Collective imaginary as result of natural selection
Three journalists held hostage in Iraq by masked men. An undernourished girl struggling for her life under the desirous gaze of a vulture in famine ridden Sudan. A young man holding a gun, with his other hand up in the air pointing an accusing finger to the sky. What makes an image last? Is it their aesthetic quality or their perennial message that inscribe them in the collective imaginary? And where exactly do they last? Is there such a thing as collective memory?
Cătălin Rulea explores these questions in a series of drawings, three canvases and one plasticine ensemble, inviting the viewer to remember, recollect, and reconsider her subject position while gazing at images that are deemed to be iconic.
In the age of snapchat, instagram, and social media, are there any images that become more significant and worthy of being remembered than others? Today, the very material support of images is absent, but its disappearance marks in fact the omnipresence of the images in our imaginary that is constantly informed by the pixels of ubiquitous screens. There is no escape from images, and texts themselves become images on a screens. We witness today the revenge of Baroque on the age of Gutenberg.
The artist invites the viewer to explore individual and collective memory, and to decide if the images selected and artistically recreated are present in the collective imaginary. In other words, we are asked to evaluate the relationship between memory and imaginary: while memory passively stocks everything, the imaginary selects those pieces that are individually and collectively significant in order to be an active cultural icon. The difference between “oh, I remember that” and “oh, I know that” is what operates the selection of an image and its upgrading from collective memory to collective imaginary. It is a perpetual process that informs and reforms the (visual) culture. This begs the question: who chooses?
Most of us knew the iconic messages from screens. The recreation of pixelated images in three different media, the solidification of the immaterial icons, adds yet another layer of significations.