RAZREŠENJE U NEPOZNATIM VODAMA / UNFOLD IN UNKNOWN WATERS

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Lili Ag i Veronika Romhani / Lili Agg & Veronika Romhány

kustoskinja/curated by: Žofija Kokai / Zsófia Kókai

24.2 – 19.3.2022.

***ENGLISH VERSION BELOW***


 

Za početak, da li nam možete reći kako je došlo do saradnje iz koje je proistekla ova izložba? Da li biste mogle da nam kažete više i o vašem zajedničkom kreativnom procesu?

Lili Ag: Saradnje postaju za mene sve važnije i tražim prilike da radim sa drugim umetnicima, delom zbog razmene znanja, zajedničkog razmišljanja, uzajamne inspiracije, a delom zato što je umetnički stav koji saradnja iziskuje mnogo bliži onome što želim da predstavljam. Kada je ovaj projekat u pitanju, stvari su se odvijale sasvim organski, letos smo pričale kako bi bilo sjajno da uradimo nešto zajedno, jer imamo slična interesovanja i više puta smo radile zajedno u okviru našeg umetničkog kolektiva i platforme MUTO. Za mene su Veronikina umetnost i stav uvek bili veoma inspirativni i osećala sam da različiti mediji u kojima radimo mogu da se nadopunjuju. Šta više, prijateljice smo, što može da olakša mnoge aspekte ovakvog kreativnog procesa. Tokom protekla tri meseca rad je postao prilično intenzivan, što bih mogla da opišem kao smenu zajedničkog planiranja, razmišljanja i individualnog stvaralaštva. Ako možemo da govorimo o osećaju nedostajanja, to je možda zato što Veronika i ja ne živimo u istoj zemlji, tako da smo retko bile u mogućnosti da fizički radimo zajedno. Zato je bilo od posebnog značaja što smo sve tri mogle da provedemo nekoliko dana u istom prostoru pre otvaranja da bismo zajednički dovršile instalaciju. I ovom prilikom mogu da se zahvalim Žofi za podršku koju pruža svojim kustoskim pristupom, koji je esencijalan za dalji razvoj projekta. Saradnju kustosa i umetnika odražava tekstualni rad kroz koji su Žofine misli integrisane u izložbu.

Veronika Romhani: Rekla bih da se saradnja desila prilično organski… Zajedno radimo/razmišljamo/sumnjamo već godinama u okviru našeg kolektiva MUTO. Društvene strukture i njihove anomalije su problemi neodvojivi od naših svakodnevnih života kao mladih umetničkih radnika, i postojanje ove „uradi-sam” zajednice je svojevrsna odluka, sama po sebi – jednostavno smo krenule ovim putem i eksperimentisale smo sa fuzijom naših praksi u jednom određenom izložbenom formatu. Najbolji način na koji bih mogla da opišem naš kreativni proces je da smo prvo zajednički oblikovale glavni koncept ili bolje rečeno, viziju izložbe, a zatim iterativno, nastavile da radimo na idejama. Nakon toga smo nastavile da razmenjujemo sadržaje koji su nastajali, tako da smo konstantno imale uvid u to kako druga razvija rad. Fizička udaljenost (i okolnosti sa kovidom) učinile su da ovaj iterativni metod postane onlajn. Rekla bih i da smo od samog početka imale neku vrstu dogovora da ćemo napraviti zaokret od „konceptualnog” ka „čulnom”.

Žofija Kokai: Takođe bih dodala da su nam vaš prostran i lep izložbeni prostor i dobar tajming vašeg otvorenog poziva pomogli da naše ideje pretočimo u ovu izložbu.

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Tema izložbe je utopija. Zašto ste bili zainteresovani da je istražite? Kakvu relevantnost ona ima za vas u kontekstu savremenih političkih i društvenih dešavanja?

V. R.: Kao što je već spomenuto, mogu reći da se svi slažemo da poziciju i funkciju umetnosti vidimo kao nešto između vizionarskog i seizmografskog u odnosu na društvo. Ovaj način razmišljanja nas je doveo, i još nas vodi, da brinemo ili da budemo svesni konteksta savremenih političkih i društvenih događaja ili okvira u kojima stvaramo. Zaista smatramo da nas današnja hiperpovezanost takođe povezuje na nivou složenih geopolitičkih, ekoloških pitanja i problema sa drugima (čak i ako to ne želimo) – i kada je u pitanju izražavanje empatije i brige. Postoji ogromna etička dilema – a ona ima mnogo veze sa utopijama uopšte – o tome koliko umetnička praksa/umetnički proizvod može/mora da bude društveno angažovan. Ako kažemo da umetnost treba da bude vizionarska i seizmografska, svoju praksu postavljamo kao udaljeniju, pasivniju, u smislu da ona samo „fidbekuje” sadašnjost; a na osnovu ove prakse kao analize: zamišlja budućnost. Ako pitaš za istraživanje, mislim da je ovaj gest povlačenja već način problematizovanja same utopije. Rekla bih da sama umetnička dela koja su nastala iz ovog stalnog procesa doslovno predstavljaju našu praksu i pozicioniranje kao umetničkih radnika: mi osećamo-procesuiramo-pružamo vizije, ali nikada ne naređujemo niti predlažemo.


U kojoj meri je ova tema u vezi sa temama kojima se bavite u svojim individualnim praksama i istraživanjima?

L. A.: Moje istraživanje se postepeno pomeralo sa kulturnih prostora zasnovanih na principu „uradi sam” ka mogućnostima reformisanja utopije. U mojim ličnim interesovanjima, recimo kada govorimo o književnosti i filmu, teme utopije i distopije su se nekako uvek iznova pojavljivale, a i kada se radi o temama mojih umetničkih dela, i one su se kretale u tom pravcu tokom poslednjih nekoliko godina. Shvatila sam da, pored često intuitivnog pristupa moje umetničke prakse, postoji i opipljiv, eksperimentalni deo mog istraživanja: na primer, galerija koju vode umetnici i koja postoji nekoliko godina ili čak decenija, može se posmatrati kao neka vrsta praktičnog eksperimenta utopije. Dakle, ostajući prvenstveno u okvirima kulture, upoznala sam se sa razmišljanjima savremenih mislilaca – Fišera, Lejstera, Berardija – o nedostatku vizije i problematičnoj prirodi koncepta utopije kao takve. Osećala sam da je naše razmišljanje o budućnosti okovano, što blokira našu sposobnost da odgovorimo na krize kao što su klimatske promene. Ovo ne samo da poziva na prilagodljivost, radikalnu akciju i promenu stava što je pre moguće, već isto tako dovodi u pitanje kapitalistički sistem orijentisan na rast i potrošnju. Neminovno je, dakle, redefinisanje pojma novog i budućnosti, jer je prinudna proizvodnja utopija očekivanje, proizvod postojećeg sistema, koji na ovaj način ne može da pruži rešenje. Razmišljanje o reformisanju utopije je neophodno, čak i ako se rešenja nalaze u sadašnjosti ili prošlosti.

