One Cut to Insert a Future into a Past

Zsolt Asztalos came up with an intriguing proposition last fall at Victoria Art Center in Bucharest. He displayed a table with books severed in two, writing in his statement, “Each historical memory is waiting to be conceived by the future, so that a reality is formed.” He titled this work My Story—My Version/Library (2015–2016). Enjoy.


Cătălin Burcea, The First and the Last Step

Catalin Burcea, The First and the Last Step, seen at Victoria Art Center in Bucharest
Cătălin Burcea, The First and Last Step, at Victoria Art Center in Bucharest

I visited the new exhibition at Victoria Art Center yesterday, and, while I liked all the pieces, I was quite impressed with one of them in particular, Cătălin Burcea’s The First and The Last Step (Primul și ultimul pas, in Romanian).

The work consists of four segments of charred wood laid upon a narrow bed of sand. First things first: why four pieces and a single log? The parts may be a reference, perhaps, to the four nucleotide bases of a DNA strand, or, alternatively, to the idea of steps—considered separately from the first and the last step mentioned in the title. Moving on, it’s easy to see why these pieces of wood, passed through fire, a step before returning to the earth as ashes, is the last step (and you can see in the detail below how chips of it are already coming loose and taking that road). But how is it the first step? Maybe the fire that consumes us is a spiritual moment that allows us to be born. Maybe we’re already charred wood when we’re born (the old idea of birth as the first step towards death). I feel it’s this second idea, tied to birth, that gives this piece its oomph. The idea that with every breath we take we die a little—just as a light breeze will eat at this charred log.

Here’s a detail.

Catalin Burcea, The First and the Last Step (detail), installation at Victoria Art Center
Cătălin Burcea, The First and the Last Step (detail)