Ramiken Crucible presents The Management of Barbarism, a solo exhibition of sculpture and drawings by Andra Ursuta.
Ursuta is by birth a third world improviser, a Romanian village punk hijacking the furnishings of civilized capitalist living in order to stake out a survival-driven position that constantly shifts between the exotic and the criminal. Her sculptures are complex explorations of idiosyncratic strains of history and identity politics, mining their vulgar, paranoid, and morbid dimensions.
Ass to Mouth, a wooden stake dipped in iodine, is a Dark Age Modernist invocation of Vlad the Impaler, the infamously brutal Romanian ruler. The shaft of the stake is a scaled replica of Constantin Brancusi’s Endless Column (a tribute to Romanian soldiers who died fighting Germany in WWI). Ursuta coats the monument’s rhomboid modules in black rubber, transforming the stake into a beaded anal toy that eroticizes the act of impalement and defiles Brancusi’s modernist masterpiece.
Extinction Kit (Songs to Die For) comprises a coffin-shaped tent and a taped mix of Romanian folk songs culled from Youtube (with the exception of a few performed by Ursuta herself), played back on a portable tape player powered by a rudimentary potato battery. Extinction Kit touches on millennialism-driven survival schemes, acting both as an elegy to the loss of idiomatic cultures and their outdated expressions – and as an agent of their demise. Its theatrical fatalism resurfaces in Breath Hold (Discipline and Vanish), a noose tied to a cast plastic balloon that tackles the logistics of suicide, imagining an absurd but pragmatic device for postmortem self-disposal. The same pragmatism is applied to blasphemy in Speed Bag of Bread, in which iconic loaves of bread replace a punching bag.
When Father Passed Through Town on Business – A Dramatization, is a sculptural mockument commemorating the intrusion of unspecified nomads upon a settled culture signified by thousands of broken eggshells painted in a generic Eastern European folk art style. A cartoonish hybrid of display strategies referencing uncovered mass graves, archeological digs, national history museum dioramas and ad-hoc nationalist shrines that blur the line between folk and high art, the installation casts nation-founding myths as unresolved traumas hovering in an eternal present presided over by the end of history.
Andra Ursuta was born in 1979 in Salonta, a small town on the Romanian-Hungarian border distinguished by its Communist-era salami factory. She left Romania in 1997, graduated Columbia University in 2002, and currently lives and works in New York.