"I never relied on the local context to be legitimized and never followed any agenda"

Why did you decide to become an artist? Do you remember that moment?

Although I knew quite early that I wanted to be active in a creative environment, I seriously thought that I could do art when I enrolled in the Art Academy in Bucharest, in 2013. Until then, my interests were centered around the world of fashion design and at the time I was convinced that would be a field in which I could work. My brief period of fashion studies in Antwerp has helped me to understand that it wasn’t a very good fit for me and that I needed more freedom, outside of an industry-led system. By the time I started the art school I already had a deep interest in it and I would try to self-educate by seeing as much as art as I could, throughout Europe. 

What is the main topic/problem/embarrassing thing that pushes you to create an artwork/project? 

It’s never just a single thing, it’s a whole network of information, resources and experiences that aggregate and form the drive to work on a project. The way I see it, it’s like an input system, composed of what I read, what I see and the places that I travel to. Sometimes, the pieces come together and I start working on something if I feel there is some relevance to it. Of course, this process happens in the subconscious, but I am aware of the build-up.

An animal that was once thought to be a plant that transformed into stone, exhibition view at SpazioA, Pistoia, 2018
Crash Test Dummy (Passenger), 2018, car seat, leather, fossilized coral, 55 x 60 x 90 cm

What was your first serious artistic work/exhibition?

My first artwork is called Foundation, it’s from 2013 and it consists of a pair of leather slippers with concrete soles. I’m still very fond of this work, it’s still relevant to me in many ways. I had in mind themes of migration and how the idea of a fixed, concrete home becomes very rare these days. Especially in the art world, where a lot of people migrate towards Berlin, London or Amsterdam, in search of better opportunities. 

I also like the idea of my first work being a “foundation” on top of which I can build and develop new projects. 

The first solo exhibition I did (Hands don’t make magic, 2015) at Sabot Gallery (Cluj, Romania) was also an important step for my artistic/personal development. It opened many doors. 

Was it the natural process of creating for you or were difficulties?

I guess you could say it is a natural process in the sense that most of the things I do are an extension of my own interests. It’s just a matter of pushing things a bit further and materialize ideas that would float in my head space anyway. The real difficulties I encountered, sometimes, were in the production process. Fortunately, I always find support in my partner and the people, friends, collaborators and fellow artists that I surround myself with and that helped me to overcome these issues.

Foundation, 2013. The leather slippers with concrete soles

Your artworks in some way consist the similar artifacts: stones, human/body parts, and then.. appears digital. Why? Is it development of ideas? 

In my work, I am interested in the overlapping of human and non-human bodies and processes. So far, this instances have included working with concretion stones (a geological curiosity, a concretion is a hard, compact mass of matter formed by the precipitation of mineral cement within the spaces between particles, found in sedimentary rock or soil) and corals. In the case of the concretion stones, I always regarded them as a type of body that develops and grows in a very different time-frame than a human one. And this idea formed the basis for my works. In the case of corals, I am fascinated by the fact that our human skeleton shares the molecular structure of corals and so we have much more in common with these animals than we might think we do. Corals are dying, because of the human impact upon the planet, while humans find ways of integrating coral skeletons in their bodies, via implants or coral calcium supplements.

The digital part of my work appears in these contexts, where I chose 3D animation (by collaborating with a friend, Tessellat) to visualise some processes that would be impossible to capture in real life. How else would I try to render visually a coral being assimilated in the skeleton of a human hand or show the formation process of a concretion stone, which takes place over many years, if not centuries? The 3D modelling and animation gives you this freedom to illustrate speculative ideas. It is actually very commonly used in areas like health and medicine to visualize processes and diseases that happen inside the human body and would be quite abstract otherwise.

Vestigial Structures, video still, 2018

That’s interesting… in one hand your art so close to natural base, which is so material, in another – to understand it we need fantasy (here 3D-animation), something speculative… What is the purpose of your art? Do you have some target when you create it?

I think I need a few more years to answer this question honestly. I feel like I just started doing art and it might be too soon to know for certain what is the purpose or the target of it, or if there are any whatsoever. I think, for now, my personal target is to learn and research some topics that I am interested in and materialize these things in projects and exhibitions. I know for certain that I always try my best to create a complete image and experience, by using and creating a dialogue between different mediums, 2D and 3D, natural and man-made. 

How could you describe your artistic path? 

Steady and growing (at a constant rate). I am lucky enough to have met many people who believed in my work and invested their time and energy to support me. It’s never an easy path and there are always ups and downs. It can be quite unpredictable, so the only thing I can do is to try to keep myself healthy and awake to keep up.

Litho/swing. Concretion stone, leather, chains, dimensions variable, 2017

What is your favourite artwork from yours?

It’s a photograph from 2018, titled Reef. Several pairs of human hands of various tones and shapes and sizes are coming together to enact a coral reef. 