U svom umetničkom radu oslanjam se na rezultate sopstvenih istraživanja, ali mislim da je važno naglasiti da ove instalacije nisu njihove ilustracije, već su više kao modeli napravljeni u različitim medijima. Da pojasnim: upotreba i komponovanje materijala realizuju unapred osmišljen sistem koji u određenim trenucima postaje autonoman. Smatram da je važno istaći „greške“ koje se tom prilikom  generišu, jer upravo kroz njih postaju vidljiva ili čak smislena skrivena pitanja i osećanja koja me se tiču.

Ž. K.: Na umetničku scenu sam stupila 2015. godine. Bilo je to vreme kada sam skoro kao autsajder započela studije u Budimpešti na programu Teorije savremene umetnosti i kustoske studije. Mislim da sam tada imala utopističku viziju o tome šta umetnost može da znači i čini za pojedinca ili za zajednice. Ovakav način razmišljanja skoro da je bio uništen tokom mojih studija, dok sam se direktno suočavala sa sistemom i njegovim kapacitetima i mogućnostima. Ali srećom, upoznala sam nezavisnu zajednicu, MUTO, i postala deo nje, na čemu sam veoma zahvalna. Ovu izložbu vidim kao prirodan način da razvijam svoja kustoska interesovanja, ali za mene je to samo polazište, jer sam tek na početku puta koji treba da sledim.

V. R.: I u mom slučaju, rekla bih, dosta… Kao dugogodišnji samorefleksivni umetnički istraživač, eksperimentišem u različitim vidovima saradnje sa drugim umetnicima – i to uglavnom radim pod imenom Nimova Projeckt(s) poslednjih godina. Ova umetnička praksa je neodvojiva od toga kako ja definišem ulogu samog umetnika. Bila sam pod dubokim uticajem studija kulture i teorije medija tokom studija, posebno Borisa Grojsa i Džulijana Stalabrasa, i to je u velikoj meri odredilo način na koji  vidim (medijsku) umetnost i njenu ulogu i funkciju u društvu. Ova internalizovana ili naučena osetljivost došla je zajedno sa ogromnim talasima kulturno-političkih promena u Mađarskoj 2013. godine – neposredno nakon što sam završila fakultet. Mogla sam odmah da zakoračim u glavne tokove savremene umetnosti, ali odjednom je postalo veliko pitanje ka čemu se tačno krećemo – u šta bismo zakoračili. Uz već postojeću kritiku (moju) prema kulturnoj industriji, a posebno prema mađarskoj sceni sa sopstvenim kompleksnostima i anomalijama koju je prouzrokovala veštačka i iznuđena dihotomija 2013, htela sam da viknem, osetila sam da sam u zamci; bila sam ljuta. Onda sam ponovo otkrila snagu u spekulativnoj naraciji, kao i nepouzdanost u dekonstrukcionizmu – a ovi događaji su takođe ojačali moju naklonost prema distopijskoj književnosti i filmovima. Za izložbu sam kao neku vrstu podrugljive šale, stvorila sam ličnost sa slovenskim imenom Vera Nimova (da bih ilustrovala zvaničnu kulturnu retoriku Mađarske koja je u to vreme bila izrazito antikomunistička i „umereno” antiruska) i koristila sam ovaj lik da kanališem sve sa čime se ja – kao pojedinac – izrazito ne slažem. Tako je samo umetničko delo postalo naracija nepouzdanog sadržaja, iz prvog lica (Radnik meseca), ruskog lika, koji svom slušaocu priča fragmente o svom detinjstvu i osećanjima vezanim za njega – pomalo nalik terapijskoj seansi. Naracija je smeštena na zamišljeno mesto, navodno distopijsko: puno nasilja, agresije i nacionalizma. Posle ove prve serije radova 2013–14. godine, odlučila sam da zadržim ime Nimova, kao da nastavim da se fokusiram na spekulativne, distopične narativne video snimke. Većina mojih projekata se odvija pod imenom Nimova Projeckt i praksa umetnika koji me pozivaju na saradnju, poput Lili, uvek odlikuje snažan vizionarski ton i kritika.

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Da li možete da objasnite naziv izložbe? Šta treba da se razreši i zašto u nepoznatim vodama?

Ž. K.: Voda je bila sastavni deo koncepta izložbe, pa sam želela da je nekako uključim u naslov. Ona skreće pažnju na otkriće i poziva gledaoca/posetioca da napusti zonu udobnosti i ode dalje od uobičajenog znanja. Da bi se utopije istraživale i gradile, mora se zakoračiti na nepoznate teritorije i tek odatle se mogu zamisliti novi počeci ili preipitati stare teorije.


Sama postavka je kompleksna. Ima dosta elemenata (skulpture, video radovi, site-specific instalacije, zvuk, tekst) koji se prepliću na različite načine. Takođe određuje način na koji se posetilac kreće kroz izložbu, na primer, tako što stvara fizičku barijeru na nekim mestima. Da li možete da nam kažete više o strukturi izložbe i idejama koje ste kroz nju htele da artikulišete?

Ž. K.: Kako se posetilac kreće kroz izložbu? Kada smo završili sa postavkom, moje glavno pitanje je bilo u kom pravcu i kako će se posetioci kretati kroz izložbu. Prostor ima tri povezane sobe, ali možete slediti puteve na različite načine i pronaći različite veze. Pomoć čine naslovi i podnaslovi kojima prevodimo ideje koje stoje u osnovi procesa, ali neke delove prepuštamo mašti.

