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The Price of Freedom

Escaping through art from a certain sociopolitical context always represents a challenge, as the connections between art and society change, diminish or disappear. From expressionism to fauvism, from cubism to surrealism or to the abstract, the forms of art impose themselves in an auctorial manner as true presences in the visual world.

Evading into art is a means but also an end in itself. Arising out of the idea of fantastic art, the Pre-Raphaelite movement was one of the ideologies encouraging the exploiting of Renaissance themes and languages. Eluding from and breaking the social context of the century in which this movement stood out was a form of venturing into a parallel universe by evoking the past, the idealized forms, by over-romanticizing and sometimes even frivolity. The baroque world and the rococo world had long time before restored an illusory and allegorical space, with a proposition for a utopian view upon the world.

Continuing along this thread, it is clear that surrealism and its echoes amidst the illustrative arts bring forth into actuality the guarantee that imagination transcends the guidelines of society as a dream; hence we get the sensation that the artistic spirit can go on vacation at any given moment.

In the context of today’s society, a creative profile in the sense of disposing of everyday problems and landmarks that are linked to particular geographical limitations has been delineated. Artists have gathered at different cardinals and as an immediate effect, true “hotbeds” of creative outflow may be identified, based on territorial, ethnical and socio-cultural orientation. Transit contributes to the fact that, in the context of globalization, specific art forms are confronted with a different kind of social reality, as well as with a different scale of conceptual and aesthetic criteria.

For instance, at least in the last few years, there seems to be an appraisal and a revaluation of East-European art. The “peripheral” origin of the subjects and the post-Communist phenomenon are important at the opposite pole of the artistic world and resound in success because they enter a certain circuit of management and art, which is completely different to the one existing in the East-European framework. The image of the artist is meant to somehow round out an exotic composite, contributing as such to the insuring of success at a different level, a much more general one. This is the case of Mircea Cantor, who has stood out through the conceptualism and magnitude of his installations. Being formally assimilated to the art of Marcel Duchamp, and being distinguished with the grand prize bearing the latter’s name in 2011, he takes on various media techniques through which he makes use of themes with subsidiary incentives to the authentic Romanian realities. Escaping his traditional space has insured him international achievement, so that his return to the National Museum of Contemporary Art (in short MNAC) in 2013 – in the form of a retrospective, comes as a confirmation of his artistic place in the world. In what regards his conceptual approach, certain elements of his oeuvre remain to a certain degree encrypted in the memory of the local sociopolitical context, in the unique administrative forms of a historical past, of a tradition or of a specific contemporary reality. The talk is of an artist that has distinguished himself furthermore because his activity has remained linked to the Romanian experience and history, but who has managed to simultaneously “rid” himself of the entire burden of a Communist past.

The content of his creation assumes a detachment, better yet a “privatization” of the creative process per se, in the sense of an individual assimilation in the process of artistic production, manageable at a global level. This because – connected to artistic management and a certain invested capital, the creative goal is to make a contribution and enrich (oneself), therefore insuring continuity and, why not, welfare. Andy Warhol’s lecture in this respect is memorable: “Making money is art and working is art and good business is the best art.”

Art is actually a form of evading, a controlled one. It keeps itself safe of any commitments, as long as these are dependent on the feats which are external to the process of production. It does not educate and it does not serve to offer useful answers in what regards everyday life. It eludes social reality but this does not mean that it does not take use of said reality.

We offer the example of a contemporary artist of Italian origin, who resides in London: Franko B. is a part of the contemporary generation of “body artists”. He is born in Milan and teaches sculpture at an art academy in Italy; at the same time, he lives and works in London. Italy disgusts him and he speaks of his home town in terms of “ignorant bigotry”. Nevertheless, that’s where he is from. The connection with his homeland was reestablished strictly based on professional criteria. Whilst being active in an Italian art academy, where he is encouraging young artists, he also stages performances that are based on using one’s own body as a means to connect with the public. His art is interactive and an essential premise to this goal is that his own body represents a canvas, a material base which offers itself to the public. In discussing the performances of Franko B., Maria Abramović has stated that she is impressed with his „total openness, vulnerabilty and at the same time, with the unconditional love given to his audience.”

Spanning over painting, ready-made or performance art, the concept of Franko B. conveys that every object has a body, a life. It is a given of which you become responsible. Body language is essential. This life interferes with other objects, which at their turn dispose of a body and soul. Franko B. draws the world closer by making his own appearance, his own self-control mode, known. The finality, i.e. his artistic success, is a result of empathy and controversy.

Because the case in point is a reactionary art form, it considers society, through certain target groups, through frankness and through the methods of questioning specific phenomena (repression, prostitution, homosexuality, life, consumerism, economy etc.). The “queer” phenomenon within the contemporary arts takes on in size, due to the multifaceted art as is that of Franko B.; the talk is of a manner of language that considers vision, as well as the intimate, affective side of individuality.

“I cannot stand ignorance”, Franko B. states. “Art should be accessible to anyone before it is sold. And to sell yourself cheap is a form of prostitution. Artists had better practice prostitution as such, rather than prostitute themselves as artists”, the artists reflects, referring to the mechanisms of art production and promotion.

Art galleries are true banks, in which the capital is an artistic one. There are several ways of survival: as an artist you may become a slave and fail, you become an object of trade; your art is good as long as it can be sold. Another way would be the one chosen by Damien Hirst: you get to a breakthrough on the market, make a name for yourself and control the system that is short-circuiting your production, by imposing yourself as beneficiary of the stakes. Or you can be Franko B. and choose the path of short-circuiting yourself: “I sell my work to galleries and museums but then break off any connection to the institution in question. And, unlike Damien Hirst, I don’t care much for my daily prosperity. I use the money to buy – and why shouldn’t I? – another stuffed polar bear, unto which I may instill a new life, as a ready-made object.”

Thus, any form of artistic advancement is actually a factor of enticement which may manifests itself in the multiple registers of its appurtenance. There always remains room for more because art lends itself as a fertile ground for projects in which the conceptual element is more or less accessible to a vast audience. Society proposes these projects as potential perspectives, and the natural selection that is already present in the field of artistic management determines that some of these are presented as utopic promises and at the same time as realistic possibilities in the sense of their materialization.

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