In his solo exhibition, Gideon Horváth experiments with the contemporary representation of the mythological figure of the faun.


Gideon Horváth: Faun Realness

Curated by Flóra Gadó
Consultation: Kata Dóra Kiss
7 January - 5 February, 2021

ISBN Gallery, Budapest

In his solo exhibition, Gideon Horváth experiments with the contemporary representation of the mythological figure of the faun. The faun’s persona in this interpretation is a marginalized, exiled figure because of his queerness. He lives through situations of hiding, adaptation and blending in but he also embarks on an emancipatory process to strengthen his identity. Horváth’s project is inspired by his own experiences of being queer in Hungary. Through this persona he shows how the notions of hypersensitivity and defense can turn into a liberating power. The intensified mindset of the bacchanalias is also present throughout the exhibition. Matters, senses, forms and figures blend together in this state of ecstasy which we can experience through the ever-changing mass of the beeswax.

At first, the exhibition’s title seems like a paradox. It’s statement is already absurd: it talks about the realness of a mythological creature, but another meaning of the word realness is important too. It refers to a certain subculture which is visible for example in Jennie Livingston’s documentary, Paris is Burning (1990). Realness is a key notion in the drag balls frequented by the LGBTQ community of the 1980’s New York. It means how “real” the participants can perform the traditionally accepted heteronormative ideals of a white man or a woman. One of the characters, Venus Xtravaganza’s famous quote also appears in the exhibition: “Touch this skin, honey! You just can’t take it”. However, in the exhibition this realness appears in an ironic, subverted way: something which we cannot reach. The faun could never fully adjust to or blend into the so-called “normal” world. He will always be an outcast, someone “un-real”. For the artist the faun is nevertheless quite real.

In the exhibition we encounter how the faun gradually awakens to his true self. By taking advantage of his hypersensitivity and making kin with the other living entities of his world that he feels drawn to (Donna Haraway) he reaches a state of constant becoming. We can observe the phases of this evolution through the narrative presented by the different objects of the exhibition. From the first rage of the faun who is deprived of his genitals (The mutilated faun) through the figure of a more enthusiastic faun (Faun with a hard on looking into the advanced future) we arrive to him being in a sensual climax (Ecstatic faun). On the self-portraits, the artist and the mythological creature blend together through a performative gesture. The mask which we could see in these photos is also present as the closing gesture of the exhibition: it appears on its own, without its bearer so that anybody could imagine it being their own mask.

The exhibition is linked to queer theory and notably to queer ecology in several ways. The deconstruction of a binary worldview, questioning heteronormativity as a normalcy, overwriting the dichotomic worldview of nature-culture, human-nonhuman becomes crucial through the figure of the faun. This interest was already present in Horváth’s previous project which he presented in Glassyard Gallery Budapest. In the series called Deviation finds a way, he analyzed situations from the animal world in which the species move beyond the binary opposition of male and female. Meanwhile the artist was not only inspired by such contemporary queer theorists like Paul B. Preciado, but he was also heavily influenced by the internalized homophobia and sexism experienced in everday life. This is visible in some cases as engravings in the wax (eg. “straight looking”).

The dominant matter in the exhibition – similar to Horváth’s previous works – is beeswax, which represents hybridity and fluidity. The artist understand it as a special kind of queer ecological material. It appears as a hypersensitive, constantly changing and sensual matter, which can either reveal delicate details or become uncontrollable and wild. This uncanny, tactile, body-like material appears in the exhibition in various ways and forms: it sticks and stays everywhere, slowly encompassing the space, encouraging us to touch it while never staying the same. Much like the faun himself, who finally finds his true self in a constant becoming state letting go of the abusively binary worldviews.

Photo: Dávid Biró