Mihut Boscu at laika art space cluj

February 8, 2010

In November 1957, the Soviet Union managed to successfully launch a living earthly creature in to the outer space and by means of that to outrun its main rival, the U. S. A., in the race for conquering the cosmos. The unusual hero of this adventure was a female dog, which afterwards became world famous by the name of Laika. Sputnik II, the spacecraft that took Laika to orbit the Earth, was not a retrievable flying module. Thus, the later-to-become-iconic animal was, obviously without knowing or wanting it, launched simultaneously towards fame and towards death.
In the late autumn of 2008, laika art space was opened as an artist run space with two locations, one in Bucharest and one in Cluj. The space was since remarkably well managed by Marius Bercea, Vlad Olariu and Mircea Suciu (featured, for a while, also by Serban Savu). The space’s explicit aim is to promote emerging contemporary artists as well as atypical projects signed by already established artists from the international art scene. Assuming the name of the peculiar space explorer, laika art space implicitly assumes a drive towards the experimental, towards taking projects from the artists’ studios or imagination and launching them into the fascinating and risky outer space of the art world.
On February, 5th, 2010, laika art space in Cluj opened an exhibition called “How It’s Made”, featuring the young Cluj based artist Mihut Boscu. The exhibition consisted of one single piece of sculpture, namely a seemingly realistic rendering of the sealed compartment embedded in Sputnik II were Laika was placed when launched. Laika, the sacrificial victim of sciences and politics, was brought once more to the attention of a public and the art space which took inspiration in the aeronautical project briefly described above became the stage for it; it became the setting for the contemplation of the beautiful and macabre “machine” which took life literally as far as possible only to get it killed. The sculptural object was made out of materials such as metal pieces, Plexiglas, plastic, screws and so on. Neatly handcrafted and aesthetically pleasurable, presenting either pristine white or transparent surfaces, the sculpture looked eerie, strangely low-tech to a twenty-first century spectator and even weirdly domestic.

As far as I know –mostly from various discussions I’ve had with (very) young Romanian artists and art students– science fiction, spectacular scientific practices and hypothesis, applied science or space conquest represent fields of often passionate interest for more than a handful of them. In some cases, I think this manifested interest is not just a sort of teenage snobbism, a rave-type drive for being cool or a mere influence of the computer games many of them grew up or live with, but something significantly more genuine and relevant, in terms of artistic attitude, be it consciously assumed or not. In this respect, I believe the young artists I’m talking about mainly tend to approach those domains with both fascination and, more importantly, with an interest not so much for the political contexts, social consequences or ideological constructs which shape the practices involved in them. Rather, they would focus on what I’d call the existential implications of the ideas at work in the above mentioned domains of human knowledge and activity.
Thus, science and / or science fiction tend to become references which some these artists seem to consider that may enable them to artistically state something about the human existence, without feeling obliged to attain and demonstrate a serious, acute social and political awareness and to forge the respectively necessary intellectual and communicational instruments. Science and science fiction may be regarded, from such a perspective, as topical realms which could provide the opportunity of a double escape: from empty aestheticism as well as from pointless and overdone political content, to pitfalls which have made so many victims in the Romanian art of the last decades.
It is not my purpose here to analyze the theoretical correctitude or the political adequacy of such a conceptual position. I’m only saying that it is a stance that functionally underlines the production of Mihut Boscu, and that he is producing good, exciting art out of it. He is an artist with impressive imaginative abilities and is tireless “making worlds”, to quote Daniel Birnbaum’s concept. One factual proof of these is that in less than a year, this young man in his early twenties succeeded in building up two convincing solo shows, the “Long Gone Future / Ramasitele viitorului” at the Art Museum of Cluj – Napoca in May 2009 and the exhibition at laika art space.
The idea lying behind the later is one of elegant simplicity. It is one of those things that can make one think, when confronted with an art work, either “I could have done it, too” or “how come no one’s thought of this before”? To replicate Laika’s flying container on the premises of laika art space may seem to be a sort of mimetic joke. Yet it is much more than this. Boscu’s one piece show certainly fitted the goal of the artist run space which hosted, by being something different that one is used to see from young artists. If his work engages in dialogue with the concept of mimesis, it also has the merit of not being mimetic in relation with current trends that –sometimes so obviously and bluntly- pervade nowadays Romanian art; neither is it mimetic, for that matter, in respect to any immediate father figure, which happens all too often to young artists.
Among others, “How It’s Made” touches upon issues like the relation between handcraft and technology, a relation which art, as proven by the show, can, in a sapid manner, render paradoxical. The sculptural project speaks to its audience about the fantasies and ambitions of the few being transformed into reason for astonishment and for the pride of many. It is about our civilization’s need to know more, do better, reach further, as well as it is about the same civilization’s acceptance of cruelty in the name of knowledge; or in the name of power, which are maybe one and the same thing. Let’s stop here; it’s getting too political for such a plainly beautiful assemblage.
The presence of the object into the laika space had something of a hypnotic, somewhat chilling quality. It is an art project that doesn’t just remind the viewer of a dramatic episode in the history of mankind’s technological progress and topological expansion, but metonymically restages it, throws it into one’s face. No, it is not a sophisticated artistic endeavour, it is not necessarily an exquisitely refined one, but it is certainly heartfelt, while still being able to forcefully demonstrate that real artistic reflection, powerful imaginative thinking and research abilities lye at its foundation.

Intelligent and funny, skilled and sensitive, possessing what I can’t better describe than by the dull words “artistic intuition”, this is the kind of persona Mihut Boscu is challenging the art world with. If using a sports jargon, one could rightfully say: this boy’s got what it takes; let’s see him play the game!

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