Adrian Ganea's Phantasmagoric Universe
Situated within the liminal space between the digital and the physical, Adrian Ganea's Ghost Trade explores contemporary issues like environmental decay by enacting the production of fiction.
Adrian Ganea, Ghost (2021). Acrylic resin, galvanised steel, wood, recycled inkjet printer components, electric guitar components, guitar amplifier, and effects. 135 x 150 x 45 cm. Courtesy the artist and Plan B Cluj, Berlin. Photo: Adrian Ganea.
Adrian Ganea's first solo exhibition at Galeria Plan B in Berlin (29 April–25 June 2022) asks crucial questions, proposing anthropomorphism as a way to increase empathy towards the natural world.
Bringing together elements from Greek mythology, Ghost Trade stages a virtual forest world inhabited by digital beings with human attributes. The exhibition flows between four spaces, where works presented in dialogue guide viewers through Ganea's phantasmagoric universe.
To construct this fantasy world, the Romanian artist, whose practice encompasses set design, animation, film, sculpture, and digital art, employed a range of mediums, from 3.D. animation video, to masks and sculptures made from oak wood and acrylic resin.
Prior to setting foot in the gallery space, visitors are forewarned of what lies ahead. Outside the gallery, behind a glass vitrine, Figure Study for Cadmus (I) (2019), a relief sculpture made of oak wood, is adhered on top of a wallpaper made from a film still, Tree Mask (2022).
The wallpaper depicts a hellish, dystopian scene of a forest ablaze, suggesting the destiny to befall humankind if it persists to discount the rights of nature.
On the oak wood relief, Ganea has depicted the legendary Cadmus—credited with introducing the original Phoenician alphabet to the Greeks—referencing the mythic figure's presence in Ovid's Metamorphoses.
Having discovered Cadmus after reading Austrian playwright Elfriede Jelinek's theatrical text Wut (2015), Ganea recovers the figure to represent the 'inherent violence of transformation', and tell a story about 'metamorphoses, mutations and evolution', relating to Cadmus' killing of the sacred dragon that guarded the spring of Ares, and the men that sprung from the dragon's teeth he had sown in the ground.
With an uneasy sense of what awaits, visitors continue into the space and are welcomed by Portal (2022)—an entryway made of oak wood, tailor-made to the entrance of Galeria Plan B.
Portal acts as a threshold into the artist's fabricated cosmos, and a preface to a world in which the distinction between the digital and the real is increasingly blurred.
With an MA in set design from Berlin University of the Arts, Ganea's own practice oscillates between reality and fiction, drawing attention to these fading distinctions through his use of technology and automation.
Beyond the threshold of Portal, Young tree vomiting demonstrating lamentation (2021)—a 3.D. animation video inspired by 17th-century polymath and scholar Athanasius Kircher's hydraulics machines featuring 'vomiting' lobsters and eagles—reconstructs the organic materiality of a young tree in its afterlife.
In the latter, the agony and grief of a mourning forest is elucidated through the tree's cello rendition of Francesca Caccini's composition, 'Lasciatemi Qui Solo' (Soften my Weeping) (1587–1641), in which a woman pleads to be left alone to die—a eulogy for mother earth.
Its visual impact is intensified through the light-play of Forest Floor (2022)—a sculpture made of acrylic resin, wood, and light bars, adorning the gallery floor. Harmonising with the cello-playing tree character, its hue alternates between red, pink, and white, orchestrating a dance of its own.
The sensory experience reaches its culmination, when, abruptly, both the floor and the screen turn white and an overwhelming silence pervades. A skeletal figure holding an electric guitar, seated on the left-hand side of the space, breaks the silence; Ghost (2021), a melancholic tree skeleton, for Ganea, embodies 'a fading trace of life in the context of mass extinction'.
The sound of the lyre from Orpheus (2022), a second seated skeleton situated opposite to Ghost, brings the saga to an end. Alluding once again to Greek mythology, Ganea invokes the lament of nature through the figure of Orpheus—the musician and prophet who was able to make stones and plants move with his music.
The walls of the final gallery space are bedecked with 13 disfigured faces of varying dimensions; these pinkish sculptures from the 'Death Mask' series (2022) confront visitors with what ensues if humanity refuses to listen to nature's voice. —[O]