Galleries 178 and 179, first floor
The Title Is the Last Thing features a series of eight videos by Mircea Cantor as well as a selection of photographs and objects that offer poignant commentary on the relationship between time and labor, politics, tourism, and history. The videos have been organized in four programs that will run weekly at the Film and Video gallery through the duration of the presentation.
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The inaugural video, Deeparture (2005), records a suspenseful dance between a wolf and a deer trapped in an inescapably small gallery space—a piece that calls to mind Joseph Beuys's 1974 performance, "I Like America and America Likes Me," in which the artist locked himself up with a coyote at the René Block Gallery in New York for a week. Cantor's short piece is a disturbingly silent examination of ideas about nature and dominance played in a time-distorting loop.
Other works in the show have a more overt political resonance. The Landscape Is Changing (2003) shows demonstrators marching in silence through the busy streets of Tirana, the capital of Albania, brandishing blank mirrors in the place of slogans—a poetically absurd yet poignant happening in Albania, where such spectacles continue to be associated with communist propaganda marches.
In Dead Time (2003), a group of taxi drivers in Thailand kick a ball to one another during the interstitial period between trips, while waiting to ferry tourists from one part of town to the other. Their efforts to keep the ball off the ground echo their ceaseless travel in support of a global tourist industry in which they will never partake.
Many of Cantor's works involve manipulating already existing systems and conventions. In the video, Double Heads Matches (2003), he ironically utilizes a straightforward documentary approach to record Romanian workers' production of his absurd invention, a double-headed match. Because the double-phosphorus dipping has to be done by hand rather than through an efficient, mechanized system, this method resists the downsizing that has accompanied Eastern Europe's transition toward capitalism while at the same time literally moving artistic production from the studio to the factory (two boxes of these matches will be on view).
The photographic triptych, Short Cuts, registers the chance paths created by walkers based on their own volition rather than designated paths. Other works are playful comments on the legacy of Marcel Duchamp (1887–1968), including the photograph of a pile of abandoned urinals, titled, I shot this image because it is highly suggestive within a specific circle (2006), which recalls Duchamp's famous Fountain (1917), on view in Gallery 182. Diamond Corn (2005), representing a basic food staple in diamond-like cast crystal, echoes the spare sculptures of the great Romanian-born sculptor Constantin Brancusi (1876–1957), and 1 6M STIL7 ALIV3, which the artist has spray-painted directly onto the gallery wall, refers to the Manga character AnnLee, who, in Cantor's hands, declares her independence and survival.
Taking full advantage of the visual, audio, and temporal dimensions of video while at the same time probing the creative possibilities of many other mediums, Cantor analyzes a compelling range of artistic, cultural, and political topics through his multifaceted artistic practice.
Reproductions Courtesy Mircea Cantor and Yvon Lambert Gallery
Born in Romania in 1977 and currently based in Paris, Mircea Cantor is widely considered to be among the most promising and challenging young artists working today. Cantor seems to live a life of constant displacement and his travels figure prominently in his artistic practice. Soon after the Romanian borders opened in the early 1990s he left home and began hitchhiking across Europe, in an itinerant life that duplicates the curiosity with which he explores artistic genres and pokes at conventions. The artist counts Joseph Beuys and Marcel Duchamp among his chief influences. Like these artists and many of his contemporaries, Cantor works in a wide variety of media: from video and photography to prints and readymades. His work has been exhibited at the Palais de Tokyo in Paris, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago, the Galleria d'Arte Moderna e Contemporanea (GAMeC) in Bergamo, and the Tel Aviv Museum of Art, among other institutions. This is the first comprehensive exhibition of Cantor's video work in the United States.
Live Cinema is a series of programs in the Video Gallery of the Museum that explores the vast production of single-channel video and filmwork by a diverse group of local, national, and international artists. In the last decade an ever-increasing number of contemporary artists have appropriated these mediums as an artistic outlet, in a dialogue with the early video and Super 8 practices of the sixties and the tradition of experimental filmmaking. Each program of the Live Cinema series focuses on a specific aspect of this work, in order to both map and analyze this important facet of contemporary art production. Certain Live Cinema programs are accompanied by a series of public lectures by the participating artists as well as a publication in which guest writers discuss the works exhibited.
Generous support is provided by Etant donnés: The French-American Fund for Contemporary Art
Carlos Basualdo • Curator of Contemporary Art
Emily Hage • Andrew W. Mellon Curatorial Fellow of Modern and Contemporary Art