V. R.: Od samog početka planirale smo da spojimo umetnička dela kako bismo stvorile atmosfersku izložbu sa stazama za šetnju – i vodile posetioca. Želele smo da se udaljimo od stvaranja statične, donekle pluralne strukture izložbe, u smislu da umetnička dela dele prostor samo svojim sopstvenim, zasebnim značenjem. Razmišljale smo u fazama „procesa stapanja” kao što je, na primer, pridavanje značaja dijalogu unutar svake grupe radova. Takođe smo osmislile instalacije u kojima ulogu imaju njihove sopstvene senke kojima smo pokušale da referišemo na različita fizička stanja (igranje sa atributima peska, senke; fizički objekti i video projekcije).

L. A.: Naša namera je bila da ova tri dela izložbe delimično razdvojimo, jer simbolizuju različite pristupe temi. Posetiocima smo ostavile razne puteve da iznova razmišljaju o različitim slojevima u promenljivom kontekstu. Na primer, stvorile smo kontemplativnu, pseudomističnu atmosferu u unutrašnjoj prostoriji, ali njeno značenje bi na različite načine lako moglo da se kreće od nade u obnovu do kritike slepe vere. Želele smo da pokažemo koliko nejasne mogu biti granice koje smo sebi postavili.

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A pesak? Šta nam možete reći o njegovom dominantnom mestu u postavci i načinu na koji koristite ovaj materijal?

V. R.: Početna ideja da se koristi pesak bila je sasvim logična i jednostavna: za ovu izložbu smo odlučile da se nadovežemo na temu Liline prethodne izložbe, u okviru koje se već bavila konceptom utopije, time što ćemo je proširiti. „Mogućnost ostrva” je izuzetno snažan i poetičan naslov, a takvi su bili i radovi, pa smo nastavili da zamišljamo ovo sigurno drugo mesto. Ja sam, sa svoje strane, u projekat unela svoj skepticizam i mračne tonove i uvela sam motive vezane za građevinske radove, koji se odnose na kontradikciju veštačkih ostrva koja se stvaraju, podstaknuta utopističkim i kapitalističkim vizijama. Prateći ovaj put metafora ili referenci na konstrukciju i pesak, njima sam uokvirila i narativ. A pesak je postao više simbol nestabilnosti, temporalnosti – ili čak iluzije – i stalnog kretanja. Spomenula bih i žućkasti peščani pljusak/ostrvo ispod manje video projekcije. Ta grupa radova (barem za mene) unosi novu dimenziju u izložbi – prvobitno zamišljeno, željeno ostrvo nečujno se pojavljuje, ali pre ostaje bestelesno ili čak iluzorno kao fatamorgana. Za sve tri, ova tri (ili pre dva) rada, u svom statičnom ili stanju koje se kružno ponavlja, kao i tišini, predstavljaju neku vrstu nade ili mira.

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Kakvo je mesto čovečanstva u toj strukturi? Ljudske reference prisutne su samo kroz njihove ostatke koji vire iz peska, beskrajno umnožene kiborge ili šapat.

Ž. K.: Nedostatak ljudskog prisustva – a u toliko slučajeva i sam nedostatak, bilo koje vrste – govori više o problemima ili granicama.

V. R.: …Da, hotimično, više ne toliko mesta… Kako je to Lili verbalizovala tokom saradnje, ovaj projekat je smešten nešto ispred našeg vremena, ali već imajući retrospektivnu tačku gledišta. Svi predmeti i pokretne slike na izložbi snažno ukazuju na nedostatak ljudskog prisustva, više su uspomene, a i sam zvuk, šaputanje, takođe dolazi od nekog neljudskog bića. Ovaj imaginarni trenutak ili stanje u budućnosti, u koji je smešten narativ izložbe, samo pokazuje ostatke ljudske vrste – a ovaj tajming stavlja sve spekulativne naracije koje čujemo – bile oni cinične ili ne – u zagrade.

L. A.: Ovaj nedostatak ljudske vrste mogao bi biti zastrašujući, ali u ovom slučaju nismo želele da predstavljamo apokaliptični scenario, već smo istakli moguću, ma koliko ekstremnu adaptaciju na neantropocentrični svet. Neki moji radovi sadrže detalje gde se pojavljuju ljudska tkiva, a njihova veličina je pokazatelj prisustva čoveka. To je kao neka vrsta činjenice da smo prinuđeni da se prilagođavamo okruženju radi sopstvenog opstanka, da simbolički postanemo jedno sa njim. Čini mi se da je ovo mnogo humanija opcija od pokušaja da spasemo naše živote u virtuelnoj stvarnosti. Naravno, to dvoje se međusobno ne isključuju.

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Da li vam je bilo važnije da istražite sam čin promišljanja utopije ili da zamislite određenu utopiju, skicirate svet koji nas čeka, zamislite moguću budućnost počevši od sadašnjeg trenutka?

Ž. K. Mislim da smo prvo morale da se vratimo na utopijsko razmišljanje i da jedna drugoj predstavimo svoje lične stavove. Smatram da nam je za projektovanje moguće budućnosti potrebno više vremena posvećenog ovoj temi.

L. A.: Kada sam počela da radim na ovoj temi, shvatila sam koliko ne mogu da se oslobodim predubeđenja. Nisam nameravala da smišljam ideje koje menjaju svet, ali sam istovremeno shvatila da ne mogu čak ni da želim. Savremene utopije ili distopije često postaju ništa drugo do priče, postajući nefunkcionalne, kao i alati kojima se služe. Kao što sam već istakla u svojim prethodnim odgovorima, prvo moramo ispitati koncept utopije i zašto je slika naše budućnosti slaba replika ideja iz prošlih decenija, da bismo shvatili šta očekujemo od same vizije budućnosti. Umesto toga, izložba istražuje i promišlja pojmove koji se pojavljuju. Nije bila namera da se prikaže zamišljena budućnost, iako postoje konkretne vizije u pojedinim detaljima, na primer, kada se razmišlja o ulozi ljudske vrste.

