems (2017) and RE: NEW / RIXC Center for New Media Art Riga (2013). In 2014, Aura Bălănescu co-founded the Avantpost platform for the manifestation of Timisoara artists working at the confluence of art, science and technology. In 2020, he launched the Tehnoarte platform for mapping technological artists in Timișoara, starting from the 19th century until today.
Robert Șerban: You were involved, as an artist, in Fusion AIR, a unique Romanian project, of artistic residencies in several research institutes, initiated and organized by the Qolony Association (Colony for Art and Science). Once again, your interest in science manifests itself and generates visual art. Where does this interest come from and what motivates it?
Aura Bălănescu: My education is based on a scientific training that results from graduating from a high school of mathematics-physics and a few years at a technical faculty. Subsequently, I attended the Faculty of Arts in Timisoara, a unique school at the national level, by addressing the values of the Sigma group on the fusion of art with science and technology. In my turn, I was preoccupied with granting degrees of freedom to art, applying to my installations the technical-scientific skills I have. In fact, most of the concerns I have in this field received a theoretical and practical foundation during the doctoral research on Media Sculpture. Starting in 2014, I contributed, together with my colleagues, to the development of the Avantpost platform, dedicated to experimenting and archiving the art of interference, thus expressing our desire, more or less conscious, to continue the innovative spirit of this city. Currently, within the Tehnoarte platform, I am concerned with identifying the inter-generational connection of technological artists in Timișoara, starting from the 19th century artists-photographers until today, when the boundaries between artist, IT engineer and Machine specialist are almost blurred. Learning and AI. I find this evolution of the technical-scientific consciousness in Timișoara fascinating.
R.Ș .: Together with Ciprian Ciuclea, Floriama Cândea and Peter Gate you had meetings and discussions with scientists from four research institutes: the Institute of Space Sciences, the Research-Development Institute for Textiles and Leather, the National Research Institute- Development for Materials Physics – Măgurele and the National Research-Development Institute for Plasma and Radiation Laser Physics. You collaborated with the second one, the one for textiles and leather. How different are the researchers from you, the ones who work more with the imagination than with the concrete data?
A.B .: Researchers certainly have a scientific rigor necessary to understand the concrete data of reality. However, I believe that they also have a special sensitivity, which starts from a deep knowledge of the principles of matter, complemented by an intuitive knowledge, which meets everything that can not be understood in a rational sense. However, this sensitivity is precisely the bridge of creative connection between researchers and artists, who end up borrowing their language elements in the context of the complex configurations of nature. Last but not least, there are those tendencies of contemporary science to fuse the fields of knowledge in the context of integrative paradigms, such as the great theory of unification, which, in the view of philosophers of science, will be possible only insofar as it has a dimension. aesthetics, which derives from the symmetry of phenomena. And these are new bridges in interference collaborations, which obviously worked very well in Fusion AIR 2021.
R.Ș .: What secrets did you find out from the contact with the people from the institute? What about the one with the other three artists?
AB: Whether we are referring to the structure of the triple helix of collagen, or to the sheaves of light of cosmic radiation in the Earth’s atmosphere, to the vibration of matter or to the dynamic behavior of cellular conglomerates, artists’ research projects are based on the same path. of scientific truth through the prism of the symbolic language of art. It is used as a mediator to the general public, in order to reveal the secrets of a reality that is often difficult to understand through the classical tools of scientific language. Our projects thus took over fragments of truth, transposed them into a more or less performative form and dedicated them to the public through various strategies of integration into the work, in order to be perceived at a different level than the rational one. Rather, these truths need to be lived through a complex process of imitatio artifex, which reconstructs the artist’s path in relation to these truths.
R.Ș .: The work you did in Fusion AIR is an interactive one, which addresses the entire perceptual system, from the tactile to the auditory and visual. In fact, what is this Manuspectrum, what is the name of your work?
A.B .: Following the research coordinated by Mrs. Elena Badea at the Institute of Leather and Textiles, I found it amazing that the parchment manuscript presents an arrangement on deep layers of complex information, genetic, chemical, historical, artistic, etc. This gives the parchment, to some extent, the status of a forerunner of digital multimedia, defined essentially by a depth of hypermedia-type information. Therefore, the Manuspectrum project considers the perspective of the evolution of the information medium, starting from the resources of the lithosphere (stone) and biosphere (vegetable / papyrus, paper and animal / parchment) and finally reaches the technosphere that conveys an empire of senses relative to the global scale of satellites. The installation thus decrypts collagen in the form of a support matrix of the somato-receptor system, which facilitates the electro-tonic conductivity necessary to interconnect living world systems, simulating quasi-artistic / quasi-scientific electrochemical processes through a series of tactile devices. , with sound and visual effects, even kinesthetic, which gives the public the opportunity to experience the truth of collagen on their own skin.
