by Shraddha NairOct 13, 2020
Of the multiple interpretations on Banksy’s Girl with Balloon, one could possibly view the childlike innocence awaiting the arrival of a hopeful world within the work. To introduce an artist by making a reference to another artist might be considered erroneous. Somewhere, the black balloon of an installation by the Lithuanian architect turned sculptor and photographer Tadao Cern compelled me to wander back to the heart-shaped red balloon of Banksy (now, what was done could not be undone!). How the different treatments of the same object, in the hands of two different artists, aim to reflect diverse meanings on the world around us. We could reckon once more with this realisation.
The installation Black Balloons has 400 black balloons that stay afloat within a grid-like structure. The concrete-like blackness of the balloons and their evanescent quality add to the visual narrative of the installation. The balloons inflated with two types of gasses: helium – lighter than air, and sulphur hexafluoride - heavier than air, allow the two sets of balloons attached with a metallic string to maintain the balance between each other. Coupled with less-complicated engineering, the 400 balloons aim to meet the meaning of the installation: duality of life. The hypnotic balance of the installation anchors an immersive experience to comprehend the conflicting views underlying human life: lightness and heaviness, attraction and repulsion, corporeality and immateriality.
As someone who has read architecture, the physical spaces and geometrical precisions are familiar terrains. Cern’s transition from an architect to an installation artist confirms what the baseball player Lean Brown mentioned, “Nothing goes to waste on the journey of life”. In an interview with STIR, Cern states, “My previous education that became my current hobbies, affect my present creative practice in every way. In architecture, like in every other creative process, the same principles are applied: composition, aesthetics, work processes, etc. I have always been a fan of a systematic and rational approach to creativity. I do not believe in muses, talents and inspirations. Getting a degree in architecture highlighted these notions even more”.
Many times, surrounded by the familiar object of utility, we still find ourselves stuck by the thought of how to achieve its function. Cern countenanced a similar situation when he visited a public toilet in Tokyo that inspired him to work on the installation Lost in Translation. The disarranged sanitary objects in the installation recreate a world to be discovered in the formal setting of a gallery. To briefly walk us through the journey of conceiving and executing a variety of artworks before its final form is displayed for the viewers’ consumption, Cern states, “It is never final. It will never be. I have never been sure about the things that I show to the audience and doing so is a form of asking. Creating art is like forming an alliance between an artist and a viewer, against the rest of the world that they are facing. By creating something I am looking for people that think in the same manner. And experimenting is nothing more but a way to find more efficient ways to communicate”.
Besides the order of installation works, Cern’s photography work carries the ironic tone of our everyday life - not far from the ambivalence around our human existence. His photographic work, Revealing the Truth, relives Van Gogh self-portrait (1889), but this time as a modern-day still photograph. A play on photography’s claim to be a realistic representation of life, Cern with the tools of photo editing and red-headed model donning the blue suit turned the painting into a photograph. The digital recreation of the painting is documented in the video for the audience to understand the process of remaking this artwork.
Since Cern’s art practice straddles between installation and photography, he talks about his selection of material and textures, “I try to go to the roots as much as possible and not to have any sentiments regarding materials. Any material is just a tool and it's perfect if it satisfies two major criteria: it has to be practical and non-problematic in the production process and it has to stay neutral idea-wise or complement it”.
Despite the manifold meaning of the artwork by Cern, it does not eschew an aura of calmness. This is what Cern expects his audience to experience, “Nothingness or a calm empty void inside would be a perfect achievement and a relief from all the noise around. When everything is so important, everyone has an opinion or a statement - having an empty head may feel like a blessing”. Cern’s artworks articulate the dictum of ‘simplicity is genius’. The artist, well versed with the two mediums of expression - installation and photography - may simplistically produce and execute the work to lend final form and shape to it. Yet, it does not intend to compromise his reflection on the not-so-simple realities set in motion to waver humankind.