S a c r i f I c e

The video SacrifIce originated in a performance by the artist. A beautiful, transparent head of an elderly man dissolves. The form cast in ice gradually, almost imperceptibly, disappears. The bearded face bears the serenely contemplative traits of an ancient philosopher. The facial traits dissolve, melt, and transform into a trickle of water caught in a bowl. Panta rhei: everything flows. It is tempting to believe that this must be a metaphor referring to Heraclitus. Yet nothing could be further from the truth. For what we see is actually a self-portrait of the artist Mihai Topescu, whose theme is one of transformation. The SacrifIce video shows a transformation by means of symbolic sacrifice to the point of self-abandonment of the subject. This is art that is not merely commentary, but something profoundly existential, imaging constant change and becoming. What it addresses is ultimately the conditio humana – an issue that Topescu has long explored. 

After studying at the University of Art and Design in Cluj (Romania) he devoted himself to glass art, albeit mainly in non-traditional ways, adopting an approach more akin to that of a sculptor: grinding and polishing what he had formed out of massive blocks. He then explored the symbiosis of glass with metal, and later with wood, creating sculptures that had a weighty, tectonic feel. Later, around the mid-90s, he moved away from this earthbound weightiness and turned once more to working with glass, whose transparent figurativeness transposes forms and feelings into spiritual realms in which the diaphanous corporeality of the glass suddenly became weightless.

The artist’s video SacrifIce takes this process of dematerialisation, the minimalist concentration and incorporeality one step beyond. It captures the process of the melting ice sculpture in digital form – rapidly accelerated and condensed. Through this concession to our modern, fast-paced perceptions, Mihai Topescu proves to be very much a child of our time.

Panta rhei – far too fastl! We become witnesses to disappearance within an accelerated reality. And yet, something enduring remains: the video is accompanied by a numbered edition of 50 flacons containing the meltwater from the original happening. But does it really have any permanence in this form, or is it merely heading towards its next metamorphosis into something entirely new? It seems to offer the possibility of halting the moment of transformation or even of grasping it, and thereby participating in what is to some extent a spiritual process. SacrifIce shows – as Heraclitus did – the processual and contradictory, yet inextricably linked, relationship between being, becoming and fading away.


Luminita Sabau

(translated by Ishbel Flett)