Half - Space
25. January 2002. - 24. February
A World Enclosed in a Sphere
Thoughts in connection with a work by Attila Csörgő entitled Fél-tér [Half-Space]
Why do I like the works of Attila Csörgő? It is a poetic question, to which I could give a very personal answer: because my children like them too. I know it is not an acceptable argument, as the present essay is not written to be published in a mother and baby magazine's column about "how clever my kids are" or "what books to buy for children". But in the course of receiving Csörgő's works at an elementary level the childhood instincts hiding in all of us are induced, such as curiosity, playfulness or being happy about a surprise. His works also remind me of the physics experiments at grammar school the aim or sense of which was not always clear for me, but I was always enthralled by their spectacular nature. (However, I must point it out that I would not like to be classed in the group of human intellectuals who regularly make a display of their irrevocable indisposition with respect to mathematics and their failures in connection with it. I find a sine-cosine function more relevant than the operating mechanism of a vacuum cleaner for example, not to mention understanding the double centrifugal dust collecting system of the revolutionary Dyson-type vacuum cleaner without a dust-bag.)
In the era of technical over-development it is definitely imposing when somebody thinks over the general questions of the history of physics - although it is generally not regarded as art. In the first moment Csörgő's installation entitled How to design an orange? (1993-94) recalls a demonstration in the equipment store in the course of which a balloon, a sphere, can be kept up in the air or moved up and down by regulating hot air coming through a point, produced with a miniature steam engine. But the artist only used the technology here: what he was really interested in was the movement of the sphere-like bodies produced from flat surfaces in the air stream erupting from the ventilator. The "sphere-aberrations" constructed on the basis of spiral orange peel or connecting other regular plane figures - this is just as hopeless as trying to "square" a circle - were jumping, revolving in different ways and sometimes they fell down to the annoyance of the museum attendants and to the greatest pleasure of the children. Similarly, Ferde víz [Leaning Water] (1995) and its further version Maelström project (1995) also use a phenomenon well known from practice, in the course of which due to gravitation the horizontal surface of a glass (or bucket) of water becomes diagonal as a result of turning it around fast. In the first case only the photograph documenting the phenomenon can be seen: two glasses next to each other, with leaning water in them. The picture is so astonishing and is so much contradictory to all our experience trained in the horizontal-vertical co-ordinate system that it takes us a while to find a rational explanation to the disintegration of the accustomed system. Maelström project is based on this technique: on the flat surface of the liquid material (oil) poured in an aluminium vessel a whirl is created as a result of rotation. However, Csörgő takes a further step again: he is interested in the continuous changing of the mirror images that can be seen in the arch of the parabola. In only a few minutes the viewers can experience that their images grow huge and they can also experience what it is like to be swallowed by a whirl as if they fell down a gorge.
The artist is not only interested in the mechanical principles, but also in perfect plane or space geometrical figures or bodies and their relationship (engagement) with each other. The triangle/tetrahedral pyramid, square/cube, rhombus/octahedron conversions do not only appear in the work Három test [Three Bodies] (1993), but also in the project Plátói szerelem [Platonic Love] (1997) moved with a difficult mobile structure. In the latter one two tetrahedral pyramids placed opposite each other, marked with wooden sticks on their edges start "moving" towards each other until they finally unite in the form of a cube. Obviously innumerable confused and irregular stages, which seem to be disordered from outside, are also created between the two states - and as a final step, paradoxically a notion connected to inaccessibility and unfulfilledness is realised. All this gives a special charm to the fact that the name of Plato - according to the author's primary intention - is included in the title, because he was the one who first described and defined the five regular bodies that can be found in nature and can be surrounded with a sphere.
After all this it cannot be an accident that in most of his works Csörgő deals with the most perfect configuration: the sphere. In the line of virtual objects created as a result of rotation and light the work entitled Rotation-symmetric body/Glass (1992), produced by rotating two fixed screws can be regarded (why not?) a prefiguration. The mobile entitled Félgömb [Hemisphere] (1996) is based on two similar circular motions driven by an engine, rotated around an axle: the light bulbs at the two ends of the stick move up and down in a widening and narrowing path as a result of the fast rotating movement, it seems as if they changed place. However, the arch of the path unavoidably reminds the viewer of the shape of an imaginary hemisphere. The mobile entitled Gömb-örvény [Sphere-Whirl] (1999) is moved on the basis of a similar principle, but in this case the light source "produces" the magic light sphere floating above the earth starting from a point-like state.
After introducing this long history of life-work finally we have got to out original topic: to Csörgő Attila's work entitle Fél-tér [Half-Space], which was earlier exhibited in the exhibition room of the Budapest Gallery in Lajos utca, and which can be seen in Pelikán Gallery until 2nd June. I found it important to introduce the antecedents, because I think that all the artist's previous works are summarised in this work of art and a new, unbelievably exciting world is built up on their basis. He keeps the technique based on rotational motion, but it is slowed down, he carries on with his very precise, engineer-like elaboration, but the virtual sphere becomes real and the emphasis is now placed on the optical-mechanical principle of photography, the tool that so far he used for documentation or for showing elements invisible to the naked eye.
So much so that the artist has invented and constructed a picture creation device, a moving photographic camera. This device and the images created with it can be seen at the exhibition. The basis of the imaging device is a special, slowly moving camera that - let's say - progresses spirally and transfers the 360 degree scene of the outside world onto the transparent hemisphere to be found in the insides of the machine. Changing the speed of exposure is regulated by an electric motor, a bicycle speedometer and, of course, by the continuous interventions of the artist - the latter is necessary because the light conditions continuously change during outside exposures. After the developing and fixing of the emulsion on the internal sphere surface, the original (unique) exhibition black and white picture is created. The spectacle appearing on the 1800 cm2 hemisphere "models" the fictive field of vision that we could see, if we stood on one spot, and freed of our restricted angle of view, and took in the view surrounding us as a universe appearing as a hemisphere all at one time.
[ pic01] • [ pic02]
Just like archaic cultures, children are inclined to sense the world as a combination of a plane and a hemispherical cone tipped onto it. This is how in fairy tales (in a land far, far away) you can hang your legs over the side, and this is why those miniature transparent domes with snow falling in them onto father Christmas standing in the middle are so successful. While in this latter case we peek into a tiny cosmos, Csörgő's photographs makes us carry out a strange viewpoint change. As on the bottom-lit works standing on the small podium - which remind you most of "lampshades" - you observe something from the outside the original of which surrounds you. (The elementary desire to stick you head in and look around from the inside, is impossible not due to the practical solution, but because we would be unable to accept the picture with our eyes.) From the outside, from the half-space in this way we can still only sense details: the wood groups surrounding the horizon, the stiffening beams of an unknown steel hall, twisting stairs or the sign in a shop window. A secretive world enclosed in a sphere.