How does an artistic anti-aesthetic manifest itself in the sense of a critical distance from the art establishment that is not based on refusal and renunciation in the tradition of a (post-) punk? If punk is understood within art as an attitude attitude that rejects the well-made, the beautiful, the goal-oriented, the means of expression left to it is the gesture of the gesture of rebellion, of angry expression, of the rejection of all overt and covert logic of exploitation demands on the work. the work. But can an anti-aesthetic also include subtle forms of art-critical expression? If one follows this it becomes clear why, of all things, references to fashion and pop culture open up a refined way to create works that are appealing in their form. to create works that are appealing in their form and thoroughly resistant. If we look at Stefan Cantante's works from this perspective the works of Stefan Cantante, one recognizes that he uses textile and pop-cultural references to undermine a practice of creating in favor of a humorous, affect-based artistic language. More specifically. keywords kink, cuteness, meme culture, fashion - closely related to the image culture of a post-internet generation - which provide clues to Stefan's very own approach to symbolic language and objects.
Although Stefan does not see his work within the genre of painting, he approaches the genre with printmaking techniques, assemblages and Fabric paintings to the genre. His latest series of paintings consists of found images that have been transferred with transfer printing on a canvas. The painting title Shocked dog reacting to metronome (2021), describes dryly-humorously the motifs of the painterly work: a sweet puppy look is interrupted by a metronome in the foreground of the picture. The scenery of the picture could also be taken from a dog video that has gone viral. Another object in the same series depicts Pippi Longstocking riding the horse Little Uncle. Stefan's media references within his work work invoke the content that surrounds him, that appeals to him, and that informs his viewing of images. He is less interested in an iconographic chain of art historical references for the purpose of an academic way of painting. His works enter into elective affinities, seeking their own world of references within their own system of values in order to free themselves from the categories of art history. In this sense, I quote Stefan's 2018 work Emergency Exit Improvisation II: "Break the chain of the fuckups, of the fathers." In the doorstop series, which repeatedly made its way into Stefan's exhibition practice from 2014 to 2016, his self-sufficient artistic objects can be experienced spatially. The doorstops become part of the spatial architecture, fulfilling their functional purpose and holding the door open for the exhibition visitor in variously designed appearances. Stefan seems to play through the ways and means of creating and presenting the artistic doorstop. doorstop 9 (I wish I never see it perform) from 2016, imitates the neighboring fire extinguisher. doorstop improvisation 2 (2015), fulfills its function with a reduced arrangement of materials; two wooden slats and a rubber glove filled with clay suffice for the balancing act. rubber glove for the balancing act with door. Yet the doorstops seem to be about more than an intervention in the conventional interior design. The sentence transferred to the wall "If what I have is what you need" completes the installation doorstop 9 (I wish I never see it perform). And the question is raised, who is speaking to whom at this point? Artistic works are functionalized as doorstops, step out of their object role, play in their creatureliness directly with the expectations and emotions of the viewers. play directly with the expectations and emotions of the viewer or relate to other objects or pictorial motifs. or pictorial motifs. They seem self-sufficient, independent in this setting, as their agency is expanded - the doorstops can be many things, but they do not remain passive.
"David, the cop" is the title of Stefan's solo exhibition, which took place at Antwerp's Café Strange. In addition to a series of Works, a performative reading by the artist complemented the exhibition. Two drag queens from Antwerp and Ghent were invited to perform with Stefan. With the question of how subculture and art business can influence each other, he deals in this context not without criticism. For he does not want to appropriate a safe space like Café Strange, a place of retreat for those who want to take and maintain it, for the purpose of capital creation and self-marketing. A conflict, it seems, that all artists with an identity beyond the heteronormative white majority society must carry around with them - regardless of whether or not it is thematically negotiated within the individual works. So what about the possibilities and limits of a critical distance to the art business? Forms of aesthetic resistance, whether rebellious or humorous, are subject to a structurally determined set of rules. Radical resistance through the role of outsider is only given to those who pay a corresponding price of structural disadvantage for it. Stefan Cantante seems to be aware of these circumstances, because he renounces a performative rebellion within the framework of his art.
Text: Yana Tsegay