Mircea Cantor: Preventative kiss for suspicious war
01 May – 13 June 2009
For his first show at Johnen Galerie, Mircea Cantor has decided to present recent new works as well as an updated version of an installation originally produced three years ago.
An artist’s struggle to present the politics of power in a new and meaningful way is a raison d’être of contemporary art. Cantor embarked on this journey since his first presentation and has beautifully communicated the tension in piece after piece. It is strong without crushing one under the weight of electuary politics. It is respectful of our own individual ideals, allowing viewers freedom to stand along the political fault line accordingly. Cantor’s work makes sense of the politically turbulent world in which we live by juxtaposing gentle, poetic imagery with modern and established symbols of power. His attention to how globalization has changed the meaning of objects, colors, and mediums is an ever-present facet of his work. The growing webs of global connectedness are ever-present in Cantor’s work, while his commentary on power-driven politics is an inescapable, though subtle, facet of his art.
For this Berlin show, Cantor has chosen five works:
Talking Mirror, originally shown in Power Play at Art Pace Texas, then in Brave New Worlds at the Walker Arts Center and subsequently in Mexico at Fundacion/Coleccion Jumex, draws connections between the consumption behaviors of our daily existence and the political power plays happening concurrently. It combines the cavalier object of popular affection, the cowboy hat, with glistening, equine-brown oil – a strong symbol of economic power in our day. A challenging piece to present, it mesmerizes the viewer as one approaches to see what is being held by the hat. Its rich color and material palette soothes while the blatant political narrative inflames.
Color, silent, an installation piece, presents a German police car in its true dimensions with the siren inside rather than atop. The piece subverts the imagery of policing and questions the traditional associations we have with police power. In this era of ever-increasing surveillance, heightened suspiciousness, lack of privacy, questionable respect for individual rights, we must question the norms that give some individuals control over others. Have the individuals upon whom power to uphold standards dictated by an establishment become prisoners to their own responsibilities? Do they hunger for yet more power as they are trapped in their present roles?
Born to be burnt, a visually imposing installation piece presented in large scale format, could be a self portrait of the artist. The work uses meters-tall incense sticks resting in metallic bases to engage with all the senses as a viewer is drawn to the sights and smells of the art. It highlights the interconnectedness between beings worldwide and draws artistic inspiration from games of scale and domestic objects.
Dimensions variable, a long horse whip with national flags of the G8 countries incorporated into the hide, participates in the dialogue surrounding the governing bodies running the contemporary world. In light of the political shifts in these last months, the dialogue is changing and the G8 countries now will try to expertly ride each other as they apply pressure on new policy decisions. We question when and whether to impose our will on others as we contemplate the newly intimate relationship between national symbol and domestic, albeit violent, objects here. The metaphors of riding and races are on expert display here -- the colors and materials also complement both each other and the broader message of the show.
The leash of the dog that was longer than his life is a live-form movie, running 16 minutes long and filmed in a single shot. A brief image of an athletically-focused, playful day at a clearing in the woods ends quickly as the focus shifts to a barking dog and his chain-link leash. The camera fixates on the leash and the viewer suddenly senses the tension and anger of one restrained. The physicality of the piece engages with concepts of the rule of law, some necessary and some not so. We must be cautious to not become victims of our own idealism – without sacrificing our innate sense of justice. The leash goes on seemingly forever, and we contemplate the binds existing in our lives and in the lives of others as the dog’s leash unfurls for the camera.
Preventative kiss for suspicious war suggests that there is pleasure to be taken in addressing the politics of power, just as there is obviously pleasure in wielding said power – for better or worse. There is even pleasure for those who are lulled into complacency with what has been imposed upon them. So, it is visually pleasing, sensual, humorous, even romantic but the reality, the partial truth hidden below the surface is painful, it is cutting and it is real. The war exists, either inside of ourselves or within the world we live in.