Palace of Exhibitions

SVB VOCE,” curated by Suzanne Mészöly, featured 16 installations by 18 Hungarian artists using video or related media. Yet I hesitate to refer to it as a show of video artists. The distinction is crucial to an understanding of what separates this particular exhibition from many of those of the last decade that (purposely or not) ghettoized the video artist. Would anyone organize an exhibition described as “18 Oil & Canvas Artists”? This exhibition does not entirely escape this trap; a number of installations seem to use video as an excuse. Yet the overall impression that one gets is that many of the Hungarian artists see the camera as a means of exploring relationships with other media, such as painting, sculpture, or performance.

Many of the works feature the use of a live camera. This creates a dichotomy between the time of the work, as it has been produced, and the time within which it is perceived. The spectator is brought into the work, on a physical level, in order to realize more fully its spatial inconsistencies. Thus, in Kapu (Gate, 1991), by Erika Katalina Pásztor, the viewer climbs a series of steps and finds himself projected onto a balcony, under which are beamed two “fictional” characters who are carrying on a mundane dialogue. In János Sugár’s Minusz patosz, plusz mitosz (Minus pathos, plus myth, 1991) an Oldenburglike assemblage of a scene, featuring a video camera, a clock in which the numbers are scrambled, and a wooden grid, is projected into another room onto a white canvas, placed high on the wall. In its confusion of references from painting and sculpture, Sugár’s work explores the possibility of identification implicit in the work’s title.

Two other works, which do not use a live camera, are among the strongest in the exhibition. András Ravasz and Péter Szarka’s untitled work seems like the antithesis of the video installation in its rejection of the electronic image, concentration on sound, and elevation of the static object. A group of drums are scattered around on the floor and on wooden benches. Behind the not-so-clear face of one of them is a television, droning on with a newscast. The banality of the image renders it almost invisible. In other instances, the artists use the drum faces as a means of reflecting light. A microphone on the floor picks up the stamping of feet and relays the sound to a speaker at the other end. This Rube Goldberg–like installation manages to redirect our interest to the physicality of the objects, while also referring to the more ephemeral characteristics of the media. At first, Márta Fehér’s 1=1,000, 1,000=1, 1991, seems to be closest to the traditional video installation: a set of three monitors, arranged in a triangle, relays images based on a system of copying and stuttering. However, the artist’s references to the composed stillness of photography and the rapid movement of the cinema transcend the requirements of one particular medium. Fehér’s work, visually striking in its collection of Tarkovskian moments, is about the relationships between media rather than a valorization of any single characteristic. Because 16 works have been included, one often finds oneself in a situation where the sound from one installation drifts (of crashes) into another. In the case of Fehér, who has skillfully manipulated a balance of natural and electronic sounds, the lack of an individual aural space is particularly unfortunate.

Michael Tarantino