• Steven Heller

Ritual Artifacts

Leonid Tsvetkov‘s installation, “Transfer”, explores “notions of consumption,” history and production of ritual artifacts by expanding Tsvetkov’s earlier explorations of history and material culture in Rome. In this new work, the artist shifts the focus to the religious and bodily artifact, as employed in everyday life or what could be called street icons.

This second exhibition at Ex-Elettrofinica follows “Downfall”, an artwork conceived and developed during the artist’s residency at the American Academy in Rome in 2012-2013. “Downfall” explored the impact of waste on social and physical landscapes. After field research and a collaborative process in Testaccio — a popular neighborhood in Rome and home to the biggest waste site of antiquity — “Downfall” presented an exhibition displayed at the AAR.

In this exhibition, casts of contemporary household packaging waste were integrated with the existing spolia in the front atrium of the Academy, inviting contemplation and dialogue through their counter-positioning. A second phase of the project forged a wider relationship to the city scape and the historical sites of Rome by distributing the casts among dozens of historically significant sites of the city. Positioned so that they appear to belong among the ruins, the installation of the objects was designed to attract the gaze of the wondering tourists and to provoke Roman viewers to experience a double-take when coming across these in-place/out-of-place objects.

Following on “Downfall,” the exhibition “Disturbances” was conceived as a site-specific installation of column-like architectural elements, composed by stacked consumer waste casts and exhibited as the artist’s first solo show at the Ex Elettrofonica Gallery. Evoking classical architectural elements, drum columns and totems, the columns intervened in the architectural space, offering a striking commentary on our current “triumph” over nature, as encapsulated by our ability to control and mass produce products from every available resource.

With “Transfer,” Tsvetkov follows these earlier explorations by engaging anatomical ex-voto practice. The request for divine intervention by means of a votive offering, an ancient as well as a contemporary ritual, is juxtaposed in “Transfer” with the contemporary desire for a constant upgrade of the consumer object – from everyday use technology and electronics to the remaking of the body itself.

“Artifacts presented in the exhibition are once again packaging casts; this time, however, the casts are of products related to the body: products, tools, and anatomical models used for study in medical school,” writes Tsvetkov, “The assemblage of these casts in the context of the gallery draws parallels with iconology of ideograms, text and code with hidden meaning and purpose, referencing the aspirational and instrumental character of textualized communication. The body is always fluctuating between a fragmented entity and an apparent whole, a phenomenon that is equally applicable to texts. The etymology of the word ‘metaphor’ (from the Greek metapherein, to transfer) is translated into the title of the exhibition.”

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