Epistemological Plumbing

Dana Andrei & Sorin Popescu, Dragoș Bădiță, Ioan Grosu,
Lucian Indrei, Alexandra Mocan, musz, Matei Toșa


Curated by Jovana Trifuljesko

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July 11th – 27th


Dismantling a system isn’t an act of formal epistemology. Instead, we need to look closely at the details that make up the system – only then can we understand the real, or better yet the “truth” behind it. We are not to philosophise about concrete things; we are to philosophise, rather, out of these things. This process of examination and deconstruction inherently exposes our vulnerabilities – both individual and collective – as we confront the limitations of our understanding. Although it stands that some people are afraid to let go of the familiar system, even if it’s flawed – they cling to comfort and security, even if it limits them. As philosopher Theodor Adorno suggests, Men are afraid that in losing this magic they would lose everything, because the only happiness they know, even in thought, is to be able to hold on to something—the perpetuation of unfreedom.[1]

With its almost comically juxtaposed title, “Epistemological Plumbing” allows the high and the low-brow to coexist, affirming certain philosophical frameworks while simultaneously unblocking their application in the sphere of reality. The exhibition invites viewers to explore the intricate systems through which we acquire, process, and share knowledge and experiences, while also acknowledging the vulnerabilities inherent in these systems. Through a diverse array of media – including photography, drawing, installation, painting, and digital art – the selected artworks share a common thread: they expose moments of sensitivity as a tool to not only initiate conversation but to create emancipatory potential. Each piece affirms existing systems and structures while leaving space for hope and new understanding to emerge.

This exhibition showcases artworks from Romanian artists Dana Andrei & Sorin Popescu, Dragoș Bădiță, Ioan Grosu, Lucian Indrei, Alexandra Mocan, musz and Matei Toșa. Their individual practices vary across different media, thematic areas and ways of expressing their spheres of interest, but what connects them inside the U10 Art Space is this notion that we as viewers are exposed to moments of personal, societal, familial and collective vulnerability. 

Alexandra Mocan’s “Flooded Boat / Flooded Bridge” series presents a poignant visual metaphor for the often futile attempts to find balance and stability in chaotic times. The yoga poses, traditionally symbols of strength and equilibrium, are depicted as vessels overwhelmed by water, reflecting the artist’s exploration of methods for achieving mental and emotional wellbeing that ultimately fall short. This work invites us to consider the limitations of our coping mechanisms and the unpredictable nature of our inner landscapes.

Dana Andrei & Sorin Popescu’s installation “The Enormous Ear of the World” blurs the lines between exhibition space and public space, the artists prompt us to reconsider our relationships with others and ourselves, questioning how we filter and extract meaning from the deluge of standardised content we encounter daily. The work, partially displayed at U10 Art Space, features translated sentences asking, “Where is the promised paradise?” and “What if we stopped?”. These questions carry the weight of the political vulnerability of the individual. Unfulfilled electoral promises, privatisation to which the promised paradise alludes, and the questions of labour expressed through the action of stopping work – who that influences and in what way – create a poetic atmosphere in which the force of listening serves as an emancipatory act.

Lucian Indrei’s lenticular prints, “Mr. Minou & Princess Bubu,” as well as a series of selected analog black and white photographs offer a playful yet poignant exploration of memory and attachment within our personal epistemological frameworks. By transforming fleeting moments with beloved pets, nature, people and textured details of everyday life into tangible images, Indrei examines how we preserve and revisit significant experiences. These works explore the efforts to capture and relive meaningful moments, but also the mundane, everyday and fleeting views, acting as a kind of mnemonic plumbing that helps us navigate the flow of time and experience.

Dragoș Bădiță’s “Last Days of M” and “The Old House” offer glimpses into personal loss and solitude. These works serve as emotional conduits, channelling the artist’s experiences of both grief and familial connections. They invite viewers to reflect on how we process and transmit deeply personal narratives within the broader context of shared human experiences. The series “The Last Days of M” represents simple drawings that the artist made in the final days spent with his grandmother, these intimate presentations put the viewer in a voyeuristic position, as if witnessing a moment of frailty that they don’t belong to. A similar feeling is conveyed in the video work “The Old House” which the artist made while visiting his mother in the countryside, later processed by AI into an animation stylistically similar to 19th century paintings. Not dwelling on the method itself, Dragoș Bădiță uses the crafted and the generated with the same seriousness and sensitivity, basing his work on the deeply personal, yet completely recognizable.

musz’s ongoing project “Halfway Happy” presents a unique approach to documenting time and cultivating personal well-being, while also exploring the subject of superstition. By collecting screenshots of “exact times” on her phone, the artist creates a visual record of moments believed to signify love and connection, paired with images of her cat Minou in the background. This work explores how we construct meaning from everyday occurrences and how personal beliefs can serve as filters for our experiences.

