Szilárd Cseke: Fall by the Roadside

Curator: Kinga German

Kunsthalle Bratislava, Slovakia
8 December 2017 – 5 February 2018

Kunsthalle LAB is one of several exhibition spaces of Kunsthalle Bratislava, devoted primarily to the most recent art from the local and international art scene. It is situated on the ground floor of the institution, which makes it more open to the wider public than the rest of the “inner” spaces. Kunsthalle LAB has the form of a window gallery, so the works on exhibit can be seen directly from a busy street in the city centre. The concept of the window gallery has various advantages, the most important of which is that it catches the attention of passers-by outside, including people who are only waiting for a tram at the stop and would otherwise be unlikely to go into a space devoted to contemporary art. Personally, I also see a negative side of this type of gallery space. Quite often, passers-by “deal” with the exhibition simply by giving it a quick once-over from the street, without making the effort to enter the space, even if they consider the exhibition (at least visually) interesting. Most of these projects are perhaps constructed so as to speak through a glass case, but instead of coming inside, even the curious passer-by may well just hang out in front of the building, as if entering would be too much of a commitment.

Szilárd Cseke: Fall by the Roadside, 2017, Kunsthalle Bratislava | © Photo: Kunsthalle Bratislava

Fortunately, the exhibition “Fall by the Roadside” by Hungarian visual artist Szilárd Cseke has not become merely a “gallery front” next to which people might stop for a couple of seconds. The artist succeeded in creating a work the dynamic character and relatively abstract form of which attract the eyes of spectators from the first moment and then drag them inside.

This site-specific installation consists of a simple construction made of various materials and taking the form of a road spreading around the walls of the gallery space at different levels. Visitors can watch ping-pong balls “travelling” around, driven by the ventilators and turbines, which often push the balls from the designated path. Part of the route is made of tubes into which some of the balls are pulled, and then they are shot back out on the track on the other side. The balls bounce off the barriers, walls and windows of the gallery, thus creating constant and visually chaotic movement in the exhibition space. Visitors who venture inside have an opportunity to take a fallen ball and place it back on the path (and usually this is something very spontaneous, even automatic). They are also provided with markers and allowed to write something on the ball or leave a message for the next passer-by.

Szilárd Cseke: Fall by the Roadside, 2017, Kunsthalle Bratislava | © Photo: Kunsthalle Bratislava

With regard to its formal aspects, the project in Kunsthalle LAB might remind one of Cseke’s earlier installation made for the Hungarian pavilion at Venice Biennale in 2015, entitled “Sustainable Identities”. This exhibition also had large white spheres moving across the space in transparent tubes driven by fans. However, their trajectories were given, defined beforehand not only by the space, by also by the artist himself. The objects were moving slowly, in an organised way, and spectators could observe them only from below. In contrast, the installation “Fall by the Roadside” draws visitors straight into the middle of the action, in part by giving them a chance to help the work continue to function, to influence it directly and, moreover, to leave something behind. This work is therefore more interactive, and this has an effect on the attitude, conduct and mind of a visitor.

Szilárd Cseke: Fall by the Roadside, 2017, Kunsthalle Bratislava | © Photo: Kunsthalle Bratislava

The subject matter of the Cseke’s installation, however, lies not just in its movement, its interactivity with spectators or its site-specificity. His works usually have titles which reveal other connotations and ways of perceiving or interpreting his art. In his oeuvre, Cseke combines personal topics, such as the creation and formation of human identity and decision-making, with themes of a more global nature, connected to economic, ecological or social issues. “Fall by the Roadside” is no exception. In a simple, understandable and playful way, the artist speaks about migration and the relativity of our destinies in “the journey of life” by offering a visual allegory that suggests that even a small obstacle or other element can permanently affect our future, without us having done anything. It may seem that our lives are guided or directed, but everything can change in a second. Cseke also reminds us that nowadays many people are caught in this movement, in many cases involuntarily, having been set adrift by unexpected events in the world, like the small balls set adrift by the turbines. On the other hand, viewers are given an almost “divine” power, and they are able to return a fallen ping-pong ball to its path. Thus, even with a simple gesture or act, we can easily give a helping hand to people in our immediate surroundings.

Szilárd Cseke: Fall by the Roadside, 2017, Kunsthalle Bratislava | © Photo: Kunsthalle Bratislava

To talk about the complex themes of today’s world through the visual arts, as Szilárd Cseke does with his works, does not necessarily require complicated texts or images. With the simplicity of his visual language and artistic expression, he manages to convey a message about the present, about us and about our life paths, even through the window case and by means of ping-pong balls. Hopefully, visitors who entered the space took something with them from what they saw into their real lives.

Szilárd Cseke: Fall by the Roadside, 2017, Kunsthalle Bratislava | © Photo: Kunsthalle Bratislava

Szilárd Cseke: Fall by the Roadside, 2017, Kunsthalle Bratislava | © Photo: Kunsthalle Bratislava

Szilárd Cseke: Fall by the Roadside, 2017, Kunsthalle Bratislava | © Photo: Kunsthalle Bratislava

Szilárd Cseke: Fall by the Roadside, 2017, Kunsthalle Bratislava | © Photo: Kunsthalle Bratislava

Szilárd Cseke: Fall by the Roadside, 2017, Kunsthalle Bratislava | © Photo: Kunsthalle Bratislava

Szilárd Cseke: Fall by the Roadside, 2017, Kunsthalle Bratislava | © Photo: Kunsthalle Bratislava

Szilárd Cseke: Fall by the Roadside, 2017, Kunsthalle Bratislava | © Photo: Kunsthalle Bratislava

Szilárd Cseke: Fall by the Roadside, 2017, Kunsthalle Bratislava | © Photo: Kunsthalle Bratislava