Forsaken Utopias – English
Each of the landscapes with architecture presented in this exhibition –paintings, drawings, photographs and films –tells its own story. The artists are aware that these landscapes acquire concrete meanings by way of the presentation in the respective works.
In these landscapes one often finds ruins and abandoned architecture. Ruins situated in nature have inspired many artists: they help to visualize the inescapable passage of time and remind one of one’s own fugacity; they provide a space to be filled with one’s own memories, one’s own meanings. In the widest sense, ruins are also a symbol of destruction and collapse.
The exposition also presents landscapes with architecture that reflect the everyday use it is put to and its transformation throughout time. One also discovers what remains unchanged by the course of time. It is architecture that becomes a metaphor of the overlapping layers of history and the different narrations that form it, as these are variously underlined or concealed by these constructions, sometimes uncovering meanings more enlightening than the history of political events.
Moni K. Huber (Salzburg, 1969) presents a series of “painting-collages” showing hotels and leisure installations on the Croatian coast; these were built by prestigious architects in the sixties and seventies of the twentieth century, at a time when tourism started to turn into a mass phenomenon. Today, all the remains are ruins. It was opulent architecture and renowned specialists had been charged with the interior decoration. It turned into a kind of show-case to exhibit the qualities of the “open socialism” that Yugoslavia presented itself with to the world. Since these buildings were the summer holiday location of many Central European families they form part of the collective memory. During the war in Yugoslavia many of them were changed into improvised refugee accommodation and later abandoned. The singular pictorial technique Moni K. Huber employs –based on fragments of photographs and water colour stuck to the canvas –in some sense guides the viewer’s eye that, once the painting has been contemplated as a whole, comes to rest at each of the little fragments as if they were paintings in their own right, as well as parts of a larger painting. Amongst these fragments attached to the canvas one finds photographs of very concrete architectonic details or densifications of paint that outline contours and turn into fields of colour. Furthermore, there are fragments of water colour on paper that illuminate the sky or bathe an object in light as if it was the reflection of the sun; all this achieves the effect of an almost impressionistic atmosphere, as if it was an instantaneous vision, a representation made up of fragments, like the fragments forming human memory.
The different versions of the beautiful baths building of Balokány to the southeast of the city of Pécs –of which today only ruins remain- could also be defined as impressionistic. In the exposition Csaba Nemes (Budapest, 1966) also presents the series of drawings Számozott utcák (literally “numbered streets”) of a previous industrial colony in a suburb of the city of Miskolc.
Számozott utcák is formed by small houses where many Romani families live. Today many of these families are forced to abandon what were their homes during many years. Jointly with these the artists presents the film Györgytelep that reproduces an interview with an old mine worker in Pécs by means of drawings. This mine worker explains that in the mining colony a large part of the workers were Romani , among other poor people, performed the hardest tasks and received the lowest pay. Today the mines have been abandoned, but these Romani families ,among other poor families, keep on living in the colony. Later on other Romani families came and settled in the area, so that it more or less became a Roma colony.The dialogue of the interview explains how the relationship with the Romani families was not conflict-ridden and it uncovers that these still live in conditions of extreme poverty.
In both works the artist approaches the reality of the life od the Romani, the largest ethnic minority in Hungary today. During the socialist regime, by way of a policy of “integration”, many Romani children entered school. Similarly, many of the traditional employments of adult Romani- ambulant activities such a scrap dealer, grinder or smith –were gradually abandoned. What also has to be said is that by the process of “integration” the very own language ant traditions were suppressed. With the fall of socialism “integration” came to be covered up by today’s situation with the total neglect this group has come to suffer under recent governments. In today’s Hungarian society the Romani are quite generally perceived to be dangerous, lazyand aggressive people. Csaba Nemes confronts the viewer with how prejudice comes to be built up and become socially accepted consensus. The drawing on paper and in the film –that turn it into type of animated movie- are of energetic and vibrant stroke. At times they are characterized by the power of the colour the artist applies in some places in order to capture the details. All of them show landscapes full of expressiveness where the viewer comes to guess the extremely poor conditions of life that unfolds in this scenery of degraded architecture.
Of the works of Andrea Kalinová (Bratislava, 1980) this exposition presents the series of photographs Hot Modern taken in a Slovakian spa, one of the many one finds in the region. The wider public probably knows some of the history of these spas, like the one in Piešťany: it was built at the time of the Habsburgs and visited by the most distinguished European aristocracy of the day. With the fall of the empire many of these bathing resorts were nationalized and the socialist regime turned them into centres of public health. Today, many of these bathing resorts have been privatized and refashioned as spas: the constructions that were built attending to the collectivist needs favoured by the regime were changed in part, but there also remain areas that maintain the original structure. With a rigorous sense of objectivity Kalinovás camera focuses on the cement constructions, monolithic and grandiloquent as seen from the exterior, and contrasting with the warmth of the details and the heart-warming “Gemütlichkeit” of the furniture and the mood of the interior.
Avoiding capricious angles of vision in order to give preference to frontal views with images of even light and extreme depth of field, the artist rescues anonymous scenes or details of this architecture that has remained unchanged throughout much time, as if time had stopped, and this all results in very balanced, classical and beautiful photographic compositions.
All this architecture is witness to a time irrevocably past or, on the contrary, it reflects the untouchable essence of time. Some of it had been projected as real paradigm of modernity and from today’s perspective represents the failure of a utopia that intended a better world.
Finally, one has to ask oneself up to what point these landscapes –all of them located in Central Europe- have an aesthetic meaning in the strictest sense. The Castillan writer Julio Llamazares says that –such as there is a native language that teaches how to name things- there also exists a native landscape. For whoever considers these landscapes to be their own it is difficult to be rid of the subjective impression they generate, an impression that yields the illusion of a past time that –perhaps- was a better time.
Translated by Heinrich Blechner
Catalog FORSAKEN UTOPIAS ( Budapest Galéria, Budapest / Slovak Union of Visual Arts/Slovenská Vytvarná Únia, Bratislava / Galerie Knoll, Gans Galerie, Vienna September 2017-January 2018)