Interview with Szabolcs KissPál

Posted on: August 29th, 2015 by & No Comments

&: Szabolcs, if I am not mistaken, you are of Romanian origin. Why is the history (and also the current political condition) of Hungary so important to you?

S: You’re right, I was born in Romania and lived there for the first twenty-six years of my life, following which I moved to Hungary (in 1993). My identity has been influenced not only by this duality but also by other ethnic and background circumstances, which have been influencing the history of my family on private and historical level. Therefore the various historical events of the twentieth century have been shaping both my identity and my position. In the project for SSG I was interested in how the actual politics generates similar problems by eventually replicating some of the past historical faults.


&: I am curious if, in your opinion, are the terms like the left- and the right-wing still relevant, or if the current political structures shall rather be seen through the Bourriaud’s optics of post-production. As sort of “cocktail” mixed from fragments of twentieth-century ideologies…

S: The postproduction and the remix culture are very important cultural phenomena; they influence the structure of political ideologies indeed, and as well contribute to border-blurring between the political left and right. The current rhetoric of the Hungarian government for instance expresses, through its (neo)conservative and nationalist elements, the ideology of a historical authoritarian right. At the same time, its populist elements often carry the traces of both Hungarian communist past and some of the ideas of historical international left. The method therefore quite significantly resembles the way how a live DJ would work: the remixing principles are simultaneously controlled by the nature of the stock library (a montage of the historical traditions) and the actual feedback from the audience (a remix of various political rhetorics).

&: Nassim Nicolas Taleb in his Black Swan insists that to predict the future is easier than to predict the past. He also adds an opinion that the history should be seen rather as fun, than the science discipline. You work seems to engage with a kind of collective memory, but more or less independent on the historical facts. Do you believe in history? What kind of collective memory is present in Hungary?

S: Any historical narrative relies to some extent on faith, on what we believe that has happened based on the more-or-less fragmented data we have. My narrative is a subversive one; it broadly relies on historical facts, which are then confusingly mixed with fictitious elements. This is exactly the method through which the official collective memory is constructed in Hungary: it always contains the idea of a tradition, which was stolen and distorted by “external powers”. In this aspect has a lot in common with the historical narrative of the far right, the neo-pagan movements and parallels can be found in other European countries too…

&: How do you feel about notions like “fine arts”? Is it in your eyes still so independent and free (if it ever was), and is it wide enough for the contemporary artists’ interventions or do we need to describe this unpredictable evolution in art with another terms?

S: It is clear that another term is needed… Historically the fine arts have been considered the practice entitled to deal with images. But because of the communicational aspects of art which came forward through the avant-garde of the twenties (followed by the neo-avantgarde of the sixties and the digital revolution of the nighties) the images became arguments of various rhetoric, thus transforming the fine arts into a visual communication in which the articulation of critical positions became crucial. &: In its basis, the current research of Artificial Intelligence deals with the self-organization principle. It seems to me that people are convinced that such principle is necessary for each “living” matter. What do you think about the fact that we are still not able to accept this idea in “higher” structures—e. g. social organizations? S: To some extent we are able to accept and practice the self-organization, it is enough to mention the influence of the social media on the historical events of the recent past from the Arab Spring to Wikileaks…

&: In Amorous Geography you use the found material with a very specific aesthetic. Nicolas Bourriaud in his Altern Modern Essay claims, that it is significant approach of a new trans-global artists to work independently on time and place. They take the local symbols and approaches and bring them to the global context and vice versa. Do you perceive yourself as an alter-modern artist?

S: To some extent, yes. For many years I had dealt in my practice with the universal themes and concepts of the modernism, but then I became more and more interested in the specificities of the local context, and the possible methods of sharing them through a cultural translation. The Amorous Geography is one of those attempts in which the link between local and global is made through the post-colonial bad conscience, which is shared more-or less by all European cultures. The continuation of the project will place the emphasis on the new emerging political religions rooted in explicitly local neo-pagan traditions contributing at the same time to the Euro-skepticism of the rising far-right.

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