Similarly exploring different feelings in fleeting moments in time is Ioan Grosu’s “Untitled” series of 32 paintings. Each canvas acts as a conduit for Grosu’s inner experiences, channelling complex feelings and states of mind into tangible, visual form. The use of various media – oil, pastel, and crayon – mirrors the diverse ways in which the artist can process and express emotions. This large-scale series captures the viewers’ attention, inviting them to consider how our internal emotional landscapes are constantly shifting and how we might externalise these ephemeral states. By capturing specific moments in time, Grosu’s work highlights the fluid nature of our emotional experiences and the challenges of translating these internal processes into shared, comprehensible forms.

Matei Toșa’s ongoing series “I Only Know How To Take Care Of Myself By Proxy” offers a nuanced exploration of self-care and masculinity. The artist depicts himself performing basic acts of self-maintenance, such as dressing and feeding, presenting these moments as both introspective and performative. Toșa’s work engages with conventional notions of masculinity that emphasise self-sufficiency and independence. Through smiling grins and seemingly effortless approaches, he visually represents an idealised version of self-reliance. However, by allowing viewers to witness these intimate moments, the artist subtly challenges the notion that asking for help is only acceptable in extreme circumstances. The series title itself encapsulates this tension, blending poetic vulnerability with a humorous acknowledgment of these basic needs. By framing self-care as something done “by proxy,” Toșa highlights the often unspoken complexities of maintaining oneself in a society that values stoic independence.

In essence, “Epistemological Plumbing” presents a collective exploration of human fragility and resilience across various dimensions of experience. Each artist, through their unique approach, contributes to a broader dialogue about the complexities inherent in our quest for understanding and connection. The artworks in this exhibition serve as intuitive counterpoints to our logical systems of understanding, reminding us, as Adorno suggests, of the limitations in our processes of cognition.[2] They act as ‘blind spots’ that prevent reason from becoming a mere reflection of arbitrariness, instead opening up spaces for deeper, more nuanced understanding.

Mocan’s exploration of burnout through yoga poses and Toșa’s self-care rituals both grapple with the challenges of maintaining personal equilibrium in a demanding world. These works resonate with Grosu’s emotive paintings, which similarly capture the ebb and flow of our internal states. Bădiță’s intimate portrayals of family and loss reveal the raw emotional landscapes we navigate, while Indrei’s captured moments and musz’s superstitious time-keeping highlight our attempts to preserve fleeting experiences in the face of time’s relentless march. Andrei & Popescu’s installation ties these personal explorations to broader societal issues, unmasking our collective susceptibility to unfulfilled promises and information overload. Together, these works express the need for earnestness, authenticity, and genuine human connection. They challenge us to reconsider our ‘epistemological plumbing’ – the ways we filter, process, and share our experiences and knowledge. By exposing the fissures and inconsistencies in our systems of understanding, the exhibition encourages us to find strength in acknowledging our shared human condition. In the spirit of Adorno’s thought, these artworks offer a kind of ‘non-arbitrary memory’ – intuitive, emotional, and deeply personal reflections that seek to heal the arbitrary nature of our logical thought processes. They remind us that true understanding often lies beyond the realm of pure reason, in the nuanced and often uncertain spaces of human experience.

Jovana Trifuljesko

[1] Adorno, Theodor W. Negative Dialectics. 1966. London, Routledge, 2015. page 33

[2] Adorno, Theodor W. Against Epistemology : A Metacritique : Studies in Husserl and the Phenomenological Antinomies. Cambridge, Mass., Mit Press, 1983. page 46

 

The exhibition is part of the project Lateral Endeavours 2024, carried out by the Lateral ArtSpace in 2024. Cultural project co-financed by the National Cultural Fund Administration. The project does not necessarily represent the position of the National Cultural Fund Administration. AFCN is not responsible for the content of the project or how the project results can be used. These are entirely the responsibility of the beneficiary of the funding.