Primum vivere, deinde pingere, 2010, 9:10 mins





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Uploaded on Jun 15, 2010

Marius Tanasescu's art practice moves with lucrative ease between photography, video and performance. Regardless the medium of expression, however, the sources and resources on which he bases his creative demarche are always the same: the body, the idea of repetition and the art history clichés. Each of these subjects has copious possibilities of significance and is used as valuable tools in contemporary art making. But, to make sure his work prompts the maximum discursive effect, the artist very often employs all three motives together in the same piece.

This is the case with Marius Tanasescu's project, "Primum vivere, deinde pingere".
The work is a performative video that engages visually and conceptually one of the most durable icons of art historical representation: still life. The video shows the artist performing the ingestion of a typically-arranged still life, comprised of various food items composed on a table. The scenery, as well as the lights, costume and the careful gestures of the artist come to efficiently suggest the authenticity of the theme. But besides the familiarity of the layout and of the subject, there is nothing predictable here, either in terms of visuality, or in those concerning the outcome of the work.

The performing body speaks about one of its most basic functions: eating. Ingestion as the condition for living. But it suggests also the idea of consumption—of food and of cultural act. Food as food for thought. But the most powerful suggestion here is given by the subtle contrast between the active body and the very idea of still life. A contrast that transfers actually the whole tensions existing between the two terms, in English and French, that describe the genre -- (still)"life" and (nature)"morte".

The title itself, "Primum vivere, deinde pingere", comes to add something to this astute tension: as a play on words on the original Aristotelian expression translated in Latin "Primum vivere, deinde philosophari", meaning "first one must live, then one may philosophize", the title of the work suggests the paradoxical status of the act of creation, caught between necessity and inessential, between ephemeral and permanence, between "still life" and "nature morte".

There is also something repetitive in both the act of feeding and in that of consumption. A repetitive act, out of necessity and out of the will. Marius Tanasescu's performative gestures point not only to the bodily condition of feeding, but also to the cultural necessity of taking image into possession. But despite its reference to routine, there is nothing banal here. The ordinary gesture is transformed into a ritual. Ingurgitation as celebration.

Still life is a powerful image of the most traditional art historical representation. By turning his attention towards established images/symbols and all the connotations assigned to them, the artist provokes—in a very intelligent manner—art history's conventions and clichés on art history's own terrain. For, the tensions between immediacy vs. durability can easily be transferred to other pairs of terms: performance vs. painting, vivere vs. pingere. (Horea Avram, Art Critic)


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