R.Ș .: You are a syncretic artist, who combines sound, video image, special effects, different objects that come into play in your works, digital. How receptive is our public to this way of making art?
A.B .: In most of my works I create infrastructures that the public completes creatively. The work comes to life through its active presence. He closes and opens the circuit through a number of circumstances that I try to anticipate, but which often remain unpredictable. In this way the substance of the work is created. I am fascinated by this route that systematically violates the classic museum motto, Please, do not touch! And I think this fact is also transmitted to the public because I always take it into account, because it is the most important element in the equation. I like to think that, for a while, the audience remembers the perceptual experience they experienced. And, yes, our public is curious to experience such works because this artistic process of a transformative nature marks, to some extent, their existence.
R.Ș .: You are interested in Action Art, the art that provokes and imposes on the consumer a type of collaboration, of participation. Did it happen, does it happen? Does the viewer’s inhibition disappear?
A.B .: The Action Art – Provoking Art project, developed within the Technoarte platform, starts from the examples of paradigmatic artists of the post-war neo-avant-garde, who developed a real arsenal of practices and ideologies in relation to the crises of the twentieth century. Les Levine affirmed art as a particularly powerful tool in observing / analyzing / revealing social and economic problems (Art can See, 1970), and Joseph Beuys proposed creativity as a unique form of individual freedom to generate new fields of coexistence in -a global ecology (Social Plastics, 1970). Especially in the context of the global crisis we are going through, international contemporary art platforms are developing transdisciplinary projects, such as ZKM / Critical Zones – Observatories for Earthly Politics and Ars Electronica / Global Shift, which bring together artists and researchers to debate and find creative solutions to the Earth’s major problems. And this approach places art on a privileged position in inter-human modeling, which generates changes that start from the individual and extend to the scale of society as a whole. To the extent that participants in the Action Art platform go through the stages of using creativity and critical thinking as agents of change, they receive the symbolic title of the artist of proximity, which goes beyond the conventional use of the elements of artistic language by working with human matter.
R.Ș .: A good part of contemporary art is dependent on text. Especially conceptual art, which must support its approaches through words, explanations, decodings. Or, the interest for the text and, especially, for its reading decreases progressively. Can this affect the works to be read, not just viewed?
A.B .: Of avant-garde essence, minimalist art purified the work of art by creating representative “specific objects” (Donald Judd’s reflective cube), which were later dissolved into “specific environments” (Santiago Sierra’s intrusive black cube). At the same time, the conceptual art sought to reach a last redoubt of the work, realizing a transfer of attention beyond object and environment to specific context, specific concept, specific process, etc. On the other hand, the interference between text and image started, in the historical avant-garde, as a measure of visual extension to a multi-linear language, as Tommaso Marinetti stated in the manifestos of futurism. And this was largely due to the advent of the typewriter, which facilitated the liberation of the visual artist from traditional language, opening a real horizon of perception by the fact that every image – word (pictopoetry) he creates, gets in the mind auditory, tactile, kinesthetic connotations. Here that, after a century, the multimedia show comes to fulfill this dream of the avant-garde, in the sense of creating a type of monumental art capable of uniting the strength of all artistic genres, and such an integral work does not need to be explained in words. It must be lived, because this kind of art coincides with life, and the final result is the sum of all the participations, interventions, interpretations that the public gives to the work. This type of approach reflects the concept of “open work”, stated by the semiologist Umberto Eco (Opera Aperta, 1970), in terms of information theories in which a transfer is made from the traditional meaning of classical work to the informational context of contemporary work, defined as geometric place of permutations, interpretations, feelings dedicated to the participant who contributes to his enrichment.
R.Ș .: If you were to give today’s sculpture a definition, what would it be?
A.B .: During my doctoral research I started by studying the mutations, respectively the extensions, that the object sculpture underwent during the 20th century in terms of the development of electricity technology. But, in the end, we noticed that the stage of spraying the sculptural work, in a multimedia context specific to the last decades, dilutes to the greatest extent everything we know about sculpture. The end of sculpture, in the traditional sense, is actually the genesis of a new work, which I called the integrative media work, enriched with new values through a synesthesia of pictorial, sculptural, graphic effects, but also through a depth of disposition. information provided by the technological infrastructure. This globally expanded work, through its hyperdimensional, extraobjective, nonlocative, transmedial, transdisciplinary character (and these are just a few attributes), is able to absorb through a telematic embrace, as Roy Ascott states, everything we know to represent reality. If the poet Mallarmé believes that the world will end in a book, I believe that this end will be, rather, a fulfillment of the long-dreamed-of theory of unification, a singularity in which art is the link between all scientific disciplines. Therefore, the project of the Qolony / Fusion AIR 2021 Association finds its well-deserved place in this reality in search of a new identity.
Interview by Robert Serban, July 3, 2021, Banatul azi