Gergely László and Collective Man | Márffy and Csinszka – Márffy’s Painting in the Interwar Period | Portraits from Asakusa – A Show by Hiroh Kikai | Urban Woods – A Show by Ádám Szabó
Gábor Rieder: Gergely László and Collective Man
Artists sometimes want to transform into reporters. Or documentary filmmakers. Maybe anthropologists. Although lacking the skills of any of those callings, they are prone to execute an interdisciplinary project purely on the strength of their creativity and the revelatory force of visual logic. Curators then tend to allow the product into the whitewashed space of a gallery where the product usually fails to take off.
Such ambitious enterprises usually transcribe recent social science discoveries with little value added. Investigative journalism is OK in a newspaper or the sociology reader, a documentary film is OK in a festival screening room. The great exception being, of course, the exhibition of Gergely László woven around the theme of Collective Man in Ernst Museum. It is hardly surprising that the young artist has conquered the Budapest art scene coming from outside the domain of Art.
Rather than drawing on sociology readers, Gergely László has run his exciting project along family lines. His project includes everything from documentary film to photo archive, from cultural anthropology to social science, from memory research to oral history, from crisis reporting to theatrical performance, etc. The framework is the history of Yad Hanna kibbutz in Israel founded by a few young Hungarian Holocaust-survivors. The settlement along the frontier of Israel and the West Bank was once the best-known Communist kibbutz in Israel. Its inhabitants had originally founded their collectivist paradise between a turnip field and a telegraph pole.
Based on common property and common responsibility, a flourishing mini-community had arisen in the wilderness, one that had set out to realise the ideals of „Collective Man” irrespective of the failure of that ideal in the Soviet kolkhoz movement. From the documents lined up at the exhibition it becomes clear that rather than being a mere ideal, this was the actual state-of-affairs at some point in history, soon obliterated by the passage of time and rough geopolitics.
With the Soviet Union taking the side of the Arabs rather than Israel in the 60s, the kibbutzniks were forced to give up their gratitude towards the Red Army, the force that had liberated them from the Nazis. On the other hand, Capitalism, too, had become a problem for them over time. Although drawing some subsidy from the state of Israel, due to bad investments the kibbutz became bankrupt in the late 80s. Privatisation had to be adopted, in came the migrant workers, and fences marking private property were also put up in a land that had been communally owned at the start. Nor was it easy to put up with the fierce Jewish nationalism of new settlers moving into the plots put up for sale.
Some recent changes also appear in the documents. We hear youngsters deploring wire fences and also the elderly reminiscing about the good old times, we encounter the migrant workers from Thailand and the refugees from Darfur who work the avocado plantations run by a corporation. We can see the heavy machinery working obediently in the fields, and also the basketball-court covered by weeds, and the demolition of the old community shed, and the pretty new houses.
In the style of Purim sketches, Gergely László had prepared a short theatrical piece on the theme of the communal life. The dialogues supply a sad but informative parable about the communal experiment that can fail even with some extra potatoes given as „surplus income” on top of the general quota. The artist presents the props, too, with pictures of the telegraph pole, the monument with the red star, and the original cabins once never locked. It is with this theatrical interlude that the exhibition extends over the boundaries of mere social science. Documents here are associated with human symbols and narratives one can easily identify with.
6 November – 31 December
Márffy and Csinszka – Márffy’s Painting in the Interwar Period
20 November – 24 April, 2011
Villa Vaszary – Balatonfüred
Founding member of the Group of Eight, one of the most brilliant of the Hungarian „Fauves”, Ödön Márffy is represented here with some of his works painted at the peak of his popularity, i.e. the 1920s and 1930s, i.e. with works marked by a vibrant application of highly decorative contemporary French painting.
Portraits from Asakusa – A Show by Hiroh Kikai
18 November – 16 December
Born in Yamagata, Japan as the son of a farmer, Hiroh Kikai first studied philosophy, then he worked on a fishing trawler, drove lorries, and worked as a factory hand. It was in 1969 that under the influence of Diane Arbus he ventured into photography, and in 1973 he started to make his long series of portrait photographs in Tokyo’s Asakusa district noted for its traditional Japanese comedies and also its sex industry.
Urban Woods – A Show by Ádám Szabó
17 November – 10 December
Young artist Ádám Szabó has directed his noted humour towards timber for several years now. In his series Plastic Surgery he corrected the „faults” of a forest, then in 2006 he presented some tree-trunks made of steel-plates and corrugated iron or cast in bronze. Now he presents some „inverted trees”, i.e. hollow trunks and rings of timber trimmed on their outside but with their bark intact inside.