Behind the Scenes with Octavian Esanu
I ran into Octavian Esanu, international art expert and artist, in the staircase of Firestone Library, Princeton, and told him about UpRightDown. A couple of days later we received his image series, entitled UNTITLED which delighted us all.
I met Octavian a couple of days ago and we talked about life and craft.
LEE BERMAN: UNTITLED is funny, freaky, and beautiful. How’d you come up with the idea of using images form the Bodies exhibit to tell the story?
OCTAVIAN ESANU: The idea was delivered to me by Google. Trying to find a “character” that would express or emphasize the main (nodal) points of the first episode of your plot, I made a few searches using Google Image. I don’t remember what I was thinking at that moment, but I guess the search involved something to do with death–perhaps “corpus” or “body.” Google’s algorithm (for some reasons known only to the CEOs of this enterprise) pushed the images from the Bodies exhibition to the top of the page.
LEE BERMAN: 2. Have you used your art for narrative purposes before? I.e., have you ever told a story through images in such a straightforward way? Can you talk about the process of making UNTITLED?
OCTAVIAN ESANU: I have used images for narrative purposes, but never images of bodies.
Regarding the process of making UNTITLED: I’ve heard controversial opinions about the Body show, but before working on UNTITLED I had not bothered to take a closer look at this subject. In the process I did some research and came to realize how problematic this form of entertainment and education was. Many of these bodies have been smuggled (without their or their relatives’ prior consent) into the West. Some of these bodies have been bought and brought from ex-Soviet republics (Russia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan), others from China. At some point I reached a moment of doubt; I was not even sure whether it was morally defensible to use or to exploit these anonymous bodies once again. Well, I decided to finish the project but promised to myself that in the future I would return to and engage more seriously with this controversial theme.
LEE BERMAN: Name three artists that inspire your work.
OCTAVIAN ESANU: I’ll name only one, I hope you don’t mind; he is a friend of mine who goes by the name Mark Verlan.
LEE BERMAN: If you had to take ONE book with you would take with you to a desert island, what would it be?
OCTAVIAN ESANU: Frankly if this were to happen I would rather prefer to have no books there, only some plain white paper, if this were possible. Or to get a lot of books whose ink had been washed out by the water.
LEE BERMAN: If you had to take ONE work of art you would take with you to a desert island, what would it be?
OCTAVIAN ESANU: Why would I need a work of art on a desert island? But if I suddenly needed one I think I could just make one from the locally available materials.
LEE BERMAN: If you had to take ONE web site with you would take with you to a desert island, what would it be?
OCTAVIAN ESANU: weather.com
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