META Iconography: Art Is My Weapon
“Art Is My Weapon” is a modular art piece that explores the linguistic, aesthetic and ideological object at the same time. Using a wide array of supports (transparent plexiglass, aluminium, polyplan, concrete iron, papier mâché) and also directly on the wall, I wrote this message, this sentence, this slogan, using different characters. Each module has its distinct formal identity. From the transparent writing on the plexi to the luminescence of the neon tube placed on the wall; from the extra large banner with an advertising-like makeover to the solidity of concrete iron with the letters printed in negative; from the pictorial harmony of complementary colours (between the characters and the foundation) to a newspaper-based graphic with cutout, volumetric letters.
In spite of its modular diversity, “Art Is My Weapon” bears the spirit of minimalism and Art Povera. Motion detectors here and there trigger the sound of a weapon.
This artwork alludes to serial art, to the formalism of Russian avant-garde and to the work of the Croatian artist of the informal neo-avant-garde Mladen Stilinovič, titled “An artist who cannot speak English is no artist” (1994).
Just like Mladen Stilinovič, I decided to elaborate a message in English, “the hegemonic language of globalization”, “a euphemism for capitalism”.
Back in the communist ideological background, the artist was a fighter, involved in vital conflicts, brought up and educated in the spirit of the fight for peace, of class struggle, of opposition to previous regimes and the fight for a welfare state. Communists turned socially engaged art into a battle flag during the Cold War and all experiments conducted outside this paradigm were considered to be decadent.
Paraphrasing Stilinovič, if nowadays an artist unable to speak English is no artist, then, during the communist regime, you were never to be considered an artist unless you carried a “weapon”, unless you embraced a socially engaged art. As far as legitimacy or the lack of it is concerned, regimes and ideologies clearly determined the artistic perimeter then as they do now.
Within the post-communist cultural framework, a shadow of the old slogan persists, a linguistic formula recruited from amongst the fighter’s props, a formula oscillating between the ideological and the aesthetic. Artistic language is reduced to everyday language in a minimal fashion by means of a visual rhetoric which includes the image that is not exhibited. Even everyday language is depleted of meaning in its attempt to reach “beyond empty words”. But still, with regard to a cultural model, our slogan can be read in a descriptive, normative, imperative, restrictive, repetitive or restoring manner.
Speaking in terms of psychoanalysis, for which repetition is a central landmark, the repetitive tendencies in “Art Is My Weapon” are turned into restoring tendencies. The restoration is aimed at paradigms such as ideologies/artist/artistic legitimacy or lack of legitimacy.
“Art Is My Weapon” is restricted to an almost Lettrism-like scheme, to a visual formula based on a linguistic and nonlinguistic behavior. The message describes a relational behavior which is itself an establishing of a relationship and can be read from a double perspective, both self-ironic and solemn.
The stress lies on text manipulation, on the message and language facts while allowing being part of the game and assuming playing by the rules.
On a solemn level, “Art Is My Weapon” explores violence and strength in the artistic and social practice, whilst by plunging into a circular, ludic visual rhetoric, similar to game and language games, we step into the ironic and self-ironic register.
The multiplicity and variety of supports used for writing the message points towards serial art, relativism and tautological relationships, in a desire to go “beyond empty words”: “the temptation of speaking about that which cannot be exposed” may lead to Wittgenstein, to language and language games theories.
On the other hand, we have tried to stay within objectuality, within a world of concrete, epidermal objects, within a concrete commentary. This can be read as an imperative declaration of social impact or, on the contrary, as a withdrawal from the noise of ideologies of any kind, whether communist or capitalist, ideologies that have the full power of legitimizing or delegitimizing the artistic act, the artistic object. From this point of view, “weapon” rather belongs to an avant-garde paradigm, which was originally a military term.
2META, Bucharest, 2001