Remember, Collect, Strive for an Ideal
I started playing the rabbit game on Anca Benera’s website and became increasingly frustrated. The simple act of trying to grab two rabbits at once left me reluctant to move on to discover the rest of her wonderfully animated website. Like the innocent addiction of the amusement arcades, a sinister side lurks behind the games of Anca Benera. We become reluctant but curious players in her work as we are guided in and taken for a ride.
In her ongoing project, ‘Collecting Collectors’ (started during her residency at Kulturkontakt, Vienna, Austria, 2005), Anca brings together an assortment of characters that collect objects, such as elastic bands, mice (the computer versions, not the four-legged ones) and lids. She has photographed the collections and their collectors. In some of these portraits, the objects become anthropomorphic extensions of themselves, such as a bunch of tangled leads falling from their owner’s arm at the end of which are the heads of his ‘pet mice’. It is not just the obsession with an object but the motivation to possess a lot of the same thing that intrigues Anca. ‘Patricia Collecting her Husband’s Childhood’ is one such story. Anca films Patricia talking about the things she collects, such as matchboxes. She then reveals that her most enjoyable collection is the objects she takes (sometimes without asking, Patricia admits) from her husband’s childhood bedroom in his family home in Italy. Piggy Rosso is her favourite ‘find’ – a small red stapler with a lid shaped like a pigs head and leather ears. She says at the end of the video that through collecting, ‘something that seems very impossible to share becomes possible’.
It is those boundaries of having and not having that defines the collector. The objects, in Patricia’s case, become symbolic keys to the memories that she never had. This of course is nonsense. Patricia will never actually remember the same things her husband does, with or without the help of Piggy Rosso, but it is the drive of the collector to collect which comes through strongly in Anca’s ‘Collection of Collectors’. Will Anca eventually share the dreams and frustrations of the collector? There is a dual desire in wanting both the satisfaction that you do actually own nearly all the lids in the world combined with the dread that if you did you would have nothing more to collect. The ultimate collection is always just out of reach.
Mr. Mike describes his approach to collecting sick bags, ‘I take a barfbag practically every time I fly. I was afraid at first, sneaking them into my carry-on luggage during take-offs or landings, but now I steal them with pride’. The impulse to collect is as strong as the interest in the individual objects themselves. Anca has distributed her own ‘Art Sickness Bags (for Intellectual Discomfort)’ during the Bucharest Biennial and at Tate Modern (2006). The bags offer a polite critique of an audience that has to deal with an embarrassing case of ‘intellectual discomfort’. Just as the obsessive collector, the ‘Art Sickness Bags’ suggest art audiences have become blind to details and are more interested in the act of consumption itself, to the extent that we gorge ourselves with pride and end up barfing.
The act of striving for something (through the act of collecting or gallery visiting for example) and the disappointment in not quite getting it; of missing the mark and having to live with it also comes across in the installation ‘Free Form’ (2004). Here, the gallery is turned into a life-size computer drawing which the audience walk into. The lines of the drawing are made up of white ping pong balls which define the area of the room that has been selected. It looks like one corner has been dragged to redefine its shape and size. Again, we find our selves in a manipulated environment. One in which we thought we were in control but, we are made to realise, is constructed and easily redrawn.
The fragility of knowledge, perception and experience is also made clear in Anca’s new installation for the group exhibition ‘Fuori Uso-Altered States’ (2006-07, Pescara, Budapest and Bucherest). Here, the viewer is misled around the exhibition. Anca has thoughtfully placed barriers around the gallery so that black elastic strips and intermittent bases upset a symbolically ‘neutral’ space. Usually in place to direct the flow of queuing people, this new ‘drawing’ (another fictitious space) creates obstructions and tests the audience’s desire to misbehave and step beyond the barriers.
In a collaborative work entitled ‘Archive 1,2,3’, Miranda Blennerhassett, Louisa Preston and Anca transformed the impression of three attic rooms of the Bratianu Palace. They are dark spaces with no natural light and so using the light from a projector, they painted surfaces in the attic rooms where the light fell. With the light source gone, the result was a subtle remnant and simulation of something that was falsified to begin with – a double bluff. The artists have mentioned how this reflects our memory ‘as a place of storage holding things that appear and disappear in the mind…We envision memory as something that is changeable, unreliable and often frustratingly out of reach.’
It is these obstructions that make us even more determined to remember, collect and strive for an ideal. Anca constructs obstacles to remind us of how nebulous both our dreams and the limits of realising our dreams are. What happens is, we learn to enjoy the ride. Which reminds me, I’ve got some rabbits to catch.
