(c) Ellis Parkinson, 2023



22 July - 12 August 2023

This summer at the Beaconsfield Gallery, Ioana Marinescu delves into the labyrinthine relationships between touch, memory, and the passage of time, inviting visitors to explore the boundaries of the self and the Other. The stillness of the body casts from Pompeii meets the vibrant memories of the former residents of Uranus, a neighbourhood in Bucharest, Romania razed to the ground under dictator Nicolae Ceaușescu.

Exploring seemingly disparate historical events through the rhythm of different temporalities, the artists and her collaborators have worked towards a performative two-day opening event that reimagines remembering and forgetting, both collectively and individually, as acts of healing. The concept of time is refracted in multiple dimensions, from geological and plant time to human time. A myriad of "temporalities of touch" emerge to provoke contemplation about the nature of time itself. Does it conform to a linear trajectory, experienced as a mass of history, or is it more akin to a fleeting glimpse, a sensation that defies the easy classification of past, present and future? A particularly intriguing aspect of the performance is the idea of "plant time." This temporal realm, embodied by plants, resists conventional measurement. It challenges the rigid structures we impose on time and structures the performers’ practice, blurring the line between human and non-human perception.

As we slow down in the gallery space, we are introduced to a process of becoming – firstly, the performers take casts of different parts of their bodies in a symbolic act of care, which they also extend to the visitors; secondly, they enact the memories of Uranus’ residents; thirdly, they manoeuvre a model of Uranus to the point of fracture. The human body suffers transformation as a subject of both history and nature, but it also discovers in itself the power to heal itself and others. To become is therefore a process beyond the dialectics of positive and negative – it is simply the state of being human, as part of the world.

We often understand the experience of human-ness, especially in the context of art, as a cultural, aesthetic encounter. Marinescu takes this angle into account but complicates it further with the inclusion of the reference to the victims of the Pompeii eruption. Here the reaction can only be immediate and deeply affective. To have your hand cast at the same time as watching a film of two of the performers embodying the Pompeiians' positions as they were being covered in ash gives way to contradictory affects, that together create a powerful, yet disturbing experience. On the one hand, one can feel the warmth of being cared for, the gentle closeness of the Other's touch; on the other, as the plaster hardens and the blood flow is redirected from the cast hand, the sensation becomes close to petrification, and hence to death.

The table emerges as a strong symbol in Marinescu's work as an architectural object that organises not only space, but social practice too. Earlier in 2023, she invited the Uranus former residents to share a meal, discuss and remember around a table in the Izvor Park, next to the House of the People, the massive Parliament building that replaced their homes. Now, at the Beaconsfield, all the casts made during the rehearsals and the two performances are placed on a similar table. Upside down, they reveal the negative space left by the body, their hollowness resembling that of bowls. Their indexical character also renders them remarkably similar to photographs, reminding us of Barthes’ view on the relationship of photography and death. Both photographic images and body casts visualise what has been there - in front of the camera or straight onto the light-sensitive surface and beneath the plaster. In this light, the casts gain an ambivalent symbolism, at the intersection of care and uselessness, of nourishment and lack, of liveliness and stiffness; they are the perfect artistic objects with which to code the pull of the past onto the present and vice versa.

The exhibition is the result of Marinescu’s doctoral research and collaboration with numerous artists in the past few years. It was during her PhD at the Slade School of Fine Art that she became interested in the relationship between the body and the archival image. Here, between 2015 and 2018, she did a series of readings and projections, where she invited her colleagues to read scripts based on her interviews with the Uranus residents and to perform in front of various archival photographs projected on the wall. The idea of the script has remained present in Marinescu’s practice until Past Present, were the performers use both fragments of the residents’ testimonies and improvised speech based on their own experiences and memories.

In 2019, during a workshop with architecture students of the Ion Mincu University in Bucharest, she collaborated with Thomas Goodey, Costin Gheorghe and Cristian Văraru to create the Uranus cardboard model also shown in this exhibition. Goodey has contributed on this occasion with discussions on the role of the material within the project, introducing the plaster casts to the performers. InPast Present, the Uranus model sits on a wheeled structure in a separate room of the gallery, where the performance ends with the performers moving it back and forth until pieces of it start falling off. The model is then repaired with casts that had been taken of the map during rehearsals.

In 2021, during the lockdown, in the same setting at Beaconsfield, Marinescu worked together with choreographer Hanna Gillgren, using various archival photographs of body casts from Pompeii. Here, the body performed the figure in the photograph, while its own form was then outlined onto the floor. The images was distilled into a simple line through a process that paralleled the ever-present tension in Marinescu’s work, that between remembering and forgetting. A year later, she visits Pompeii with performers Iulia Mărăcine and Smaranda Găbudeanu, where filmmaker Laurențiu Calciu records their performative reactions to the body casts and the larger environment of the preserved city. On the occasion of Past Present, Gillgren returns as consultant, while Calciu films both the rehearsals and the two performances. In the meantime, three more performers have joined the project - Andreea David, Hennie Lee, and Eliza Trefaș, who work collaboratively with Mărăcine and Găbudeanu under Marinescu’s guidance to develop the performance and create an exhibition out of all the materials Marinescu has collected since she started her doctoral research.

After the two performative events at the opening of the exhibition, Marinescu will leave behind the objects made or used during the rehearsals, part of which are the result of previous projects or interactions with the Uranus residents or other collaborators. For the rest of the time that Past Present can be viewed at the Beaconsfield Gallery, the public will therefore have access to the documentation of the performance, the past being preserved for the present. With each passing day, the reverberation of the performers’ actions in the gallery will take on new meanings, their absence allowing the space to become the main performer. One week-old recorded sounds will activate the images, but every object in the gallery will be as still as the bodies buried in Pompeii. This setting will reveal the power of the body - will the viewer yearn for a narrative body to guide them through these convoluted stories or will images be enough?

                                                                                                             (c) Ioana Marinescu, 2023

(c) Ellis Parkinson, 2023

                                       (c) Ioana Marinescu, 2023

     ︎    revolvcollective@gmail.com    © Revolv Collective 2024 
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