THE MANIFEST BODY
by Silvia PREVITI
original text in Italian
"The body (its gestures) is a complete writing, a system of signs that represent and translate the infinite search for the Other."
"The function of the artist in a disturbed society is to develop awareness of the universe, ask the right questions, and elevate the mind."
When the body becomes a business card, a screen, a cover, and when it conforms to the stereotypes of superficiality and pop culture, it becomes much more difficult to create art, to make profound and political reflections.
A beautiful body remains just that in the mind of those who only want to see and not to feel or listen.
Alexandra Mas takes on this mission, exorcising through her own body the prejudices and conflicts of those who only see the surface. She wants to captivate those who do not want to listen to those who, through their body, have much more to say than just a simple exhibition.
This operation may seem outdated or already seen in artists such as Marina Abramovich or Gina Pane, who made their body a canvas, a shell, and an object of their artistic elaboration; however, in this day and age, Alexandra Mas's body takes on an even denser meaning. Hers is a body that can perform, transform, and wear clothes that speak of other possible worlds or worlds to be avoided.
A free woman's body.
Emphasizing gender becomes necessary today as we live in a time that is indeed modern, but seems to struggle and make extreme efforts to reaffirm that acquired freedom every day. A historical period in which women see their rights called into question, which seemed to be taken for granted, such as abortion. A period in which Iranian women are killed for not wearing a veil, followed by violent protests and revolts that fortunately have international resonance.
This complex, dark, and at the same time vibrant period is a context to keep in mind to understand how Alexandra Mas's artistic research work is inserted today.
Of Russian and Hungarian origin, Alexandra Mas was born into a family persecuted under the communist dictatorship. As a child, she understood what freedom meant in the mountains of Transylvania, where she could spend time shielded from the regime's politics and, at the same time, built and assimilated her own imaginary world of memories and connections with nature, silence, and material poverty, far from the increasingly globalized and consumerist society we experience today.
Nature becomes for her a welcoming and saving force, part of her blood and inspiring mother. Drawing serves primarily a way to reconnect with her thoughts, to make the negative ones disappear and stimulate an extremely sensitive and creative interiority. It is the automatic drawing, as she defines it, that will become a constantly present and therapeutic expressive means, from which references related to the natural world inevitably emerge, like seeds scattered along the creative path, among tangles of lines and floating shapes.
The first works that Mas created when she was very young are dark and tormented. They are the years when her body begins to develop, to become adult and incredibly statuesque. Thanks to sculptor Serban Cretoiu, a family friend, she is supported and encouraged to pursue art studies, seeing her innate talent and amazing dedication even as a very young girl.
With her move to Paris, Alexandra Mas experiences life in a large European city where art, but also fashion, increasingly fascinate her. During her studies, she takes up modeling, which gives her financial freedom and allows her time to dedicate herself to creating her works. She becomes accustomed to people's eyes, and begins to become aware of her exteriority and the consciousness of a body that is extremely disruptive and "visible" to others.
Mas initially devotes herself to drawing, painting, and engraving, expressing and searching for her own way by experimenting with line and colour, expressionism and strong symbolism, interpretation of the dream world and representation of universal emotions. When she begins to approach the art market, proposing the sale of her works, she is confronted with the hypocrisy and prejudices of some. Her works are worthy of interest and artistic value until the buyers discover that the author, is also a model: the easy conclusion, therefore, is that she cannot be a true artist. A deaf and deeply sexist blow is inflicted on Alexandra Mas, who decides that if she wants to have credibility in the art world, she will necessarily have to stop modeling, betting everything and risking both her careers.
This is how her interior research begins, considering her modeling body not as an impediment on the path of an artist but as a catalyst to express her poetic sensitivity with total and authentic feeling. Meanwhile, from the 2000s, Mas begins to experiment with performance. She starts with her automatic drawing but now realised in public: with "Infinite Drawing" in an Amsterdam night club, she projects the live creation of her work, which, in the darkness and lights of the venue, gives life to a visual and instant representation, thus shaping her thoughts publicly.
Lea VERGINE, a great Italian art critic who recently passed away, pioneered the exploration of "The Other Half of the Avant-Garde," or all those women artists who were sidelined during the first half of the 20th century due to a male-centered historicization, thus rewriting a second history of art of that century. Vergine then strongly addressed female personalities who have dealt with Body Art and performance, defining them as "experimental girls who have marked their skin with the urgent testimony through their artwork, revealing their torments and relying on the artifice of memory."
Alexandra Mas could be inserted into this group, with the difference that her ultimate goal emerges not in a disturbing, scandalous, or provocative sense but in a constructive and positive sense, to awaken consciences through an art that becomes political, civil, activist, for a more just society that looks at spirituality as a common good.
