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Conditio Inhumana

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Conditio Inhumana

Building C, I. floor, outside the Graphic Cabinet - 12 January 2019 - 3 February 2019

As a follow up to last year’s initiative, a new pop-up exhibition opens in the Hungarian National Gallery showcasing works from representatives of the youngest and middle generation of Hungarian contemporary art.

Following the concept of the previous exhibition, visitors can experience the works of six artists that reflect upon the material of the actual temporary exhibitions. However, the pop-up exhibition is not intended as an homage, nor can it be seen as a mere complementary of the closing main exhibition.

The pop-up exhibition entitled Conditio Inhumana can be interpreted from various perspectives as an antithesis to the Bacon, Freud, and the Painting of the School of London exhibition. Against the grain of the suggestive presence of the frail, imperfect and bare human existence portrayed by Freud and his circle, the contemporary artists provide an antipode that does not offer us the chance of identification or the recognition of ourselves. Aside from the obvious associations, the exhibited works do not display hybrid objects or posthuman plastics as subversive bodily images against the instinctive organisms of the paintings of the School of London. Rather, they provide a futuristic vision of a perfectly rationalised and optimised world based on calculable processes – a vision that is in fact less of our future but or contemporary reality. Apart from its philosophical layers, the title of the exhibition refers to this context.

Franz Rosenzweig claims in a famous quote that “God and man is to be taken together” – if this statement (which claim has already been challenged at the time of the School of London) is seen from a different angle, then the exhibition could be conceptualised as an initiation into the secrets of a secondary creation. The human being has practically disappeared from these works, but they are not merely documenting the passive traces of a lost humanity, but rather displaying the products of active human interference and conscious creation. Beyond the different approach to the dichotomy of creation and being created, these contemporary artworks can be seen as the inverses of that of the School of London in terms of their essential approach and creative program manifesting in their expressive characteristics: instead of representing the effects of society on human beings and their bodies, they highlight the very impact of humanity upon society and the biosphere.

The contemporary positions focusing on the relationship between humanity, technology and nature address in various ways the paradox that by being severed from their organic roots, certain processes, constellations become mechanical, systematised, ordered, and thus contribute to the dehumanisation of human life and environment.

 

The exhibition – evoking a bizarre trade expo – greets the visitor with portraits of larger-than-life fowls able to be seen from a distance. The type of – seemingly ordinary – poultry captured on the photos, the Novogen White Light is an almost entirely man-made creature, the top achievement of contemporary biochemistry and gene technology, engineered not for consumption but for pharmaceutical purposes. In his three-stage project, Daniel Szalai investigated the industrial cultivation of this specific bird in the Novogen Corporation’s center in France. In the series of portraits taken by Szalai the chicken features not so much as a mere medium of a question addressing the relationship between human beings and nature, but rather as a fundamental metaphor of our human condition. This exhibition displays material from each of the three sections of Szalai’s project: the unique chicken portraits on the central wall, with adjacent shots documenting the industrial surroundings supplemented with the company’s marketing and instructional materials.

The idea of perfection belonging to the realm of the aesthetic rather than that of the mechanical or technological developments is represented in the exhibition by the approach of Ádám Szabó. With the confrontation of the organic and mechanical dimensions, his work addresses the ambivalent relationship between the aesthetic and the functional domain. As a part of his project, he conducted an experiment along the lines of plastic surgery: he replaced the damaged, over-ripened or rotting pieces of various fruits with that of healthy ones. The exhibited images of the many-layered project predicts that the implanted parts do not become flavorful or merge with the host body meaning that the decay can be prevented only by bigger and bigger replacements resulting in the disappearance of the original fruit. With the experiment of creating the ideotypical fruit, Szabó reflects upon the tyranny of beauty and perfection inherent in our contemporary consumer societies as well as on the impossibility of our attempts to create something perfect.

An exciting example for the interplay of form, function, and the aesthetic is the work of Péter Tamás Halász. His light-box, which is based on a system of kaleidoscopic reflections evokes a forest, whose elements, endowed with bizarre aesthetics, however draw from the real, material, and natural world. The cultured, well-yielding types of trees with high heat-value are planted on specific plantations with the explicit aim of cutting and exploitation. Halász abstracts this real function of energy expenditure in the form of heat into incandescent, sematic trees and places them behind a black and reflective glass surface resembling a flat screen of a TV or computer. Light plays an important role not just as the abstract allegory of heat, but – as artificial light – it functions as an obvious foundation of the exhibition itself as well as the primary medium of the human environment and alludes to the light pollution transmitted by our electronical communication devices.

Resembling the images taken in the chicken factories, we can see another example of the technical sublimity and extreme functionality in the work of Zsolt Molnár. Molnár’s artwork evokes suprematist picture installations but takes an actual agricultural machinery as its origin. The metal construction surrounding the collage obtains its own role as well: it traces, practically simulates the operation of the represented agricultural instrument. As a kind of memento, the abstract, geometrical vestige of the plant protective device draws attention to the increasingly invisible and decreasingly identifiable efficiency-enhancing processes that lurk behind the end products of agriculture with the improvement of which humanity attempts to protect nature from nature itself.

The lean, machinic aesthetic manifests itself in its purest and most frightening form in the abstract work of Márk Fridvalszki. Its effect originates not so much from its form of expression but rather from the underlying concept, to the realisation of which the author utilises the means of abstraction. The reason for this is that Fridvalszki draws his motives from military industry, the peculiar design of machines and weaponry – that branch of technological industry which represents the absolute forefront and most intensively resource-heavy part of human development. The function-oriented strange forms of the aerodynamically perfect surfaces and the peculiar camouflage colors displayed on the interlacing nine-part collage highlight the tension between the image of the aestheticised, clean, and perfect machine and that of the destruction resulted from its usage.

Similarly to Szalai, Kitti Gosztola erects a monument for one of humankind’s most fateful technical achievement. In contrast to the series of portraits, the aim behind her work is not archival but indeed monumental. Dedicated to the world’s fossil fuel production, the 3D print installed to an aluminum structure with its lyrical tone stands out from the other exhibited material and at the same time this is the only artwork that – deliberately – depicts an anthropomorphic creature. Standing on top of a chimney, the perfectly proportioned male figure of Vulcanus representing the Hellenistic idea of perfection declares – with the proper amount of irony – the greatness of the godlike human being and its dominance over (and rightful exploitation of) the elements of nature, but the graphic chart held in his hand suggests that it is simultaneously the monument of the impending doom. By clashing the antique ideas of nature with that of the dystopic present, Gosztola places the relationship between humankind and nature into historical context and presents it on a civilizational scale.

 

Exhibiting artists: Márk FRIDVALSZKI, Kitti GOSZTOLA, Tamás Péter HALÁSZ, Zsolt MOLNÁR, Ádám SZABÓ, Dániel SZALAI

Curator: Lili HORVÁTH

Conditio Inhumana

12 January 2019 - 3 February 2019

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