Interview in the Pump Room
17. February 2006. -
Opening: 16. February 2006 at 18:00
In the 51st Venice Biennale of 2005, Hungary was represented by Balázs Kicsiny, with a suite of five distinct, loosely connected-and related-works: An Experiment in Navigation. The ritle, spiritual in meaning and complex in metaphor, alludes to cultural and artistic positioning, to a search for the self and for identity. The current series of exhibitions include the installations created for the Venice Biennale, complemented by a new video and by new paintings, in new venues, in Hungary and in the United States.
In New York, Janos Gat Gallery presents Exact Time, an install at ion of dual video projections of The Cobbler's Apprentice and Interview at the Pump Room, 2005, and thirty works on paper, some of which were made as studies for the installations of An Experiment in Navigation, and others that elaborate on them.
As Marcia Vetrocq wrote in her review of the Venice Biennale in the September 2005 issue of Art in America, "A preoccupation with the voyage and a reference to Venice's Hapsburgian interlude characterize the imposing works presented in the pavilion of Hungary, the other great landlocked enrity that emerged from the AustroHungarian Empire. The video- and assemblage-based arr in Balázs Kicsiny's 'An Experiment in Navigation' offers sufficiently strong images and absurdist humor to offset their well-wom Magrittean Surrealism. Two cassock-wearing mannequins, with fencing masks containing light bulbs where their heads should be, comprise Winterreise (Winter Joumey), 2005, named for Schubert's 24-song setting of Wilhelm Muller's poetry.
The dynamically posed clerics face opposite directions on the same pa ir of outlandishly long skis, with 17t century cross staffs (navigating too Is that look like exotic crucifixes) inverted and useless in their hands, and two tram power poles connecting their headgear to electric wires strung above."
In Balázs Kicsiny's iconography, the cassocks, the light bulb, and the trolley pole are the attributes of certainty; the navigational tool, the cross stick, and the skis stand for ambiguity and doubt; while the fencing mask means ready defense. "In The Cobbler's Apprentice (2005)," wrote Marcia Vetrocq, "a vertiginous video projected on the floor...a Dali meets Hitchcock timepiece with oversized Roman numerals rotates counterclockwise. Veiled women in black and white, like a nefarious chamber ensemble, occupy workbenches; the 'apprentice' creeps around the perimeter; and a prone figure, identified as the Wandering Jew, replaces the hands of the clock with his own limbs and walking stick. In Kicsiny's realm, progress is thwarted, time runs backward and travel is not liberty but damnarion."
Balázs Kicsiny's concem is orientation: the finding of physical and spiritual place. Obsessed by the contingency of time and space, in his new paintings Kicsiny reintroduces his basic motives: dia Is, anchors, and chains. His atdent characters in work clothes, firemen, undertakers, travelers, divers, and fencers, are either cha in headed, or sport beehives-his symbol for "home." A few hold the same strange insttument in their hand as the characters in the Winterreise: the so-called "cross stick" or "Jakob's stick," the pre-sexton used by sailors of old.
The exhibition continues at the Hungarian Cultural Center, NY, with the monumental Winterreise. Schubert's song-cycle starts with the line: "I came a stranger and leave a stranger." The motion of the backto-back figures straining in opposite directions expresses constant transition, rather than athletic dynamism. The work, a metaphor of contrariness, is based on the paradox of conquered space. It refers to facing future and past in a world of constant changes. It questions directions, right and wrong, good and bad - the basic values that were once a given: the very pattern for orientation. The loss of relative coordinates results in lost individual will: of the certainty of the self.
The exhibition at the Museum Kiscell / Municipal Picture Gallery is entitled Interview at the Pump Room. The main space is taken over by a large-scale installation of Pump Room, 2005, in which twelve pajama-clad, rubber-booted male and female figures drink from chalices, wearing diving helmets. The work relates to the precarious existence of Venice, a town erected on water but surviving for centuries without sinking-yet. The situation is implausible: no one can drink under water, especially in diving helmets. To appear in pajamas in public puts one at the merev of that public. This is an installation of paradoxes and metaphors, of awareness and dreams, of social and individual existence, of water and air: of duality.
Kicsiny's new video, Interview in the Pump Room, was made during the international conference "Inclusive Europe" in Budapest. Ministers of Culture from various countries of the European Union were being interviewed by journalists among the figures of Pump Room-in a temporary installation at the Palace of the Arts-and Balázs Kicsiny documented this unlikely event... white in the other projected video, The Cobbler's Apprentice, the one-eyed old mail in the used suit leans over as if listening to music, his stick lying next to him on the floor. He is the cobbler of legend, Ahasverus, who mocked Jesus by not allowing him to rest on his bench. For this, he has to wander until the end of time, until the Last Judgment. Veiled like widows and wielding hammers at the numbers of the dial, female cobblers display inverted shoes mounted on shoetrees between their thighs. At the perimeter of the dial, the barefooted cobbler's apprentice crawls counterclockwise, against time. When he passes a cobbler woman, she hammers on the sole, keep ing time.