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Kakvu viziju na kraju sugeriše izložba? Čini se da je više distopijska. Da li biste se složile? Da li ste od početka mogli da predvidite ovaj rezultat ili vas je proces rada na ovom projektu postepeno doveo do njega?

Ž. K.: Ne nužno, mislim da odaje utisak da naša trenutna situacija možda nije nepovratna. Jasno je da izložba ne sugeriše bezbrižnu atmosferu, ali naša namera je više da pređemo sa antropomorfne filozofije na onu koja je usredsređena na ne-humano, što u ovom trenutku može biti frustrirajuće i više distopijsko.


Šta bi bila utopija za svaku od vas? Kako je zamišljate?

L. A.: Razočarana sam što smo izloženi tome da umetnost stalno mora da dokazuje svoju društvenu ili čak ekonomsku korisnost, jer se tako teško uklapa u strukture koje pokušavaju da upravljaju našim društvom. S druge strane, nalazim da ovi sistemi mogu da se bave blagostanjem ljudi samo na nivoima koji se mogu opisati postojećim obrascima i brojevima. Ukratko, apstraktni sistem koji stvaramo postoji, ali u stvarnosti, u trenutku njegovog rođenja, on je potpuno odvojen od nas i od našeg okruženja, posmatrano izvan antropocentične perspektive. Za mene bi utopija bila da prepoznamo ove praznine, da budemo svesni različitosti, različitih želja, da jedni drugima i svom okruženju pristupamo sa empatijom i brigom. Moj cilj nije da zamislim novi društveni sistem, već da podstaknem otvorenost u našem razmišljanju. To bi se moglo smatrati jednom od prednosti umetnosti, zar ne?… I bez nasilja, naravno…

Ž. K.: Današnja utopija je mesto gde ćutanje i usporenost nisu nepoželjne osobine, gde se mogu raditi privremeno beskorisne stvari dokle god je to potrebno. To je mesto gde izražavanje i uključivanje aktivnosti (a to je, kada „govorimo ili radimo” i „slušamo”) imaju svako svoje vreme i moraju biti jasno navedeni, ali ne moraju nužno biti ograničeni na trajanje do momenta odziva. U utopiji, „stvari” nemaju kategorije, ali imaju mnogo jezika i imena.

V. R.: …u ovom trenutku bih bila srećna i osećala bih se da živim u jednoj utopiji kada bi odmah došlo do poštenog pakta sa definitivnim krajem i mirom u ukrajinsko-ruskom ratu u Evropi… Šta ako bi mađarska forinta postala mnogo jače… globalni odrast umesto konzumerizma, bez rudnika uglja za kriptovalute…spisak je predugačak.

Izdvojila bih ovde citat iz opisa moje prethodne izložbe iz 2020. godine, pod nazivom „Belo nebo” – iz njega bi moglo biti jasnije kako vidim tenziju ili kontradikciju između utopije kao ideje savršenog balansa (uopšteno) i stvarnosti kao mreže hiperpovezanih nesavršenih ljudskih bića:

„Pretpostavimo da svaki put kada kritikujemo svoje živote, naše odnose sa drugima, ili kada želimo bolji život, bolju vezu, ekonomiju ili prosperitet, nikada ne razmišljamo u smislu organskog, stalno promenljivog, nesavršenog, haotičnog, nepoznatog sistema. Razmišljamo u smislu rešavanja formula, konkretnih oblika, rešenja ili pojednostavljenih, uokvirenih ponašanja. U idealističkim socio-ekonomskim strukturama – onome što nazivamo utopijama. Pretpostavimo da ova stalna potreba za pojednostavljivanjem, neredom ili uređenjem, teži ne samo da kontroliše već da ugnjetava ionako haotičnu, impulsivnu, nedoslednu, pohlepnu, sebičnu, ili ponekad čak i samoporažavajuću ljudsku prirodu. Ova unutrašnja dihotomija ili bolje rečeno borba (na ličnom i na društvenom planu) je veoma problematična i snažno je prisutna u zapadnoj kulturi i načinu razmišljanja. Osnovni ljudski deo, nazovimo ga čak i animalistički, jeste ovaj instinktivni deo, koji je uređen uz pomoć kolektivne, konstruisane svesti – što vremenom postaje internalizovana društvena kontrola”. Za mene je utopija mesto gde ova internalizovana društvena kontrola nikada nije opresivna prema pojedincu u ime kolektiva, već uvek brižna, empatična i puna podrške.

Unfold in Unknown Waters 24


Vratimo se u sadašnji trenutak, sve tri ste deo umetničke platforme i umetničkog kolektiva MUTO, osnovanog u Budimpešti, 2016. godine. Šta nam možete reći o mladoj savremenoj umetničkoj sceni u Budimpešti? Kakve mogućnosti imaju mladi umetnici u Mađarskoj i sa kakvim se preprekama susreću?

Ž. K.: Na institucionalnom nivou, mladi umetnici mogu da se prijave za članstvo u Udruženju mladih umetnika (FKSE) ili Udruženju mladih fotografa. Takvo članstvo im može pomoći da budu vidljivi za veće institucije, kustose i komercijalne galerije. Takođe stvara zajednicu i forum za probleme sa kojima se oni/mi suočavamo kao tek diplomirani umetnici/kustosi/teoretičari, a koji se tiču, na primer, identiteta, samoodrživosti, karijere. Osim ovih mogućnosti za članstvo, postoje neke nagrade (lokalne, međunarodne, finansirane od strane države ili privatne), a druga mogućnost su postdiplomske (obično doktorske umetničke) studije sa državnim stipendijama. Generalno, umetničkom scenom dominiraju komercijalne galerije, koje, po mom mišljenju, imaju kontroverzan efekat na mlađe generacije, ali na sreću postoje i neke (polu)nezavisne i neprofitne inicijative sa inspirativnim programima i otvorenošću za mlađe generacije.


MUTO na mađarskom znači operaciona sala. Da li možete da nam kažete više o imenu? Kakva je bila situacija na sceni u vreme kada je MUTO nastao? Da li biste rekle da se promenila tokom postojanja vašeg kolektiva?

