The Museum and the Avant-Garde – New Acquisitions in the Ludwig Museum | The Cliff Top of Space – A Show by Gábor Erdélyi | The Decelerator | A Free Room – A Show by Pavla Sceranková, Ádám Szabó, and Dušan Zahoranský | Between Ideology and Identity – An International Show
Gábor Rieder: The Museum and the Avant-Garde – New Acquisitions in the Ludwig Museum
Communism never happened, says the inscription with glistening letters cut out from popular propaganda vinyl discs of the Ceauşescu era by a contemporary Romanian artist Ciprian Mureşan. Editing a neo-Marxist journal nowadays, the artist is telling his Western comrades that we in the East, too, are aware of the difference between „real” Communism fighting for beautiful ideas and the Ceauşescu period that was immersed in blood and nationalism. Hearing this, both the grey-haired Western professor with a 1968 rebellious past and today’s female student majoring in cultural anthropology heave a sigh of relief: thank God, people of all quarters are aware of the way of the world.
What strikes our eyes first is the canonisation of the Neo-Avantgarde; part of the new canon now is suddenly the entire East-European Avantgarde whether conceptual, experimental, or busy searching for itself, whether in a bad mood or overly self-conscious, whether working in black-and-white photography or dreaming its fantasies gasping for fresh air. The photographic sequences of Dóra Mauer analysing God knows what, the „pseudo-manifesto” of Gyula Pauer accompanied by two genuine and two cardboard cobblestones, the film depicting Endre Tót grinning in Geneva, Ilona Keserű’s broken eggshells put carefully in a box, and the disturbing portraits made by András Baranyay – they all are part of the new Hungarian canon.
What is intended is an imaginary gluing together of the Neo-Avantgarde ending in the early eighties with the Neo-Conceptual art of the nineties, never mind the virulent New Painting movement caught in-between. Photographs are thus glued to photographs, installations to installations, forgetting painfully commercial paintings altogether. This is how one can arrive at a convincing narrative of a progressive conceptual trend extending over several decades.
Threads are tied together quite consciously by the pair Kis Varsó (Little Warsaw) for example. In their various projects there is a tendency to look for old Avantgarde masters, giving them their due, or at least referring to them. In their short video acquired recently by the Ludwig Museum they interview their own former teacher Zsigmond Károlyi, pasting it to cuts taken from a film made once by Gábor Bódy of the young Károlyi. Both personages smoke their cigarettes and scratch their noses with the same fervour, but Károlyi as a young man is full of fiery faith and energy while Károlyi as an old man is bitter and bogged down by his experiences. He has little sympathy for his young Avantgarde self. „I drank, I chased girls, I taught, and sometimes I made something, too.” By „something” he means works of art.
Pretty disillusioning, this statement, one that puts a sizable question mark over the entire museological adventure of purchasing and canonising the dusty pieces of the Hungarian Neo-Avantgarde. Not that this is the passion of the Ludwig Museum alone; for the last hundred years the Avantgarde has suffered more or less the same fate; the experimental arts, once put into museums, tend to lose a lot of their vigour while undoubtedly reaching many more viewers. Take e.g. the exciting actions of Judit Kele carried out during the seventies, documented in a series of photographs recently acquired by the Museum. First, she had advertised herself in the papers as a person wishing to get married, and then she auctioned herself in Paris posing as a work of art. (She later abandoned the arts which can be construed as another stand on the worth and canonisation of Avantgarde art.)
Professional interpretations notwithstanding, the Ludwig Museum has compiled quite a decent stock of contemporary pieces. It is hard to withstand the delights Gyula Várnai’s installation offers with its trembling street-spectacles, sharp as etchings, recently exhibited in the Ernst Museum, projected onto the walls and accompanied by traffic noises and bird twitter. Similarly poetic is an old computer work by Tamás Waliczky presenting a toddler in a sphere perspective.
Invited by the Museum, Czech artist Kateřina Šeda ran a social project across Mirror Hill in Törökbálint which involved residents drawing their neighbours’ houses with the best entry earning its author a family trip to Florida. The pair named Technica Schweiz took pictures of people preserving the traditions of the 1848 revolution; Gergő Kovách sculpted monumental figures out of cardboard; and Mathias Megyeri cast small figurines of rabbits and penguins with which to replace the spearheads on cast iron fences.
The Romanian contribution is rather depressing with its inevitable video shots taken from the prosecution video of the Ceauşescus; Hungarian Neo-Avantgarde is somewhat boring (for Hungarians); and the most recent works are fresh and entertaining – hopefully not just for the next few years.
5 March – 15 May
The Cliff Top of Space – A Show by Gábor Erdélyi
21 March – 1 May
With their looming edges, Gábor Erdélyi’s recent pictures seem to create some Baroque effects of Minimal Art. It is the edges rather than the centres that become sensuous. It is as if Jackson Pollock would climb out onto the edges. Frames do not isolate and protect as demanded by Ed Reinhard; on the contrary, they break loose so that Art, i.e. plastic painting can come forth.
18 March – 2 April
Videospace Budapest Gallery
The Decelerator is a resource intended to demonstrate how we can perceive slow-motion Time amid an accelerating advance of technological progress. Eight American and European video artists come together in this show to the accompaniment of music specifically composed by Alexander Hacke, musician of the legendary Einstürzende Neubauten group. The show is simultaneously on in Berlin (Sur la Montagne), New York (AllanNederpelt) and Budapest (Videospace).
A Free Room – A Show by Pavla Sceranková, Ádám Szabó, and Dušan Zahoranský
18 March – 15 April
All three participating Eastern-European artists employ real and virtual space in similar ways by using both traditional and new technologies. With her installation of a room corner, Sceranková demonstrates how uncertain we can feel even in our intimate spheres by presenting in her installation e.g. a sliced-up armchair to be sitting in. Ádám Szabó’s TV monitors arise from hand-made Indian carpets and locally made tin boxes. Zahoranský’s photographs manipulate reality by their additions that are perceived as more natural than the settings he photographed to start with.
Between Ideology and Identity – An International Show
21 March – 5 April
Put on in Tallinn previously, the show intends to illustrate the tensions of the interplay between nationalist ideologies and national identities in East-European countries where efforts to establish new democratic sentiments can lean back on extremely sparse democratic traditions.