Conceptualist Tendencies in Liliana Mercioiu Popa’s Art

by Maria Orosan-Telea / Revista Arta # 18/2016 Anul VI 

Liliana Merciou Popa is one of the few Romanian artists who have a constant preoccupation with the use of text in the creative endeavour, in a purely conceptualist manner. This has been visible since the beginning of her career in the late 90s, and over the course of time has completed the other forms of expression employed by the artist: painting, drawing, installation and photography.

In Liliana Mercioiu Popa's work, words and phrases appear transposed in various visual forms; the materiality of the support and the arrangement of the installation are never random elements, but features meant to enhance the meanings of each artwork. Thus, in Elipsa* (2001), which is among the first works in a series based on text, the artist correlates the title with the arrangement of boxes that contain words (the installation made of these boxes has an ellipsoidal layout). On the other hand, the complexity of the artwork comes from another type of correlation employed. The secondary meaning of the term elipsa (a figure of speech which aims at shortening a discourse by relying on the audience's memory to fill in what is not said) - encourages free associations - that will supply what is left unsaid - between the isolated words found inside the boxes. The relation between the support and the text is even more obvious in Thin (2011), which consists of words derived from or containing the word thin. In this case, the words are cut out and placed on a very thin, semi-transparent fabric. The work is a meditation on the precariousness of some forms of expression born out of uncertainties and perpetual testing.

Going beyond the limited space of the gallery, Liliana Mercioiu Popa succeeds in adapting this type of conceptualist discourse to the public space. The large artwork What about you? (2011-2015), installed close to Theresia Bastion in Timişoara during the 2015 Art Encounters biennale, makes for a very good example. As defined by the author herself, the work is an ars poetica, an attempt to reveal her personal artistic creed, and at the same time, through the questions asked, it raises awareness on the necessity of keeping in touch with what is outside the self. The plasticity obtained by folding parts of the letters upwards represents the personal pursuit of high ideals.

Starting from the text as well, but also employing sound, the artwork Doar zgomot? discusses globalization: every member of the audience is offered the possibility to contribute to clarifying the meaning of this concept, by moving the dominoes, which are each inscribed with one letter of the word globalizare (globalization). Triggering the avalanche of dominoes that become reunited in the pile under the boxes remains a personal option, just as each of us can choose to become players or to remain spectators of the globalization game. The construction of this work makes the answer to the question in the title go in two directions. On the one hand, globalization is just noise, because the boxes remain empty; in other words, after becoming coherent eventually, the word loses its weight. On the other hand, when they fall, the dominoes do not produce only noise, but mechanical interaction as well; they collide, determining each other's trajectory and the place they occupy in this aggregate called globalization.

* the Romanian term "elipsa" has two meanings: ellipse and ellipsis.