L. A.: Mislim da nismo baš znali kako da imenujemo organizaciju ili kolektiv, tako da ime nema drugo značenje osim nespretne igre reči, jer „mu“ na mađarskom znači „umetničko delo“. Zamislili smo naše prvo mesto gde se neverovatna umetnička dela ponovo rađaju u operacionoj sali nalik, znate, na galeriju… (smeh)… Ipak, vizuelno izgleda lepo i uvek privlači pažnju zbog mađarskih slova.

Ž. K.: To je kao dečije igralište sa peskom na kome možete da gradite ideje, postavljate pitanja ili dajete izjave na osnovu vašeg ličnog i kolektivnog znanja i mišljenja. Možete reagovati, delovati ili jednostavno stvoriti prostor i osećati se dobro da budete deo nečega i da to promenite dodajući svoju energiju i karakter celini. U početku smo više bili otvoreni prostor za eksperimentisanje, a sada postajemo nešto sa identitetom koji neprestano preispitujemo i pokušavamo da definišemo, identitet koji ćemo pokušati da prikažemo u formi izložbe ovog avgusta. Želeli bismo da postanemo održiva institucija sa stabilnim radom i metodologijama koje bi nam obezbedile egzistenciju i kojima bismo stvarali alternativne zajednice i mesta. Mi smo fluidan entitet koji se uvek transformiše prema potrebama svojih ćelija i uticajima životne sredine i društva.

Unfold in Unknown Waters 25


Za kraj, spomenule ste da je ova izložba tek prva faza vaše saradnje. Da li imate ideju koji bi bio sledeći korak?

Ž. K.: Imamo snove i prazan džep. 🙂 Lili i Vera su se već prijavile za zajednički rezidencijalni program koji bi mogao da bude jedan od narednih koraka njihove saradnje i projekta. Od ideje do izložbe smo stigle veoma brzo, zahvaljujući vašem otvorenom pozivu, tako da sada moramo da planiramo, apliciramo za sredstva i dalje razvijamo projekat. Definitivno bismo voleli da ga predstavimo i u drugim gradovima, posebno u Briselu i Budimpešti, gde Lili i Vera žive. Pretpostavljam da bismo sve bile otvorene i za druge saradnje sa umetnicima ili drugim profesionalcima, pri čemu projekat ne mora nužno da bude nastavljen u formi izložbe.


Razgovor vodila: Sofija Milenković

Fotografije: Nina Ivanović


Biografije:

Lili Ag (1991) je vizuelna umetnica iz Budimpešte, Mađarska. Studirala je filozofiju i istoriju umetnosti na Univerzitetu Etveš Lorand, a master studije slikarstva završila je 2018. godine na Mađarskom univerzitetu likovnih umetnosti (HUFA). Doktorske studije započela je na Doktorskoj školi HUFA 2020. godine. Jedna je od suosnivačica i aktivnih članica umetničkog prostora i kolektiva MŰTŐ, osnovanog 2016. godine. Od 2022. godine je članica Studija Udruženja mladih umetnika, u Mađarskoj. Ag istražuje mogućnost reformisanja utopija, kao i ulogu umetnosti i alternativnih kulturnih zajednica u preoblikovanju moguće budućnosti. Njene intuitivne i refleksivne vizije oličene su u instalacijama na granicama različitih medija.

Veronika Romhani (1987) je vizuelna umetnica koja živi i radi u Briselu, Belgija. Završila je master studije slikarstva (2013), kao i obrazovanja u oblasti vizuelnih umetnosti (2013) na Mađarskom univerzitetu lepih umetnosti. Trenutno je na Školi umetnosti LUCA u Belgiji, kao doktorantkinja na Odseku za interakcije i istraživanja u oblasti dizajna kompjuterskih igrica, i kao mentorka na master programu Dizajn kompjuterskih igrica na istom fakultetu. Aktivna je članica Studija Udruženja mladih umetnika od 2011. godine i umetničkog prostora i kolektiva MŰTŐ od 2017. godine. U svojim karakterističnim radovima zasnovanim na video zapisima, Romhani je razvila ciničan tehno-amaterski stil tamnih tonova kontinuirano prisvajajući interfejs i odlike 3D softverskih alata. Njen trenutni fokus istraživanja je razvoj imerzivnog, peer-to-peer interaktivnog alata u kojem se mogu pratiti kolaborativne (umetničke) prakse. Takođe, sarađuje sa muzičkim producentima pod pseudonimom Nimova Projeckt.

Žofija Kokai (1991) je kustoskinja iz Budimpešte, Mađarska. Masterirala je Savremene teorije umetnosti i kustoske studije (2017) na Mađarskom univerzitetu likovnih umetnosti. Trenutno radi u Centralnoevropskom istraživačkom institutu za istoriju umetnosti (KEMKI) – Artpool Art Research Center. Aktivna je članica umetničko-kustoskog kolektiva MŰTŐ od 2017. i Studija Udruženja mladih umetnika od 2021. godine. Njen kustoski rad fokusiran je na generaciju kojoj i sama pripada, kao i na tumačenje društvenih i ličnih dilema poput rastućeg prekarijata. Takođe je angažovana na razvoju artist-run space inicijativa i neprofitnih projekata u umetnosti.



***ENGLISH VERSION***


 

For a start, can you tell us how the collaboration that led to this exhibition came about? Could you tell us more about your joint creative process as well?

Lili Agg: Collaborations are becoming more and more important for me, and I’m looking for opportunities to work with other artists. Partly because of the knowledge sharing, common thinking, mutual inspiration, and partly because the artistic attitude that collaboration requires is much closer to what I want to represent. In this project, things happened quite organically, last summer we were talking about how great it would be to do something together because we have similar interests and we have previously collaborated on several occasions in MŰTŐ. For me, Veronika’s art and attitude have always been very inspiring, I felt that the different mediums we work in can complement each other. Not least, we are friends, which can smooth out many layers of this kind of creative process. Over the past three months, the work has become quite intense, which I could describe as an alternation of collaborative planning, thinking and individual art-making. If we can talk about a feeling of lack, it is perhaps because Veronika and I don’t live in the same country, so we have only rarely been able to work together in person. That’s why it was particularly important that the three of us were able to spend a few days in the same space before the opening and give the final touches to the installation. It isn’t the first time that I have been able to thank Zsófi for her supportive curatorial approach, which is essential for an ongoing project. The curator-artist collaboration is illustrated by the textual work through which her thoughts were integrated into the exhibition.

