The exhibition Following the Thoughts of Others can be seen as the conclusion of Judit Flóra Schuller’s long-term artistic project and related research, originally entitled Memory Theatre, which is centered around her family archive and heritage, with a special emphasis on her grandfather, Imre Schuller.
Judit Flóra Schuller: Following the Thoughts of Others
Curated by: Flóra Gadó
May 1 - June 13, 2021
The Július Koller Society, Bratislava
The title – borrowed from a note that discovered by the artist in the family archive – implies we should finally acknowledge that it is never truly possible to reconstruct our ancestors’ lives. Moving away from seeking some kind of truth or reality, the exhibition suggests that our only option is to, aided by fiction and imagination, “follow” these “thoughts of others” wherever they may take us. This is how Judit Flóra Schuller re-creates and re-invents certain narratives and motives without falling into the trap of attempting fake authenticity or reconstruction. The exhibition highlights certain fragments and episodes from history of the Schuller family, rather than provide the viewer with a complete narrative.
In this sense the exhibition is more like a labyrinth than a linear story, an anachronistic place where different times can meet and morph into each other. This anachronistic aspect means that we never exist only in a single time, on the contrary, different temporalities appear in our lives simultaneously. This sensitivity towards different layers of time is not an invention of contemporary art, it has been a well-known strategy in literature from Marcel Proust to Ali Smith (in whose book How to Be Both, for example, the lives of a renaissance painter and a teenage girl entangle and become interwoven). It is then hardly a surprise that in her works, Judit Flóra Schuller also refers to storytelling methods, like in her text-based work Notes, with its short, often poetic observations and diary-like entries. Thus, turning back to the question of time, the archival material becomes a meeting point between the past, the present, and the future. The attitude is at times close to performative: Judit Flóra Schuller’s approach towards her family's past and heritage is always an active and critical process.
The artist crafts a dialogue with the past and between generations, while she also emphasizes the process of forgetting, oblivion and “letting things go”. In her previous exhibitions, Schuller’s aim was to highlight the fact that the archive itself was diminishing and moving towards a systematic order, as she was approaching the phase of oblivion. In case of the new works, the artist moves away from regarding the archive as a single entity and instead of critically examining questions related to order and archival systems, she creates her own interpretations based on certain episodes or fragments taken from it. This way she presents her answers to the questions posed by the archive and takes a step back by focusing not only on her own family but also on microhistories and the question of how our identity is shaped in general.