Reef, 2018. Archival print, 90 x 60 cm

Why? Are you somehow emotionally bounded with this work?

I am emotionally connected to most of my works. The reason that I chose this as a favourite, at this particular moment, is because I feel that I’ve managed to illustrate perfectly what I had in mind and also because I think it’s a very clear and easy way of showing what I’m interested in. It just makes sense to me.

Where touch begins, we are. Video still, 2016
Where touch begins, we are. Video still, 2016

“Where touch begins, we are” – it answers on the human’s changes – our skin feels more metal/ plastic/ glass because in our hands smartphones and different gadgets. 

Where touch begins, we are started from the fact that tactile technology became ubiquitous and it disappeared by camouflaging in the ecosystem. For this video, I wanted to find out more about how the tactile sense was used throughout history (as it is a primordial sense, one of the first ones to develop in humans)  and I showed a succession of instances in which a hand interacts with different touch-sensitive surfaces, ranging from a human nipple to a Mimosa pudica plant, to touch traces on velvet and ending with a massive touch screen map I found in the Microsoft cafe, in Berlin. I like to see this work as a short mapping of the tactile sense and it’s presence in the world around us.

When I first showed this work, in 2016, it was in connection to some river stones that had touch sensors fitted onto them. It was an interactive installation and the stones generated some sounds that were activated by touch. It didn’t work very well, however my intention with it was to try and see if it’s possible to animate things that are considered completely inanimate, through touch technology. A bit like the little children who are touching windows and books or older TVs, hoping they will enable something, like on a touch screen. 

And so many “hands” in your artworks.. is it about kinesthetics?

The hands appeared as a motif in my work around 2015, in the exhibition Hands don’t make magic. At the time I was looking at hands from many angles, as a marker for human scale and presence; but also as an identification tool; as a map for the future, as well as looking at it from an evolutionary point of view. This whole thing started as a personal frustration of not being very skilled and my own hands failing me, as a tool. This was my own way of addressing this issue and it became a very playful process of avoiding any kind of hand crafts, like drawing, for example. After that, the hand motif got stuck in my practice, but it also evolved into something more broad and less self-referential. Now I tend to look at hands as a necessary and active part of my body of works. 

Exhibition Hands don’t make magic. Sleight-of-hand 2015, PVC curtain, archival print.
Exhibition Hands don’t make magic. Palmistry. Digital print on cotton glove, 2015

Which contemporary artists do you like?

I do follow the stream of art and artists that are more or less from the same generation as I am. Some names come to my mind, like Haris Epaminonda, Dora Budor, Joanna Piotrowska, but there are many more artists that I follow and admire. However, I also prefer to turn and refer to strong feminist artistic positions from previous generations, which were active between 60’s and 90’s. My favourite artists from this category include Rebecca Horn, Lygia Clark, Rosemarie Trockel, Ana Mendieta, Valie Export or Pipilotti Rist

What artwork or who of them did make a really big impact to you? Why?

Maybe you can see these influences in my work, which operates within somehow classical mediums like photography or objects and installations. There is one work that really impressed me recently, by Liliane Lijn: Conjunction of Opposites: Lady of the Wild Things and Woman of War (1986). I saw it and experienced it in Basel, this June. It’s an incredibly beautiful and powerful installation which combines a 6-minute sound piece (featuring the artists voice), with two fascinating mixed-media sculptures and a laser display. I think I was really drawn to the immersive aspect of this work, which is a thing I am trying to achieve. But I have a lot of work to do, to get to this level. 

Introvert II. Concretion stone, chrome-plated steel cage, leash, dimensions variable, 2017

You are from Romania, what about local situation in the field of contemporary art? How could you describe it?

The way I see it, the art world in Bucharest is quite small and divided into even smaller communities. I don’t feel like I’m an active part in any of these communities, but I try to maintain a formal contact with them. To be honest, I never relied on the local context to be legitimized and never followed any agenda just to be accepted in any of this smaller local scenes. I believe that I have been quite lucky not to be bound by the art world in Bucharest, by having quite often the opportunity to activate outside of it, in a wider, international context. With the exception of a few courses in University and some group shows, I feel like Bucharest hasn’t really offered me that much. 

What Romanian contemporary artist we should know nowadays?

I think everybody should know (if they don’t already) the performance turn from Romania, represented by Manuel Pelmus, Alexandra Pirici, among other artists. They have been creating complex and relevant projects which have been shown throughout the world in the past six years. 

Lithopedic, 2019, Archival print, 40 x 30 cm

What is your big dream?

To survive, from all points of view. I try not to think about it very often, but I really don’t want to still be here when the Earth will collapse, due to the unimaginable damage caused by humans. It seems that everything will collapse sooner than we might think, so what’s the point of still having big dreams that might not be able to materialise within our lifetime?

“Corporealle” exhibition view at Kuenstlerhaus Bremen, 2019