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The Practice of Archi Galentz

Arrieregarde - Archi Galentz Searches for 21st Century Aesthetics



Mika Hannula

University of Gothenburg, 
Professor Artistic Research


Past Present Future – the Practice of Archi Galentz

What do we do when we do what we do? Well, some of us are going fshing, some of us go dancing in the streets and some of us even wake up every morning and start working as artists. The point however, in anything and whatever it is that you do, is always not what you do, but how you do it.

In case of the artist Archi Galentz, the question of how opens up a magnifcent route through a door where we able to focus on wide variety of signifcant issues and matters of his practice. A door as in the whole life-world, not life style, of an artist who with dedication chooses not to do one thing, but many, and many of them at the same time. And yes, the beauty of his practice is that it fows coherently together, making sense and sending out brilliant waves of emotions and motions.

But let us backtrack a bit. Who is Archi Galentz? This simple starting point helps us to lay down the basic coordinates. These are coordinates, which allow us to contextualize his acts and actions. In one clear sense, the life and times of Archi Galentz is truly in a mess. But more vitally, it is a very productive mess. A mess as in the multiple sites of conficts he daily fnds himself in and is good at facing with.

These are sites as in the inter-junction of where he comes from both in terms of family genealogy and geography. Galentz is always both-and, never either-or. He is Armenia-Russian, and he is living in Berlin where he also finished his studies. In this constant trampoline of East meets West, he is confronted with expectations and stereotypes that push and pull, help and hurt. As with the background, he carries with himself a bag that not so many of his artist colleges have. He is part of a long line of artists from both sides of the family. He is part of a tradition, but the main point is what kind of a tradition it is and how does he manages to keep a fresh and active take on it. From very early on, Galentz has decided that he is not one type of an artist, but someone who with dedication and commitment works with various means and in different felds ranging from painting to installation and photo to video. To make the matters even more complicated, he has also created a habit of acting as a curator.

To label Galentz as a renaissance man would do utter poetic injustice to his work. Instead, his practice is outmost practical in its core interest and aims. There is nothing fancy or highbrow with his practice. And no, he is defnitely not trendy, vulgar or opportunistic. On the contrary, what we fnd and witness is a very unusual strength of coherent commitment and trust on the long-term project of being an artist. What we fnd and what we witness is high sense and sensibility towards both materiality and visuality.

But what kind of a practice is it then? In connection to where he comes from and the constant  productive struggle of coming to terms with that, his practice is taking place in the stormy waters of the inter-connection between three times lines. It is a practice that becomes what it is in the unique way it deals and negotiates its way in the simultaneousness of being part of the past, the present and the future. There is always the entity called memory at play, but not as something closed-up, but as an activity of becoming something.

Because that it is what he does. He has the touch and he has the feel for where he comes from, where he currently is and where he wants to move towards as a person and as an artist. This is not straight a road or pretty path with a fabulous view. It is a very demanding and troubling set of multiple roads. Roads flled with emotional landmines and professional dead-ends. But they are roads that do not leave him with any other chance. He is what he is: he is a trying man. They are challenges called identity, locality, love and hope he has to and he defnitely wants to confront and deal with.

What am I talking about? It is a practice that is aware of the plurality of deeds and matters that leave a trace on him. He is not coming out of nowhere, but from somewhere specifc. The diffcult and also rewarding point is how he faces this vast past of being part of both Armenian and Russian heritage – and yes – to do it so that he has a clear view where he is coming from but he is not being captivated by it. Rather than taking too much of comfort in the past and the nostalgia it seems to offer, Galantz rebounds back with a revenge to the present tense with a number of credible and functioning moves.

And here exactly lies one of the main pressure cookers of his practice. It is the site, which at the same time helps and hurts, it soothes, and it screams. A site in which, one by one, and every day, to the hour on the hour, he has to solve the very practical puzzle of how to combine the past with the present. And to do it very well knowingly that he cannot and does not want to discard the past and the legacy of the traditions (in all its political, social and historical complexity) but wants to have a live and kicking relation to them. In other words, this is the site where his long-term commitment means that he is actively looking for ways to re-visit, maintain and to re-evaluate the means and ideas from the past – ideas that are still valid and worth pursuing for.

It is a practice that is only possible if and when these two time lines of past and present are continuously in touch and in effect with the third part in the whole complicated process, which the German philosopher Hans-Georg Gadamer has called the Wirkungsgeschichte. A term, which might cause fear and anxiety, but a term, which lets us focus on these three time aspects at the same time. Mind you, the idea is not to infate each of them into one cosmic entity. The idea, and the very idea within the core of the Archi Galentz’s practice is to generate sites and situations in which are these three affect one another in a productive and playful fashion. An act which is there to open up, to mix the bag and to jump out of the wide open window – but to jump land in a way that allows to you to get up and to do it again and again.

And yes, this awareness and dedication of staying put at the troublesome but fruitful crossroads is the very signifcant content of Galentz’s practice. A practice colored with warm self-irony that chooses to materialize in wide variety of forms and fashions, but which nevertheless always has the same driving force, same idea and same moment of being in the world. A positively constructed yet productively provocative practice that offers us means as ways of thinking who we are, where we are and how we are. This is, in short, a practice as in a production of works as vehicles of thoughts. An idea that is absolutely not new, not media sexy and not so well sellable. But yes, it is very potential, very credible and it is very pleasurable.

Berlin, September 2007