Part 1: Looking at the art world over Adrian Ghenie’s shoulder and why I hate it or love it. Not sure.

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I don’t read much and almost never listen to music. I occasionally enjoy going through history articles or watching biographical movies and I try to stay away from mimesis (I looked up this word on Wikipedia, it means representation of reality).

I visited my second art exhibition yesterday. During my first such experience a few years ago in Rome, the artist guy – this Alexandru Miruţiu fellow – peed himself on the catwalk. He previously used that catwalk to display a disturbingly amusing mix of what appeared to be Lady Gaga inspired bondage contraptions, mostly in drag. It was for a fairly tiring period of time that he did this. He was going up and down the catwalk, hiding behind a blue curtain every few marches and dramatic tumbles, in order to change his attire. This went on for so long, that I actually began to get bored of a disturbingly amusing mix of Lady Gaga inspired bondage contraptions.

But alas the artist guy ran out of gizmos and proceeded to pee himself like a maestro.

Alex Mirutziu, soon after peeing himself as an ending act of his performance.

People who seemed – judging by their choice of hats that day – to consider themselves more familiar with the artistic Universe found it to be ‘an impressive perspective on the professional abuse of fashion models’ which I guess is a thing? I didn’t get it. And also didn’t read the leaflet we received beforehand, which apparently explained it all in advance, as I found out one drop too late.

I remember visitors of the gallery sincerely congratulating him and curiously asking about his specific methods. How did he manage to pee at the exact right (?) moment? Did he need to force it out or was he holding it in for a while then, until the precise time? He complained about barely getting enough water in him before the show and confessed being a bit nervous about whether or not he could manage to pull it off. Everyone was thrilled: he did!

But it was only this way that I discovered I don’t so much dislike artistic forms of expression as I am fascinated with the mandatory reactions some assume they require.

So naturally I was excited to be invited to this second occasion to be baffled: Adrian Ghenie’s ‘Golems’, at Pace Gallery in London.

My relationship with Adrian is peculiar. I couldn’t say we’re friends, yet we’re close. A while ago, he made an impossible dream of mine come true with an obnoxious ease. Almost as if he was eager to see if I’d survive or at least how much it would change me. I had never met anyone who could and would do that. For that I owe him my gratitude, which he couldn’t care less about. Or me, for that matter. We hardly see each other. We just sometimes, very rarely, have lunch and talk. That’s it. I admire him for his prettier masks that he wears. And I guess he sort of likes mine.

He affectionately calls me Dăriuţ, a diminutive of my name, Darius, and I call him Adicuţ in return. That’s how I’ll be referring to him from now on in this article.

So I put on my best light blue shirt and then I changed it to my other dark blue shirt which thus became my new best shirt and contemplated a bit on which of my two pairs of (light blue and dark blue) shoes I should wear and headed to the gallery. I was excited to check out all the hats everyone had chosen to wear and what they genuinely thought of Adicuţ’s work.

It looked like I was among the first people to get there, where a forcibly polite and what came across as impatient security guard verified my weird name against a guest list. This was strange, because I remember Adicuţ inviting me over the phone and I know him well enough by now to realise there is no way he would consider or remember adding me to this list. I spelled both my name and surname a couple of times before finally being admitted into the gallery. I’m most certain my name was either not on that list or the man didn’t really understand it. Yet he was both forcibly too polite and what came across as too impatient to bother himself or me with this detail. I guess I just chose the right shirt.

The first room I entered had 10 to 15 of Adicuţ’s (what I call) smudgy paintings.

I still can’t figure out if (A) it was the pieces that were too small for the large room that they were in or (B) it was too big of a room for so few pieces. Didn’t take a good look at any of them, I’m positive they were each excellent.

There were close to no people in the space at this point. But I was satisfied to picture a sufficient number of various hats filling it, all for me to listen in on.

An exit to the right led to a pitch-black unlit hallway and into a different part of the exhibition.

An exit to the left showed a reception lounge and a bar that served wine and beer and potato chips and pretzels. Most hat owners were in there all along, facing difficult choices. It has always mystified me how pretzels are never the object of a debate. Mystified is a big word for pretzels, but still: they’re simply always there.

I picked right and went into the black hallway.

Once past a few swirly turns, I found myself readjusting my eyes to a physical reproduction of a painting called Philosopher in Meditation. This is a piece assumed to be Rembrandt’s. Might not be though. They haven’t decided. It’s very expensive nonetheless.

Philosopher in Meditation on Wikipedia, left and Darwin Room at PACE Gallery London, right.

So what Adicuţ did was basically build this painting of Rembrandt’s (or not), in real life, out of different pieces of wood, calling it the Darwin Room. The leaflet (I read it this time) said the installation ‘features meticulously sourced eighteenth and nineteenth century panelling, floor boards and furniture, juxtaposed with contemporary items’.

I recalled Adicuţ once visiting me in Cluj for some pesto pasta which he decisively refused to a better preferred jar of homemade tomato sauce my dad cooks. Adicuţ finds this much more authentic and eats straight out of it.

When he was there, he eyed a solid cherry commode belonging to the flat I was renting and demanded he had it. He couldn’t, it was not mine to ‘meticulously outsource’. I wonder now as I did then (not really) if an invisible Darwin would have ever gotten to meditate over that commode, if I had let him take it. And the leaflet seemed to agree: ‘the worrying absence of the human figure in the Darwin Room reinforces this idea’.

I stood there, in the dark, eavesdropping on people stumbling in, as their dilating eyes finally grasped the fantastic display they came to see. Because it HAD to be fantastic.

‘Oh, this’s like… ‘The Room’ or whatever’ a white lady revealed to her friends following her in the dark, compared to whom she was at that distinct moment a half a second more educated.

‘It smells, right?’, an Asian girl friend of the white lady noticed, as we all did, but now was at least as observant as her friend who only unfairly got the chance to see it first.

‘It’s so dark’ a still ignorant third friend completed. Couldn’t see her complexion, probably because it was in fact so dark. She wasn’t black, but that’d be something, right?

That’s what I was thinking about when I was swiftly interrupted by a MILF gallerist explaining to two Bond villains where they needed to stand to better understand what they’re paying for. I’m gonna assume it’s more expensive to pretend, than to ever admit you have no idea what this whole fucking thing means.

The room alternated from being empty (well, except for myself hiding in a corner), to crowded with people using their phones to take flashlight photos of the only light in the room, coming from the internal window of the structure, ‘a symbolic gesture to the post-enlightenment thinking’, the leaflet continues.

At some point a man used ‘the dark passage that creates a boundary separating the present day gallery environment from the sacred space in which the academic contemplation takes shape’ as a discreet place to blow his nose.

It was the only thing that determined me to come out of my lair, revealing myself. I just wanted him to know I caught that.

Later on, Adicuţ joined me on the floor of the dark room, in the darkest corner, where we calculated the ratio of time people standing in front of various works spent on looking at them versus time spent checking their phones.

I told him about my struggle with doing more with myself – not better, just more – and after a brief diagnostic, he prescribed me Ecstasy, claiming LSD is a bit too strong for this stage. He said all I need is a good public making-a-fool-of-myself. That I have to construct a separate part of my social life. An experience solely comprising people and situations that get to see me only at my worst and most embarrassing collection of moments. Program short instances of my life when I get out of my own self. Otherwise I will not evolve.

[Read Part 2 here.]

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