Veronika Romhány: I would say, it happened quite organically… we have been working/thinking/doubting together in MŰTŐ with Lili and Zsófi for, we can say, years now. Social structures and their anomalies, problems are inseparable from our daily life as young art workers and, the existence of this DIY community is already somewhat a resolution itself – we just went on towards this path and experimented with a fusion of our own practice, in one certain exhibition format.

The best way I could describe the creative process is that first, we shaped the main concept or rather, the vision of the exhibition, then iteratively, we kept working on first the ideas – and we confronted these together. Then, we kept sharing work-in-progress materials – so we could constantly see how the other is developing it. The physical distance (and covid circumstances) made this iterative method become online. I would also say that we had some kind of an agreement from the very beginning, that we would make a turn from “conceptual” to “sensual”.

Zsófia Kókai: I would also add that your spacious and nice exhibition space and the right timing of your call helped also to transform our ideas into this exhibition.


The theme of the exhibition is utopia. Why were you interested in researching it? What relevance does it have for you in the context of contemporary political and social events?

V. R.: As already mentioned above, I can say that all of us agree that we see the position and the function of art as somewhat in-between visionary and seismographic in relation to society. This mindset has led and is still leading us to care or be aware of the context of contemporary political and social events or frames within we are creating. We do think that today’s hyper-connectedness also connects us on the level of complex geopolitical, ecological questions and problems to the others (even if we don’t want to) – also when it comes to practising empathy and care. There is a huge ethical dilemma –  and it has a lot to do with utopias in general – about how much socially engaged the art practice/product can/must be. If we say that art needs to be visionary and seismographic, we frame our practice more distant, more passive in the sense of only “feedbacking” the present; and based on this practice as analysis: envisioning the future. If you ask for research, I think that this gesture as a stepback is already a way of problematizing utopia itself. I would say that the artworks themselves that were born out of this constant process are literally representing our positioning-practice as art workers: sensing-processing-visioning – but never commanding or proposing.


How much is this topic related to the themes you are dealing with in your individual practices and research?

L. A.: My research topic gradually shifted from DIY cultural spaces to the possibilities of a reformation of utopia. In my personal interests, for example in literature and film, the themes of utopia and dystopia somehow always appeared, and the themes of my artworks have also moved in this direction for the last few years. I realised that besides the often intuitive approach of my artistic practice, there is a tangible, experimental part of my research: an artist-run gallery, for example, which has been running for several years or even decades, can be seen itself as a kind of practical experiment of utopia. So, while remaining primarily within the framework of culture, I became involved with the insights of contemporary thinkers – Fisher, Lijster, Berardi – on the lack of vision and the problematic nature of the concept of utopia as such. I felt that our thinking about the future is shackled, which blocks our ability to respond to crises such as climate change. This not only calls for adaptability, radical action and a change of attitude as soon as possible but also calls into question the growth and consumption-oriented capitalist system. It is inevitable, therefore, to redefine the notion of the new and the future, as the forced production of utopias is an expectation, a product of the existing system, which cannot provide a solution in this way. Thinking about the reformation of utopia is necessary, even if the solutions are found in the present or in the past.

In my artwork, I reflect on the results of my research, but I think it is important to emphasise that these installations are not illustrations, but more like models made using different media. To make it easier to imagine, both the use of materials and the composition create a pre-designed system that becomes autonomous at certain points. I believe it is important to highlight the ‘errors’ that are created in this way, because through them, the hidden questions and feelings that concern me, become visible or even sensible.

Zs. K.: I came into the art scene in 2015. It was the time when I started my studies in Budapest in the program Contemporary Art Theories and Curatorial Studies as almost an outsider. I think back then I had a utopist vision of what art could mean and do in personal layers or within communities. This way of thinking was almost destroyed during my studies facing the system directly and its capacities and possibilities. But fortunately, I met an independent community, MŰTŐ, and I became part of it, for which I am very thankful. I see this exhibition as a natural way of developing my curatorial interests, but for me, it’s only a start, as I am just at the beginning of a route to follow.

V. R.: I would say, in my case too, quite a lot… As a long-term self-reflective artistic researcher, I have been experimenting in different ways of collaborations with other artists – and I do it mostly under the name of Nimova Projeckt(s) in the last years. This artistic practice is inseparable from how I define the role of the artist itself. I had been deeply influenced by cultural studies and media theory during my studies, especially Boris Groys and Julian Stallabrass, and it framed very much how I see (media) art and its roles and function in society. This internalised or learned sensitivity came together with huge waves of cultural-political changes in Hungary in 2013 – just after I finished university. Normally, I could have stepped into the contemporary art pool immediately – but suddenly it became a big question where we are exactly heading – to step into. With the already existing criticism (in me) towards the cultural industry, and especially towards the Hungarian scene with its own complexities and anomalies with an artificial and forced dichotomy in 2013, I wanted to shout, I felt I was in a trap; I was angry. Then I have rediscovered the strength in speculative narration and unreliability in deconstructionism – and these events also strengthened my affection towards dystopian literature and movies. As a mocking joke for an exhibition, I have created a persona with a Slavic name Vera Nimova (as being the official cultural rhetorics of Hungary strongly anti-communist and mildly anti-Russian at that time) and I used this character to channel out everything that I – as an individual – strongly disagree with. So the artwork itself became a first-person, unreliable narration (The Worker of the Month) about a Russian character, who is telling fragments to its listener about his childhood and his feelings related to it – somewhat similar to a therapy session. The narration was set in an imaginary place, supposedly dystopian: full of violence, aggression, and nationalism. After this first series of works in 2013–14, I decided to keep the name Nimova and the focus on speculative, dystopic narrative videos. Most of my projects run under the name of Nimova Projeckt and the artists who are reaching me to collaborate with, like Lili, always have a strong visionary tone and criticism in their own practice.


Can you explain the title of the exhibition? What needs to unfold and why in unknown waters?

Zs. K.: The water was an inherent part of the exhibition concept so I wanted to include it in the title somehow. It drives the attention to the discovery and invites the viewer/visitor to leave the comfort zone and go beyond common knowledge. To research and build utopias you have to step into unknown territories and only from there you can imagine new beginnings or revisit old theories.