But her causes, which are impatiently waiting to be transcribed more and more into art forms, focus on issues related to her mother earth: the nature of the whole planet, which has increasingly become endangered due to destructive human activities. Alexandra Mas has preserved the free and virgin spirit of her Transylvanian mountains from any artificial abuse, and she claims it by interpreting it in her ecological causes, starting in 2012 to find resonance in galleries that begin to understand her necessity in her artistic work. ( the short film Time God will be selected for the COP 27 in 2022 - so one decade after its creation and 9 years after its first screening at the Bortone Gallery, rue de Seine, Paris)
She then arrives at body art, experimenting with body painting and later will work alongside Marco Tassini, a photographer and director who since 2016 has been documenting and translating Mas's works into photos and videos.
"Mystic Lands" from 2017 is a visual symbiosis that perhaps most represents the artist's indissoluble bond with nature. A kind of mimesis between the human body and the earth that is realized through material transformation and that translates even more evidently in the almost spiritual and dramatic interpretation of Mas.
In 2017, she entered the sacred spaces of art, bringing the performance "Mental Stereo" to the Centre Pompidou, interpreting the texts collected by Franck Leibovici while blindfolded, digging at a personal level and condemning the events that marked her family, victims of the communist era and of injustices present in the Western world in general.
The ultimate goal, therefore, of Alexandra Mas's performative work is gaining more and more strength and motivation in the reasons related to her origin: the performance dares, it is free from the rules that block the unconscious and therefore the body becomes a means of communication. The artist becomes a modern mystic who brings to light the latent tensions of politics and society, and at the same time, calls for the poetics of the reappropriation of spirituality, a common good supplanted by the apparent ecstasy of the modern consumeristic world and utilitarian ends.
The decisive encounter between Alexandra Mas and Peter HOPKINS - founder of the SHIM Art artistic network - took place in 2019. Together, they gave life to SHIM ECO ARTIVISM, an open-source platform to share information and works focused on climate change, the environment, and social justice, in order to raise awareness and inspire change.
The first SHIM ECO event, held in New York, brought together a hundred artists with five curators and was published in 2021 on Artsy, the world's largest e-commerce art platform. Thus, her commitment as an activist, or rather as an "artivist," was born, making herself the voice and interpreter in the first person as an artist, curator and art director of events to denounce the consequences of the environmental impact of human activities.
"NO - an ugly story" is the performance through which Alexandra Mas consecrates herself: she walks the streets wearing a dress made of plastic scraps designed with the students of IFA Paris. With a mask to hide her identity and a 9-meter train made of plastic bottles, containers, and waste, Mas embodies a monster suffocated by human waste that impresses the audience in Venice during the 2019 Biennale and at Aqua Art Miami in the same year, like a nightmare. A performance with a show also takes place on the stage of the Venice Carnival in Piazza San Marco in February 2020, with Marina Prando's dance school and Freddy CLARKE's notes of "Make Earth Cool Again" by Robert Trent JONES Jr, composed for her act.
With "Be the Change" of 2022 proposed in Paris and then in Venice, action painting is supported by the projection of the video "NO II". With a black paint pour, Alexandra evokes the pollution of the seas by suggestively reproducing the oil stains where desperately and energetically, the author brings out the words "be the change," a silent but impactful scream, an exhortation to the public to be the change to make a difference and change the fate of the planet.
In this artistic journey, Alexandra Mas evolves and amazes without ever wanting to scandalize or provoke. Her dialogue becomes increasingly self-aware and, therefore, more sincere and authentic with the audience of her performances. She reveals her histrionic and unsuspectedly theatrical side in her introspective, at times biographical, investigation, which has allowed her to unveil, through her works, pages of her imaginary personal diary that then become a manifesto of a conflicting tension towards a collective universe.
However, her research has nothing to do with destructive or self-injurious anguish, like many performers who have already brought to the public violence and mere pornography of pain. Alexandra Mas has this great merit: she wants to bring her battles through an art that hits but does not alienate. She leaves a mark without being disturbing, enchants but does not sugarcoat, goes straight to the point. Her beauty is all-encompassing, just like her true and spontaneous sensitivity, as are her stories and the origin of her creations.
Aqua ART MIAMI 2022
The performance presented at Aqua Art Miami, is titled "Exquisite Code," where once again her body was the protagonist. This time, the focus is on the world of communication and contemporary art, which is increasingly digitized and technological, and is becoming more and more invisible to the outside world, confined within our electronic devices.
The audience will see her body as a sort of digital avatar, life, offered for interaction, photographed but also rendered in 3D, then ideally covered in NFTokens and transformed into a live Body Gallery. The work has presented QR codes, portals to this virtual gallery.
The actual act of creation will involve the use of QR codes that will link to an artwork, an art studio, a gallery, or a website, serving as a virtual gateway cascading towards other works of art.
This piece reflects on how complex concepts can be reduced to hashtags or QR codes without definitive judgments. It simplifies reality, which has also affected contemporary art, with the creation of platforms or virtual galleries that are increasingly accessible but at the same time less geared towards poetic and aesthetic investigation, a fundamental aspect of a totalising approach to art.