Curators: The curatorial team of OFF-Biennale
Assistant curators: Ferenc Boné, Csilla Huszka, Viktória Popovics
Három Holló Kávéház, Budapest
29 September – 5 November 2017
Három Holló Kávéház, 1052 Budapest, Piarista köz 1. Entrance from Szabad Sajtó út | Photos by Ferenc Eln
By game, as grownups, we mean looking for the possibility of a new start, of alternative realities. We assume that entering a game is voluntary, without coercion; in a game, we can be free, we can re-render our experiences of the world. Accepting, correcting, dismissing the rules of the world that surrounds us, or opposing them and dismissing reality, is made possible by games; we can choose a strategy without having to make our decision final.
We play because our intentions are dismissed by reality, and we play because this is something we refuse to accept. We believe that a game has alternative directions, or has an alternative route to the same destination; it bolsters new skills and offers new perspectives, therefore – just as any form of learning – it does transform reality, in the end. Fine art, in that regard, is a comrade to playing, which explains art’s particular openness and responsiveness toward games, as well as toward exposing reality. The works at the exhibition also address the risks of idealizing games; transposing the heavy burdens of innocence on children, or using games in covering up the trap of an imprisonment in parallel worlds.
The exhibition People Players is revolved around the joy a game conveys, and playing, the soberness of discovery. A player is liberated and contemplative; they are inside and outside at once, they play and they see themselves playing.
Joanna Piotrowska: Frantic, 2016–17, photo series, (detail); courtesy of the artist
Joanna Piotrowska, who majored in photography at the London Royal College of Art, creates artworks that are poised amidst performance, installation and documentary photography. In her black-and-white photographic series, she most often records unusual and absurd compositions of humans and objects. For her most recent series, Frantic (2016–17), she asked local people in Rio de Janeiro and Warsaw to make shelters from their personal belongings and furniture inside their homes. The “small houses” that children assemble from carpets and furniture represent their first space of privacy and autonomy, a hideaway providing inviolable protection. Piotrowska documents the precarious relationship between the motionless residents, who are already grown-ups, and their sometimes wobbly, other times desolate, or downright anthropomorphic constructions. In this subtle, tense balance, the childhood faith in security has been replaced by the utopia of seeking protection.
Eva Koťátková: C (You), 2016; metal, sound; courtesy of the artist and the Meyer Riegger Gallery
The works of Eva Koťátková often originate from the environment of privacy or personal experience; they are concerned with the mechanisms and rites of primal communities such as a family or a school. Recurring themes in the oeuvre are social control and manipulation, the manifoldness of positions held by the individual through a variety of social structures, as well as the possibilities of movement within these positions. On display at the exhibition Játékok népe are works bearing a strong resemblance to walking frames and children’s walking aids, which explore similar topics: limited mobility, the possibility of acting uncontrolled and free, in addition to the invisible and restrictive structures built around us by others or by ourselves.
Somewhere between a cage and a strange creature, the walking frames – equipped with earphones – guide the visitors through the exhibition space, into imaginary rooms and landscapes, all the while they point towards suggestions – each a playful thought experiment in itself – of a different experience of space, a more conscious way of walking and a connection between action and speech. Aside from giving support and encouragement, the walking frame helps the user to see, to experience, it guides and teaches. At the same time during the walk a mutual dependency of device and user emerges; the more time passes, the more difficult to tell, who leads who, and whether the walk in the virtual space is dependent from the one in reality, or the other way around.
Johanna Billing: I’m Gonna Live Anyhow Until I Die, 2012, HD, Blu-Ray, 16’29’’, loop; courtesy the artist and Hollybush Gardens, London
Johanna Billing’s works in the mediums of film and music often start from the relationship between the individual and the community. Attesting to their author’s intensive attention and empathy, her films unfold from the seamless integration of staged and spontaneous situations. Her video work presented at OFF-Biennale, I’m gonna live anyhow until I die, reflects the artist’s committed inquiry into community-style education based on mutual help, but the Italian demonstrations against restrictions affecting the education system in 2010 and the critiques of the populist education reform can also be detected as an underlying source of inspiration for making the film.
Produced in 2012, the film follows a group of children across Rome as they slip out of a restaurant by the Tiber River, leaving their parents behind enjoying their peaceful lunch, then band together and start running through the streets of the city. Eventually, they arrive in a vacant school building where time seems to stand still: the classroom interiors, the instruments and tools appear familiarly ageless. Roaming about the building inquisitively, the children open classrooms and cabinets, trying to find out what one can (or could once) do with the various things found there. Taking sheets of paper, paint and brushes, they fall to dabbling in the corridor, outside the classrooms that epitomize delimitations and regulations. As the corridor floor slowly becomes covered with black blots that evoke the world of the Rorschach tests, the viewers find themselves becoming the subjects of the test: we may try to unravel what we can actually see in the blots. In the meantime, the children leave and make their way with a hesitant pace through classical working-class districts of Rome back to the restaurant: the adult society.
