artist / participant
Statement by Cosmin Costinas - Cluj, August 2005
Cosmin Costinas: You have been working almost exclusively in the painting area. But your projects are somehow built through leaving this area and the nowadays discussions about it behind. I have the feeling that in each of your projects the option for painting is rather arbitrary. Still, you seem to insist on dealing with this area, without any direct explanation for this option in your works.
Victor Man: Things are pretty much like this: I am very interested in painting from the point of view of a sort of continuity in art history. For at least 50 years the question of painting’s ability to move on has been continuously set forth. But maybe it is the very marginalization of painting that will bring it back to the center; this moribund status is fortifying it.
I am directly interested in what could give it a different meaning. I am absolutely convinced that we find ourselves only at the beginning of its redefining. My works are open ended, leaving space for an answer which appears when painting is born out of a necessity that’s placed outside its interior. Most of the time I use images that originated in the media.
The factor that determines my decision to extract these images from their origin is first of all a certain “commitment�? towards abstract forms. This results in an initial impact. I am not necessarily interested in what the image contains or represents, nor in the story behind, I am not interested in its social context, but I am interested in the idea that the image will respond to a personal visual logic.
CC: But don’t you think that it’s pretty cynical to take over some images from the media, to ignore their content and significance and to reinterpret them only from the visual point of view, like you did with those of September 11?
VM: I don’t know, maybe. I don’t think that it is my role to offer opinions about these events. In my works I deny fantasy -or traces- anywhere else but in the real. And the media is in a certain manner, a synthesis of the real.
CC: You are saying that you reject fantasy. But if we think about the project Perfect Crime, it is first of all fiction, a very personal one.
VM: This is true, but this project has also been born out of a real situation. I was on my way back from a funeral together with Mihai Pop and we were talking about the prospect of being 2 meters underground; from this I had the idea of giving the body a utility after death, through incinerating it and transforming it into pigment for painting.
It’s an experiment of transformation, of re-materialization of the body, an existentialist reflection upon the desire for permanency, for a new form of existence after death. I searched for an apparently credible story, which would sustain this idea, even if the intrigue was fictitious and utopian.
Through the story I drew things into the sphere of the real, I created a plausible context for the idea. Besides this, I built the story on images that I had found and ordered so as to create the appearance of logic. In this way, then, a series of illustrations reminiscent of 19th Century gothic stories, and which thrust something bizarre into centre-stage were born.
CC: Yet, this re-composition is a game of fantasy.
VM: In the end paintings relate to each other and become an ensemble which is not arbitrary at all, and which functions through its own logic. Fantasy rather depends on the grouping of the works, the image mixture distilled from a full “basin�? of possibilities and their rendering in an appropriate order.
The narrative is created by the association of images which have initially been meaningless – that is, images which have no significance if they are viewed independently of each other. It is the process of accretion and juxtaposition that lends meaning. But all this is a matter of architecture rather than a matter of fantasy.
And this newly created context springs from concerns of my own. The viewer who finds himself in this kind of installation will never succeed in decrypting the meaning from the very beginning, but will find a situation which might provoke him to try.
By choosing to deliberately not provide the viewer with an answer enables different levels of perception to come into play. I avoid giving a definitive statement; I love the idea of going slow into things and still maintaining a distance. If it should happen for things to become extremely explicit, I would include one other element which should disturb this coherence.
CC: Why do you feel this need of playing with the audience, of misleading it, of controlling it? Isn’t that a totalitarian gesture on behalf of the artist who is controlling the public’s access to information?
VM: Probably it is, yes, but to mislead the audience, to manipulate it makes it a direct participant in the project.
CC: You said you wanted to see how painting might function nowadays. How does Perfect Crime answer this question?
VM: For me to give an answer now, would be to deny this process. The answer will have to evolve with the work.
CC: Coming back to my first question, why did you choose to illustrate this story with a series of drawings, why didn’t you make a film, for example?
VM: I told you I was interested in the idea of slow going. Film, by its nature, unrolls the story in time, with rapidity. There is always in the images I work with something particular which breaks the literary game of narration - they function only when put together in the space of the gallery.
CC: What are you asking from the Perfect Crime’s audience?
VM: The question is whether the viewer is prepared to spend more than five minutes looking, in order to develop a sense of what might be going on. I just provoke: incomplete gestures and uncertain endings.
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