Lives and works on Earth

January 15th, 2012 | Alina Müller

Short cuts, Mircea Cantor

In the programme of a recent exhibition at Tate Modern, the work of one the exhibiting artists, Mircea Cantor, is described as  ’seemingly float[ing] in a metaphorical world where location is never stated or easily determined’, while Cantor ‘appears to avoid any specific subject related to geography’. In fact, on his website, having informed the reader compliantly of his place of birth, Cantor himself makes a point of stating that he now ‘lives and works on Earth’.

It becomes clear that Cantor has an issue with taxonomies that will classify not only his work but also him as an individual on the basis of geographical information. There’s something in the statement ‘lives and works on Earth’, though, that for a moment makes me roll my eyes. Is he not trying a bit too hard?

The answer comes when one continues reading the exhibition programme, where the same author informs  us that Cantor was born in Romania but now lives in France. Still reflecting on Cantor’s work, she then goes on to talk about how ‘Eastern Europe has a rich  history of artists who produce  art works from small acts of resistance, usually with  modest materials and  often against strict political regimes’ and gives examples of the work of Slovak and Czech artists and concludes by locating Cantor’s work within ‘this lineage’.

Apparently, Cantor is not trying hard enough. In the face of a system of classification so strongly embedded in our society, even the most explicit efforts to resist it fall short.

So, when someone asks you where you are from, and you, with a foreign accent, reply ‘London’ and get a look of incomprehension followed by ‘Yeah, but where are you REALLY from? ‘, don’t back down. It’s worth repeating yourself. 

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