The Archive X (The Skin) is the multitude of universes bleeding into each other, both theoretically and practically. These meta-worlds interfere with and influence one another. They create a grinding sound that acts as the background music for collective transformation. This assemblage of various bodies and uneven topographies is a composition leading our way toward the big reveal of a yet-to-be-understood reality setting. It steps away from the Technic, right into the Magic. Yet it sometimes dances its way back to apathy where the weird and unearthly becomes the nihilism of the repeated, therefore manifests as normal. This new condition of matter is not constant, it is not a steady-state Eden, but rather the recurring, non-stoppable buzz. It thrives for the unknown new, it exists in the liminal. In this setting, it is only possible that ideas are no longer absolutes, but forces, and models for a new existence in the land of non-where. Or at least, that is the premise of such collective works. This is a confusing realm where we are still highly dependent on points of reference. Those are meant to be provided by the works. Here and now, the walk is long and our cane cracked open in the middle.
As we step in, we are confronted by the many ways our spatiotemporal perception is manipulated. A set of otherwise inanimate objects is set in motion. They move from dark to light, from the embodied to the unembodied, and from the real to the unreal, or surreal. Uncanny is the name of the game. Pixelated particles of a once shiny neon thermoplastic image cover all spaces. Like bright screens of cybernetic realism, they surround us. The exploded material’s fragments create a prismatic vision of memories and desires. The little broken pieces are artificial surfaces, they evoke a language system based on the need to destroy and rebuild. Remnants of sad ideas, and a cry for help echo from tight plastic wraps. These trapped confessions are sealed off, air-tight, and conserved as proof for once-existing cultures. Pieces of clothing, leather straps, spikes, and chains along with a letter prove that before, all this existed in another reality, maybe on another timeline. The many shapes and forms of the same character appear on a stretched-out tissue. The filmy piece of fabric ends in a barrel filled with an unidentified gooey substance. The shapes depict the protagonist of our story, MCATBOY, as we learned. One half of a pair of Nike Jordans, bisected and then pieced back together, lies on the floor. Destroy and build again. Its placement is weird, both intimidating and yet negligent. Suddenly, a black penis with wings emerges from a dark pool. It is flaccid, or on its way to getting hard as it continuously squirts out black cum. Ouroboros—in other words, you cannot fuck without being fucked. This dreadful scene of never-ending repeated forced fuckery continues with two lost entities chasing each other. Their circular floating is anxious. They relentlessly pursue their desires through a conveyor belt’s monotonous, repetitive motion.
What it is to escape into new realms? What it is to put your feet on unknown soil? Stepping in and out, my steps getting louder. The noise is being birthed out of a bleak void. Escape & Embrace.
But why do we erect these monuments of our abstract feelings and fears? Why do we tend to depict these sentiments as otherworldly creatures? Why do we (re-)create gothic stories? Are these ghosts there to haunt us or for us? Do ghosts look like ghosts in fairy tales, or is it just the human at work again trying to give meaning to and make visible everything that’s beyond reason? Does the new gothic create “real-life”, corporeal situations or stay in the form of the paralyzed representation of those occurrences? This is the body politic of our utopia. It is the visual imagery and aesthetic against the trauma which is rooted in our locality, culture, and political history, both past, and present. In this wild vision, we find that all bodies are present, and all bodies have agency. As Mark Fisher puts it, the gothic designates the flatline where everything happens. Flatline is the Other Side, a continuum that envelopes death and life. It is a site for identity production. And it is this rich world that enables us to map out the horrors of capitalism, and contemporary politics. This nurturing soil of our fantasies empowers and makes us relentless. It sets up the conditions for becoming the Eastern European demon whisperer. This hoarding of living and non-living matter can render our fears physical. Eventually, the myriad of substances, the abundance of trash and leftover that surrounds us, as material traces of late capitalism, used as tools to manifest these utopias, creates schizophrenia.
Schizophrenia in terms of contemporary art is about the loss of ability to distinguish one idea from another, the real from the unreal, the object from the subject, or one work from another. The art world now, or to be more precise, that part of the art world that aspire to evoke these horror stories, also creates its simulacra. As we tried to reconstruct a new image from the ruins of late capitalism, we sustained its existence. This anti-logic of resistance created co-dependence between the artist and capitalism. The fact that the art world is closely tied to capitalism is no news, however, these new gothic tendencies in contemporary art, especially in Eastern Europe should be understood differently. In the western, neoliberal context, the focus of the artist is shifted toward the now trivial discourses of the Anthropocene, postcolonialism, or identity. The gothic is more pleasing to artists from around eastern Europe because of its ability to depict alternative mythologies of the past as a coping mechanism for present traumas. It yearns to reject many concepts, and structures of the existing art world, the position of the artist, and the artwork itself as a commodity. It is in some ways engaging in a fight against the hierarchy and obsolete constructs imposed on us by default. Instead of presenting its artifacts in the purity of gallery spaces, it rather goes into voluntary exile and turns towards the dirty, ruined, and abandoned landscapes. Instead of supporting the image of the genius, artists dissolve – in the best possible sense- in collectives and shared practices and identities. Instead of polishing precious materials, it embraces the trash, it (re-)uses the leftover, and it creates precarious matters.
At this moment, it’s worth winding back to The Archive x (The Skin). Let’s take another look at this cabinet of curiosities and make an effort to understand it in its local (art) context. What these flashes of memories, clashes, and desires are actually about? Under the edgy cover, we could see many interesting correlations of subject matter. The Archive is the project of the Hollow art collective (Gyula Muskovits, Tamás Páll, and Viktor Szeri). Their collaborative project tackles the notion of worlding and becoming. The world is not a being anymore, but a doing. This new materialist approach allows them to break up with the conventional temporality and ways of being to connect the subject with its environment. They give birth to new identities through speculative fabulation and live-action role-playing methods. For this iteration of their project The Archive x (The Skin) they collaborated with quite a diverse group of artists; Csenge Vass, a conceptual textile, costume, and visual designer, Lőrinc Borsos (Lilla Lőrinc, János Borsos, artist duo) whose hybrid identity seem to have dissolved and fragmented in the process to find their mythology. Those fragments are now channeled into new configurations, despite still sharing the same language. In addition, they worked with Eszter Nagy and Előd Janky (Előd Janky and Lilla Lőrinc form the Ppillovv duo). Hollow also collaborated with musicians András Molnár and Tamás Marquetant.
It seems like, they aimed to create shared mythology together, which—at the moment—is quite fragile. Maybe it lacks the mutual history or reference point, but these stories and characters when seen in their entirety, reveal that they exist beside and not with one another, and this may be my main concern here. Nevertheless, The Archive x (The Skin) did a great job at showcasing the possible trajectories and tendencies of the 21st Century’s new gothic in its local Hungarian and Eastern European context by exhibiting the most prominent artists of this emerging discourse. Let’s hope that in the future, new actors will also be given space, and will appear on the horizon of this rhizomatic structure so that it can truly be a constantly changing and renewing entity.