Anca Benera was born in 1977 in Constanta, Romania. She gained her BA in Fine Art at the National University of Art Bucharest in 2001 and stayed on at the same institution to do one year of postgraduate study. Following this Benera undertook an internship at the Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice with the aid of a scholarship from the Solomon Guggenheim Foundation New York. In 2003 she was invited, with a subsequent scholarship from the Soloman Guggenheim Foundation, to work for the American Pavilion at the Biennale di Venezia. In 2005 she took part in the ´Artist in Residence´ scholarship program offered by Kulturkontakt Austria for Eastern European artists. Benera is currently based in Bucharest.
Exhibition / Installation,
• 2006 - Betonsalon, MuseumsQuartier, Vienna
• 2006 - Posibila Gallery, Bucharest
• 2005 - Gallery Mie Lefever, Gent, Belgium
• 2004 - Siemens_artlab, Vienna
• 2004 - H´art Gallery, Bucharest
• 2001 - International Center for Contemporary Art, Bucharest
Exhibition / Installation,
• 2005 - Art Basel, Arte Fiera Bologna, ViennAfair, ARCO-Madrid
• Art Basel Miami
represented by Ernst Hilger Gallery Vienna
SELECTED GROUP EXHIBITIONS
Exhibition / Installation,
• 2006/2007– ´Fuori Uso – Altered States´, under the title ´Are You Experienced´? is a travelling exhibition, taking place in Pescara, (Arte Nova) Italy till 31st of January 2007, then Budapest (Trafo Multimedia Center) and Bucharest (Galeria Noua). The show is curated by Nicolas Bourriaud and Paolo Falcone.
• 2006 - Cesare Manzo Gallery, Rome
• 2006 - “Platforma”, Cooper Gallery, Dundee, Scotland
• 2006 - “One year After”, BA-CA Kunstforum –Tresor, Vienna
• 2006 -“Absent without leave” Biennial of Young Artists, Bucharest
• 2006 -“Sauna part I” - WomenArtists, dietheater Konzerthaus, Vienna
• 2006 -“Fluidic” project – Play Gallery for Still and Motion Pictures, Berlin
• 2006 -“Fluidic” project –NewYorkRioTokyo, Projektraum E4, Berlin
• 2006 -“Fluidic” project - Lichtschliff Gallery, Berlin
• 2006 - “Europe”, MOYA Museum, Vienna
• 2006 -“Cepandant”, ¾ gallery MNAC Bucharest (*1)
• 2006 -´Kulturkiosk project’, Kulturmanager and Werkleitz Gesellschaft e.V Halle, Germany
• 2006 -“Living room”, Triebwerk gallery, Halle, Germany
• 2006 -International Biennial of Contemporary Art Shumen, Bulgaria
• 2006 -“Minimal diversions”, Vector Gallery Iasi, Romania
• 2005 -“Field of visions: Extremes”, Institute for New Media, Frankfurt am Main, Germany
• 2005 -“Art workshop 05”, Casino Luxembourg - Forum d´art Contemporain, Luxembourg
• 2005 -“The thrill of the hunt/Collecting collectors”, Wien station gallery, Vienna
• 2005 -“Longtime”, TRAFO Gallery, Budapest
• 2004 -"CENTRAL - New Art from New Europe”, (*2)
• 2004 -"Bottom line”, Skuc Gallery, Ljubljana
• 2004 -"New Balkans", Thessaloniki, Greece
• 2003 -"Preview", MNAC / Kalinderu MediaLab, Bucharest
• 2003 -“Docu fiction”, University of Architecture, Bucharest
• 2003 -“Citta del Utopia”, public art project, Rome, Italy
• 2002 -"Welcome", Sea Elephant Travel Agency / Loft Gallery, Istanbul
• 2002 - "Coop 02", MNAC / Kalinderu MediaLab, Bucharest
• 2002 -"Free Biennial", New York
• 2002 -“Comun”, Bercsenyi Gallery, Budapest
• 2002- included in "The Room"-Archive Manifesta 4, Frankfurther Kunstverein
• 2001 - "Periferic 5", International Biennial of Contemporary Art, Iasi, Romania
• 2001 - "Five Stories", Galeria Noua, Bucharest
(*1) organized by ‘Fluid Image -espace de recherche et de creation en art technologique’ Grenoble
(*2) an ongoing exhibition series started in 2004 in Salzburg and continued in 2005 - 2006 in Graz, Ljubljana, Bucharest, Zagreb, Vienna, Sofia, Bratislava, organized by Hilger Contemporary Kunstforum, Vienna.
GRANTS AND ARTISTIC RESIDENCIES
• 2005 - Kulturkontakt Austria, Vienna
• 2004 - Artist-in-residence program, Galerie Mie Lefever, Gent, Belgium
• 2003 - Solomon Guggenheim Foundation New York, internship to the American pavilion, Biennale di Venezia
• 2002 – Research and internship program to the Peggy Guggenheim Collection Venice
• 2001 - Sea Elephant Travel Agency, Istanbul