The Leap and the Fall

Three seconds can mean the difference between life and death.

The leap and the fall.

Leap into the Void, After Three Seconds (2004) is Romanian artist Ciprian Muresan’s remake of Yves Klein’s Saut dans le vide (1960). Muresan’s exhibition is on now until April 7 at the Vancouver Contemporary Art Gallery.

Space fascinated Klein. This French painter literally jumped into the void so he could feel what it was like and translate this vision to the viewer. Completely uninhibited, arms outstretched, back reverse-arched, he flies into that middle space of the street. Open, empty, pregnant with possibility.

To paint space, I owe it to myself to go there, to that very space… without illusions or tricks, nor with a plane or a parachute or a rocket ship: [the painter of space] must go there by his own means, with an independent individual force, in a word, he must be capable of levitation. – Journal du Dimanche,” November 27, 1960.

Even though he says “without illusions or tricks,” the image is a photomontage. Klein fell onto an outstretched tarpaulin which was then replaced with a shot of the street.

Journal du Dimanche, 1960. “Theatre of the Void.” “A man in space!”

In his remake, Muresan removes the optimism of Klein’s photograph and depicts the reality after three seconds. What goes up must come down. Klein is flat on his face, dead in a Cluj street. Muresan’s rendition shows disillusionment with the idea of liberation. His work speaks out of the context of the Romanian Revolution of 1989 that resulted in over a thousand civilian deaths before overthrowing the Communist government and executing head of state Nicolae Ceausescu.

In an interview I was reading at the Contemporary Art Gallery that provides more details of Muresan’s work, he said this photograph is also a commentary on how there is no space for art in Romania. He used the present tense, which intrigued me because he lives and works as an artist in Romania.

Although Muresan’s installations are set in this specific socio-political context, I found myself making other, more general interpretations.

I had a recent conversation with a friend who said, “Sometimes you need to jump off that cliff.” (This was in the context of taking risks – whether it be with a career, relationship, or otherwise). I gave a quick laugh, a little shocked at the drastic imagery.

This is the type of picture that came to mind. This is the fear:

“Leap into the Void, After Three Seconds” by Ciprian Muresan. 2004.

Perhaps sensing how I interpreted it, she followed up with, “and you won’t die. You will land somewhere.”

I was oddly encouraged by these words. You’ll leap and you’ll eventually find that space where you feel like you’re flying, not falling. This is the hope:

“Le saut dans le vide” by Yves Klein. 1960.

Muresan briefly puts aside postmodernism’s theatricality and gets powerfully real with the viewer in Protesting Against Myself (2011).

This video installation stages a puppet show from inside a garbage bin on a Romanian street where the marionette gives a list of reasons why he’s protesting against himself. In the last shot, the camera pans past the marionette into the depths of the garbage can where Ciprian Muresan himself is sitting, speaking directly into the camera.

I’m protesting against myself because I keep hiding in a bin whilst everything gets taken away from me.

His figurative mask comes off and the viewer senses the puppet show was simply the warm-up to say everything he needed to say before he could say what he really wanted to say. His words take him out of hiding.

Muresan’s installations are all so interconnected. On the topic of garbage bins, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention his other fascinating piece in the same exhibition room.

Recycled Playground (2011) by Ciprian Muresan. Photograph by David Gagnebin-de Bons.

Recycled Playground (2011) was inspired by a rusting train the artist walked by daily in an abandoned park. He reuses five life-sized plastic garbage cans and links them together to create a modern day train set. But the idea of childhood play is jaded. Here is consumer culture going around and around. Here is homogeneity. Here is a metaphor for our lives. Have we become stuck circling the same track because we’ve forgotten what it is to create, what it is to break from the mechanical rhythm, pop out of the garbage can Jack-in-the-box style,


and leap!                                                                                                          into the void