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Sunday 3 April 2011

Outpost – Critical Spaces @ Trafó House of Contemporary Arts, Budapest

Review by Adam Harangozó

Stepping into the exhibition, it’s immediately evident why it is called Critical Spaces. It is in a small room, and all the exhibited items are visible from the entrance. In its resemblance to a warehouse, there is a feeling of almost post-apocalyptic desolation. But in Outpost it’s not the actual spaces that are important, rather the extended or shortened, and fictional ones, created by the exhibited items. Slovakian and Hungarian artists interpret the critical spaces of their region.

From the outside Stealth – First Form 3 by Péter Tamás Halász and Gyula Domián looks like a stealth aircraft made of polyethylene foil, but inside the living space with pillows and blanket shows that it is in fact a homeless shelter. The possible interpretations are created by the oppositions of the work: dissonances of inside and outside, material and function. One method of maintaining the illusion of advance is to turn a blind eye on the serious social problems - to set them to stealth mode. Huge amounts of money are spent using high-technology to cover problems, under which there is the disillusioning, low-tech reality. The installation almost cuts the exhibition space in half, making sure that the act of being stealth can only be seen as ironic.

Péter Tamás Halász’s Light Tent is a metaphor for technical advance. We see two frames on the wall, two fluorescent tubes in each, and mirrors behind them. The tubes are extended by the mirror in an angle that creates a semicircular shape resembling a tent. It is a mirror of our society: we are surrounding ourselves with electronic assets, and we begun to use them to seclude ourselves from each other. Advance becomes cyclic; society is cut to individual pieces, everyone hiding in their own high-tech tent.

A corner of the room is separated by Tomáš Džadoň’s Super Flat. It is the front wall of a wooden house with an entrance leading to a small inner space. But this space is illusory: if someone steps through the door, the bricks of wood in the wall turn automatically inside out, the inner space becomes the outside of the house, thus entering becomes impossible; the concept of private space becomes meaningless. Being constantly on the outside exposed to possible surveillance is strongly reminiscent of a socialist atmosphere. Not only space, but the mere possibility of space is illusion: instead of real wood, the wall is made of polyurethane beams, as if it only would be a part of theatrical scenery.

Untitled by Ádám Kokesch builds upon the tension between real and fictional worlds. The installation is covered by a red wooden shell; the viewer has to bend down to get under it, an alienating effect. Under the shell there is a clear abstract, Mondrianlike ambiance. Besides the geometrical shapes, there is a small box illuminated from behind. Inside we can see a picture of a sunlit, spacious room of a house. Looking though this little hole, we can see another world, free of abstractions, not sheltered – as if in the effort of protecting our private, abstract notions, we are losing connection with the freedom of space.

In Outpost we see a composite of fictional spaces creating a loose atmosphere which we could call the post-socialist identity of Central European countries – but as with Critical Spaces, maybe this identity is also artistically constructed.

Outpost – Critical Spaces continues until 23 April at
Trafo House of Contemporary Arts, Budapest. For more information visit Trafo.

Image: Pavla Sceranková: Nyitva Zárva / Open Closed, video, 2008
Courtesty Trafo and the artist

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