The setup itself is complex. It has many elements (sculptures, videos, site-specific installations, sound, text) overlapping in different ways. It also determines the way a visitor moves through the exhibition, for example by creating a physical barrier at some points. Can you tell us more about the structure of the exhibition and the ideas you wanted to communicate through it?

Zs. K.: How does the visitor move in the exhibition? When we were done with the installation my biggest question was in what direction and how people will start to visit the exhibition. The space has three connected rooms but you can follow the paths in different ways and find different connections. We help with the titles and subtitles to translate the ideas behind the process, but we leave parts blank for the imagination.

V. R.: From the very beginning, we planned to merge the artworks in order to create more of an atmospheric exhibition with walkable pathways – and lead the visitor. We wanted to differ from creating a static, somewhat plural structure of an exhibition – in the sense of artworks dividing the space only for their own, separate meaning. We were thinking in stages of a “melting process“ like giving a lot of attention to the dialogue within each group of works. We also designed the installations with the involvement of their own shadows – as we tried to refer to different physical states with them (playing with the attributes of the sand, the shadows; physical objects and video projections).

L. A.: We planned to semi-separate these three parts of the exhibition, as they symbolise different approaches to the topic. We left different pathways for the visitors to rethink the different layers in a variable context. For example, we created a contemplative, pseudo-mystical atmosphere in the inner room, but its meaning could easily shift between the renewal hope and the criticism of blind faith according to the various ways. We wanted to show how unclear the boundaries we set for ourselves could be.


What about the sand? What can you tell us about its dominant place in the setup and the way you’re using this material?

V. R.: The initial idea to use sand was quite logical or simple: we decided to continue by expanding Lili’s previous exhibition’s theme – where she had been already working on the concept of utopias. “The Possibility of an Island” is an extremely strong and poetic title, so the works were, and we kept visioning this safe other-place. From my side, I brought into the project my scepticism and dark tones – and I brought up the imagery of the construction works – to refer to the contradiction of artificial islands being made, led by utopist and capitalist visions. Following this path of metaphors or references to the construction and the sand, I also framed the narrative with them. And the sand became more of a symbol of instability, temporality – or even illusion- and of constant moving. I would also mention the yellowish sand splash/island under the smaller video projection. That group of works (at least for me) is bringing a new dimension to the exhibition – the originally envisioned, desired island silently appears, but it rather remains bodiless or even illusory as a mirage. For all the three of us, those three (rather two) works represent some hope or peace with its static & looped state and silence.


What is the place of humanity in that structure? Human references are present only through their remnants protruding from the sand, endlessly multiplied cyborgs or whispers.

Zs. K.: The lack of human presence – and so many times, lack itself, of any kind – it tells more about problems or boundaries.

V. R.: …Yes, intentionally, not so much place anymore… As Lili verbalised it during the collaboration, the placing of this project is somewhat ahead of our time, but with an already retrospective point of view. All the objects and moving images in the exhibition have a strong signal of lacking human presence, they are more mementos – and the sound, the whispering itself is also coming more from a nonhuman being. This imaginary moment or state in the future, where the narrative of the exhibition is pinned, only shows remains of the human species – and this timing puts all the speculative narrations we hear – let it be cynical or not – into brackets.

L. A.: This lack of human species might be frightening, but in this case, we didn’t want to represent an apocalyptic scenario, rather highlighted the possible, however extreme adaptation to a non-anthropocentric world. Some of my works contain details where human tissues appear, and also their size is an indication of human presence. It is sort of like the fact that we are forced to adapt to the environment for our own survival, to symbolically become one with it. I somehow find this a much more humane option than trying to save our lives into virtual realities. Of course, the two are not mutually exclusive.


Was it more important for you to explore the act of contemplating a utopia itself or to imagine a certain utopia, sketch a world that awaits us, imagine a possible future starting from the present moment?

Zs. K.: I think we had to revisit utopian thinking first and present our personal views to each other. I feel that to project a possible future we need more dedicated time to the topic.

L. A.: When I started working on the subject, I realised how much I couldn’t get rid of the preconceptions. I didn’t intend to come up with world-changing ideas, but at the same time I realised that I couldn’t even if I wanted to. Contemporary utopias or dystopias that have often become nothing more than tales, the tools with which they work are no longer functional. As I have already pointed out in my previous answers, we must first examine the concept of utopia and why the image of our future is a feeble replica of the past decades’ ideas to realise what we expect from the vision of the future itself. Rather, the exhibition explores and reflects the notions that arise. It was not intended to present an imagined future, even though there are concrete visions in certain details, for example, when we think about the role of human species.


What kind of vision is the exhibition ultimately suggesting? It seems to be rather a dystopian one. Would you agree? Were you able to anticipate this result from the beginning or did the process of working on this project gradually lead you to it? 

Zs. K.: Not necessarily, I feel that it conveys an impression that our current situation may not be irreversible. It’s clear that the exhibition does not represent a cloudless atmosphere, but our intention is more to move from the anthropomorphic philosophy to the non-human centred, which can be frustrating and more dystopian now.


What would a utopia be for each of you? How do you imagine it?

L. A.: I’m disappointed to experience that art is constantly having to prove its social or even economic usefulness, as it is difficult to fit into the structures that attempt to run our society. On the other hand, I have found that these systems can only deal with the well-being of the people at levels that can be described in terms of existing patterns and numbers. In brief, there’s an abstract system that we create, but in reality, at the moment of its birth, it’s completely detached from us, and, going beyond the anthropocentric perspective, from our environment. For me, the utopia would be to recognise these gaps, to be aware of diversity, of different desires, to approach each other and our environment with empathy and care. My aim is not to envision a new social system, but rather to encourage openness in our thinking. This could be considered one of the benefits of art, right?… And no violence, of course…

Zs.K.: Today’s utopia is a place where being silent and slow is not an abnormal personality, where one can do temporarily useless things as long as it is needed. Where expression and inclusion of activities (which is, when we “speak or do” and “listen”) each has its times and they need to be clearly stated but don’t necessarily need to be bound to response times.  In utopia, „things“ have no categories but have many languages and names.