Ex-Artists’ Collective (Tamás Kaszás and Anikó Loránt): People Players, 2013–2017, installation; courtesy of the artists
Working in co-operation since 2003, Tamás Kaszás and Anikó Loránt adopted the alias Ex-Artists’ Collective in 2010 in order to show that their interests lie in questions traditionally considered to be non-artistic. Subject-matters such as secession, cataclysm and survival, self-sustainability, economics and perspectives of human cohabitation with nature, collectivity, opposition of theory and practice, vernacular sciences, or fictive anthropology make up this body of work.
People Players, the installation currently on display, is based on an ever-evolving series of videos from 2013 onward. Games are presented in these short videos, which feature not only found objects and elements of the traditional sciences of the vernacular, but patterns inherited or transcribed from foreign cultures. Whether objects made by the artists or clothing and customs of a fictive ethnicity, the principles of folk science underlie the various games; they are made of cheap and recycled materials and utilize all available – old and new alike – technologies. Although in the constant presence of anthropological self-observation Ex-Artists’ Collective appears as members of a recluse community living harmoniously with nature, building their own private realities, in which creativity, playing and joy are the overarching principles. The videos, drawings and objects of the installation as well as the workshops led by the artists alongside the exhibition provide insight into a world reaching beyond the everyday experience of situations of manifold dependences, a world of autonomous thinking, fantasy and collective play. A world just as familiar as it is surprisingly alien and distant.
Jean-Marie Straub – Danièle Huillet: En rachâchant, 1982, 35 mm film, transferred to DVD, 7’; Agence du court métrage
Among Danièle Huillet and Jean-Merie Straub’s austere, thought-provoking and often radically political films, En rachâchant is the only comedy. Just as every film they make is an adaptation of an existing literary work or political text, En rachâchant is based on a short story by Marguerite Duras, “Ah! Ernesto!” (1971). The short story is about a nine-year-old boy who rejects any form of authority, whether he encounters it at school, in the family or in the larger society.
One day, Ernesto announces that he is never going back to school, as they only teach him things that he does not know. His parents take him to the school to see his teacher. The teacher’s authority and arguments fail to reach any result. While his father describes Ernesto, saying, “No one sees him! It’s as if he didn’t exist!”, the boy gives resolute and surprising answers to the questions posed to him, irritating the teacher and driving his parents to despair. Initially, the teacher tries various ways to convince the little boy to go to school, until he becomes more and more desperate and furious as he wants the boy to explain why he rejects school and learning. Ernesto says that it takes too long to learn things and it does not help anything. The teacher asks him, “Tell us how you plan to learn what you already know?” “By re-de-de re-see-see re-pee-peeting!” (rachâchant), “it’s a new method,” responds Ernesto. Ernesto’s impertinent and rebellious attitude queries the foundations of the generally accepted education system and the conformist world-view represented by the film’s adult protagonists.
Ádám Kokesch: Untitled, 2017, installation, size variable; courtesy of the artist
Ádám Kokesch assembles mysterious installations according to a precise, yet unrestrained inner logic, using recycled materials, everyday high- and low-tech objects, and geometrically painted surfaces. His works are marked by a permanent intellectual confrontation with different artistic styles, as well as by the productive extension of the abstract tradition. The artist, experimenting with the combination of accurate, seemingly technical execution and DIY aesthetics, achieved an unmistakable character typical of him alone.
The installation he created for the OFF-Biennale comprises openly variable modules. Curious structures and pseudo tools compose a model of a worldview that incorporates the artist’s idealistic, utopian thinking, as well as his attempt to capture action. Indicating an open, unsettled process, the installation’s cascade of elements are rearrangeable and disassemblable, as if, with a childish decency and an obsessive seriousness, it strived for the perpetual endurance of the utopia, and for the realization of the experiment as a style of living.
Eva Koťátková: E (Ed), 2016; metal, sound, B (Say Who), 2016; metal, sound, A (Spider), 2016; metal, sound
Eva Koťátková: D (Forgetting the snake), 2016; metal, sound
Zbyněk Baladrán: To be framed, 2016, full HD video, 8’11’’; courtesy of the artist
Zbyněk Baladrán’s video works, texts and installations are based on thoroughgoing anthropological and ethnographic observations. The protagonists of his short video movie, To be framed, belong to a strange children’s community, who organize themselves on the fringe of society. While there is nothing aggressive about the way the children in the video behave, a sense of subdued violence lingers throughout the film. The narration gradually reveals that we, in fact, see an acted situation and the characters in the film are not what we suppose them to be. Even their thoughts and feelings are interpreted for us by someone else: an outsider-observer, who also commits violence by his act of translation. The gesture of interpretation highlights the tense contradiction between the children’s world and the image of how adults (prefer to) see it. Baladrán takes the supposedly innocent world of children as a point of departure to address the issue of violence within society and draw a lesson from such violence. He explores how it is possible to speak and act without assuming a patronizing air and without using violence, and how we could possibly avoid reproducing the violence that we experience every single day in the reality that surrounds us. Baladrán not only points at this issue, but also subjects himself, along with the act of filmmaking, to critical analysis: he appears as the violent interpreter holding the camera. The film is made to immerse in violence, learn from it and turn violence back upon itself.