Andreas Fogarasi and Christian Kosmas Mayer's exhibition at Vintage Gallery In Budapest.
Christian Kosmas Mayer
9 September – 6 November, 2020
Vintage Gallery, Budapest
In the latest pieces of Andreas Fogarasi’s series titled Envelop, we see graphic works from the sixties engaging the themes of the Hungarian Workers’ Movement – enclosed in folded copper envelopes. The showcased works from the Kádár Era – by Gyula Hincz and Károly Raszler, among others – reframed the past for the purposes of propaganda by capturing protests from the first half of the century. By creating the illusion of continuity, they incorporated the (then-)present – the image of young protestors against the Vietnam War. The prints themselves, which share as their common denominator the representation of the masses and the movement, are placed in a universal framework: the great traditions of art history are just as much behind these compositions as the formidable tradition of revolutions, rewritten by the Bolsheviks. Fogarasi’s series utilises the structure of the envelope as his image carrier; the form of the envelope, used since the 19th century, simultaneously alludes to the possibilities of concealment and opening. As a result of its standardised format, geometric forms and mechanised manufacture, it could even be regarded as a metaphor for a modern day utopia. Fogarasi frames these graphic works, formally intended for the purpose of aesthetic or ideological education, in variously sized, hand-folded copper containers. His gesture invokes the past position of graphic artists, along with their ideas and relationships, in the present time; the once-complicated dilemmas of mission and conviction, compliance and artistic freedom are still current.
Christian Kosmas Mayer’s carved pine trunks were unearthed in 2012, after the demolishing process of Berlin’s Palast der Republik, a symbolic building of the GDR, erected in the seventies. They were originally submerged in the swampy soil 300 years prior, supporting the enormous structure of the Prussian Berlin Palace that once stood there. Mayer purchased some of these now functionless supporting elements at an auction. Based on photos of the Atlas figures that were once adorning the ornate stairwell of the palace, he had the sculpture details carved into the pillars in a smaller, rougher form. The memory of the enormous figures, in this way, is closely linked to the history of the urban palace that was blown up in 1950, and recently partly reconstructed as a museum – and, in a more general sense, with the erasability and rewritability of memory. With his carved wooden pillars, the aim of the artist – who simultaneously appears in the role of the purchaser and the commissioner of the work – is not so much to commemorate an important historical event with his negative obelisks, but to memorialise an erased and disappearing past, emerging to the surface in ever newer forms. The metamorphoses of the representational patterns of past systems become especially timely today in cases where the powers that be, assuming a specific perspective of the past, dress their new buildings in “old clothes” and use them as tools for politicising history.
The examination of the morphology of the past and present constitutes a basic element of both Fogarasi and Mayers’ art practice. In works by the latter artist, history and the present appear to layer on top of one another almost like a frottage, where, with every subsequent copy, the original sign and the information contained therein are transformed. In this way, the process of creation is rendered visible. Andreas Fogarasi primarily focuses on the internal mechanisms of culture. He lifts images that seemingly lost their significance out of oblivion. He zooms in on city structures and buildings, which, with time, lose their original meaning. The works of both artists share the element of preservation and the strategy of reprocessing, an examination of the relationship between creativity and power, and the raising of awareness about entropy, which can also be experienced in culture. In a world that is falling apart, Fogarasi and Mayer seek the possibility of slowing down and of intermediate positions – between a fixed vantage point and shifting perspectives, accidental discoveries and methodical research, dismantling and construction. Their present exhibition, which takes details that have been buried or forgotten and uses them as a starting point, explores such general concept pairs as concealment and visibility, erasure and rewriting, or the disappearance and preservation of knowledge. Both artists are interested in the invisible structures of, for instance, power or time, as well as in the mutability or constancy of frameworks and supporting elements – and, by taking these as a premise, the intersection of the past and present.
Andreas FOGARASI (1977) studied architecture at the University of Applied Arts in Vienna and fine art at the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna. Through his videos, photographs, installations and sculptures – influenced by Minimal and Conceptual Art as much as by architectural thinking – Fogarasi explores the act of showing, representations of power and identity in public space, and the relationship between culture and collective memory. He lives and works in Vienna, but is also involved in the Hungarian art scene. In 2007, he won the Golden Lion Prize at the Venice Biennale given to the best national pavilion with his video installation entitled Kultur und Freizeit [Culture and Leisure], reflecting to the changed cultural and social meanings of the community spaces in Budapest. Fogarasi’s work is consequently represented in international exhibitions, his solo show entitled Nine Buildings. Stripped was held at the Kunsthalle Vienna in 2019.
Christian Kosmas MAYER (1976) studied at the College of Fine Arts in Saarbrücken and the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna. His cross-media works and projects incorporating cultural, political and social questions explore the workings of collective historical memory and personal memory, as well as the mechanisms of retaining and rediscovering information. His curatorial and editorial practice is also important, since 2002, he has been co-editor of the magazine with changing names based on the font used (www.ztscrpt.net). Although Mayer lives and works in Vienna, Hungarian gallery-goers have already had a chance to view his works at the exhibition ABCity curated by Andreas Fogarasi and held at the Trafó Gallery in 2003. With his works, he maintains a constant presence on the international art scene; his solo show titled Aeviternity was held at the mumok in Vienna in 2019.