V. R.: …at the moment, I would be already happy and feel to live in one, if there would be an immediate fair pact with a definite end and peace in the Ukrainian-Russian war in Europe..What if the Hungarian Forint would become much stronger…global de-growth instead of consumerism, no coal mines for cryptocurrency…too long list.

I would bring up here a quote from the description of my previous exhibition in 2020, titled “White Heaven” –  it may help to frame more how do I see the tension or contradiction between utopia as an idea of a perfect balance (in general) and reality as a hub of hyperconnected imperfect human beings.

“Suppose that every time we criticise our own lives, our relationships with others, or when we want a better life, a better relationship, economy, or prosperity, we are never thinking in an organic, ever-changing, flawed, chaotic, unknowable system. We think in solving formulas, concrete shapes, solutions, or simplified, framed behaviours. In idealistic socio-economic structures – what we call utopias. Suppose that this constant need for simplification, clutter, or regulation is trying not only to control but to oppress the already chaotic, impulsive, inconsistent, greedy, selfish, or sometimes even self-defeating human nature. This internal dichotomy or rather fight (on a personal and on a social level) is very problematic and has a strong presence in Western culture (/way of thinking). The basic human part, let’s call it even the animalistic, is this instinctive part – being regulated with the help of collective, constructed consciousness – what with time, becomes an internalised social control.” For me, utopia is a place where this internalised social control is never ever oppressing towards the individual in the name of the collective, but always caring, is empathic, and supportive.


Back to the current moment, all three of you are part of the MŰTŐ, an artist-run platform and art collective founded in Budapest, in 2016. What can you tell us about the young contemporary art scene in Budapest? What kind of opportunities do young artists in Hungary have and what kind of obstacles do they face?

Zs. K.: On an institutional level young artists can apply for membership in the so-called Young Artists Association (FKSE) or Young Photographers Association. Such membership can help them to be visible for bigger institutions, curators and commercial galleries. It also creates a community and forum for problems that they/we face as freshly graduated artists/curators/theorists, e.g., identity, self-reliance, career. Beyond these membership opportunities, there are some prizes and awards (local, international, state-funded or private), and another possibility is post-gradual (typically DLA) studies with state fellowships. In general, the art scene is dominated by commercial galleries, which, in my opinion, have a controversial effect on the younger generation but fortunately there are some (semi)independent and non-for-profit initiatives too with inspiring programs and openness for the younger generation.


MŰTŐ in Hungarian means operating room. Can you tell us more about the name? What was the situation on the scene like at the time MŰTŐ was created? Would you say it has changed over the course of the existence of your collective? 

L. A.: I don’t think we really knew how to name an organisation or a collective, so it has no other meaning than a bad pun, as ‘mű’ means ‘artwork’ in Hungarian. We imagined our first place where amazing artworks were reborn in the gallery-like, you know, in an operating room… (laugh)… However, it looks nice visually and always takes attention because of the Hungarian letters.

Zs. K.: It’s a sandbox where you can build ideas, ask questions or pose statements based on your and your collective knowledge and opinion. You can react, act or just create a space and feel good to be a part of something and to change it adding your energy and character to the whole. In the beginning, we were more of an open space for experimenting and now we are becoming something with an identity that we are continually questioning and trying to define, an identity that we’ll try to show in the form of an exhibition this August. We’d like to become a sustainable institution with stable operation and methodologies to stay alive and to create alternative communities and places. We are a fluid entity that always transforms based on the needs of its cells and on environmental and social effects.


Lastly, you mentioned that this exhibition is only the first stage of your collaboration. Do you already have an idea for the next step?

Zs.K.: We have dreams and an empty pocket. 🙂 Lili and Vera already applied for a duo-residency program that could be one of the next steps of their collaboration and of the project. We arrived very quickly from an idea to an actual exhibition thanks to your open call, so now we will need to plan, apply for funds and develop the project further. We definitely would like to show it in other cities, especially in Brussels and in Budapest to meet the local scene where the two artists live. I guess all of us would be open for other collaborations too with artists or other professionals, and not necessarily follow the project in the form of an exhibition.


Interviewed by: Sofija Milenković

Photo: Nina Ivanović


Biographies:

Lili Agg (b. 1991) is a visual artist based in Budapest, Hungary. She studied Philosophy and History of Art at the Eötvös Loránd University, and holds a Master’s degree in Painting (received in 2018) from the Hungarian University of Fine Arts (HUFA). She started her doctoral studies at the Doctoral School of HUFA in 2020. She is one of the co-founders and active members of the MŰTŐ artist-run space and collective founded in 2016. In 2022 she became a member of the Studio of Young Artists’ Association in Hungary. Agg researches the possibility of reforming utopias and the role of art and alternative cultural communities in reshaping possible futures. Her intuitive and reflective visions are embodied in installations at the boundaries of different media.

Veronika Romhány (b. 1987) is a visual artist based in Brussels, Belgium. She holds a Master’s degree in Painting (2013), and also in Visual Arts Education (2013) from the Hungarian University of Fine Arts. She is currently with the LUCA School of Arts (BE), as a PhD candidate at the Inter-Actions and Game Design Research Unit, and as a mentor in the Game Design MA program. She is an active member of the Studio of Young Artists’ Association since 2011 and of MŰTŐ since 2017. In her characteristic video-based works, Romhány has developed a cynical, dark-toned techno-amateur style by continuously appropriating the interface and features of 3D software tools. Her current research focus is to develop an immersive, peer-to-peer interactive tool where collaborative (artistic) practices can be monitored. She also works in a collaborative form with music producers under the pseudonym Nimova Projeckt.

Zsófia Kókai (b. 1991) is a curator based in Budapest, Hungary. She holds a Master’s degree in Contemporary Art Theories and Curatorial Studies (2017) from the Hungarian University of Fine Arts.  She currently works at the Central European Research Institute for Art History (KEMKI) – Artpool Art Research Center. She is an active member of MŰTŐ since 2017, and the Studio of Young Artists’ Association since 2021. Her curatorial work focuses on her generation and on the interpretation of social and personal dilemmas such as growing precarity. She is also engaged in the development of artist-run and non-profit projects. 

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