Ioana Terheș: I will begin with a question that is probably very easy to anticipate. Your work was conceived and curated from a distance. We are doing this interview a week after the opening of the biennial, and the “commotion” has started to die down. How do you see the experience of working remotely now?
Mihnea Mircan: All the difficulties and frustrations of working remotely became part of the exhibition scenario, which turned from a theoretical scenario into a process. Basically, the work started with defining a theme and continued as this theme turned into a condition, a practical context, because things have evolved very badly here in Australia. Melbourne is the city with the longest quarantine, where the “confrontation” with the virus increasingly resembles an ideology. When I received the invitation from Diana Marincu and Ovidiu Șandor, things were not as dramatic as they have become in the meantime. It was a gradual process and in a way, I am glad I chose a theme that allowed it to take place without fatally interrupting the preparations for the biennial.
IT: Somehow, I think you were aware of this conditioning that became a real fact eventually.
MM: Yes. At first, the possibility of a remotely installed exhibition was just a working hypothesis, but it became an increasing possibility and then a certainty. At that point, I had to get used to the very unpleasant idea that I was missing the most interesting part of the project, since I was deprived of the experience of working with the artworks physically, especially that the exhibition includes a lot of works I have never seen in reality. From works seen at 72 dpi on an artist’s website, to conversations on zoom or e-mail, this loop of pixels closed when the works were installed in a space that I had never visited before and that I saw only on a mobile phone, on WhatsApp. Everything is abstract. Otherwise, it is a very atypical project for me, because it includes a research stage on a different scale than my previous curatorial projects, a stage during which I tried to become familiar with the practices of many artists and, through that process, to negotiate the distances separating me from the place of the exhibition and how those practices could be intertwined in that space.
IT: How did your research for the exhibition part and the way it communicates with the screening program start?
MM: The works in the exhibition try to provide a place for this long-distance meeting, while the films presented in the Pavilion try to provide a time for this experience. It is the difference between two “flows”, one in space and one in time. Perhaps the films make the conversation about the experience of vertigo more palpable, as cinematic instruments can render it more eloquently than the static image. In this way, a conversation that begins in the exhibition acquires new intensity in the film programme.
It was an opportunity to apply some ideas that have been with me for a very long time, a research of hybrid figures that can be read from two different perspectives and that, for this reason, could be described as anamorphic. Bodies, psychic spaces or objects with two different meanings, depending on where they are approached or interpreted, on the instruments used to measure them. This movement, this oscillation within an object that is fractured by interpretation is a constant feature of several of my recent projects. From here, from anamorphosis and anachronism or the interpretation that hesitates in relation to its object, to the theme of distortion, of a thing seen from a distance or so closely that it blocks your field of view, it was a natural step for me. It was an opportunity to fragment the general idea of distance into smaller distances, like that between Timisoara, Melbourne and, say, Vilnius or Budapest. These triangulations produce all kinds of new ideas and trajectories that fill and animate the conceptual and formal field in which I worked. It’s like in Zeno’s paradoxes, in which an arrow never reaches its target because it has to cross half the distance that separates it from the target, then half of that half distance, and so on, until the arrow is lost in an abyss of calculations.
IT: How exactly did the selection process take place and how did you establish a link between the concepts of the works? I’m asking this because I find the whole exhibition very accessible. Everything seems to be connected and provide new meanings from one visit to another.
MM: I started from a list of works that looked like cardinal points for the project map and I thought of a series of juxtapositions, not necessarily harmonious, of these projects and other works I had come across during my research. I attempted to create a sequence of reflections, intermediary spaces and transitions, to give the project general dynamics.
IT: Would you say that after this biennial the Our Other Us concept could acquire new meanings? Could it be translated easily now?
MM: Yes, as long as it is translated into images. It does not have an equally concise and expressive Romanian translation, but I think that some images, some optical reflections of the exhibitions could constitute a translation. A visual experience can compensate for a difficult translation, so the textual gap would be filled with colours, shapes and ideas, as they are narrated and imagined in artworks.