Péter Szalay

Double Vision

Venue: acb Gallery
Date: Apr 18 – May 29, 2014

Péter Szalay’s exhibition entitled Double Vision can be regarded as a continuation of his 2013 debut under the title Residual Value, which commemorated the renovation of the gallery, using the debris produced during the construction process. Here, he holds a mirror to the new, trendy, and sterile gallery space with his ironically simple and clean installations and small, polished sculptures. The utilization of ethnographic elements is common to both exhibitions, but there is a difference. While Residual Value placed current material in the past with the help of archiving methods, Double Vision replants the phenomena of the past into the present using various means of distortion, including pairing up our grandmothers’ porcelain figurines with – and reflecting them in – images of the Rorschach Test.

Thus, the concept of symmetry is a central component of Double Vision, which exerts its critical function through a kind of ethnomathematical outlook. The science of ethnomathematics examines the objects of everyday use left behind by what is broadly referred to as “old societies”, drawing conclusions regarding the mathematical knowledge of the given community based on their ornamental motifs. The standard of this knowledge – which also includes principles of symmetry – is, in turn, related to that society’s level of cultural practice and the ability for abstract thinking.  Szalay offers us primitive pseudo-symmetries, which constitute one of the main themes of the exhibition. 

While Attila Csörgő, Márton Barabás, and many others have employed the concepts and techniques of geometry, of these, Péter Szalay has chosen axis symmetry as an exclusive reference point in structuring his artwork. The exhibition material as a whole is grounded in this scientific model of representation. The concept of symmetry is situated in the areas bordering the natural sciences, art, and technology, as it links together the three chief means through which the human being seeks to understand the world. At the same time, according to one’s visceral sense of aesthetics, symmetry is a pleasant phenomenon. Double vision uncovers the possibilities where this basic attitude is turned on its head.  

The layers of meaning in the exhibited works in terms of Hungarian cultural history and the Bible, as well as their cultural-political relationship, strike a balance with the bizarre appearance and japing tone of the pieces. The distorted forms which overwrite the charm, and the low-quality photo enlargement that corrodes the cheeriness of the shepherds as they haughtily step in front of the camera, come together in an ethnographizing nightmare.   

The artist, as usual, utilizes a varied use of media, while reaching for ever newer modes of articulation and retaining his biting humor along with his multi-layered system of references. He luxuriates in the possibilities created by blurring the lines of ethnography, iconography, and kitsch, leading to a sense of indecision deepening into fate. 

Written by: Zsuzska Kozák, curator of the exhibition

Supported by: NKA 

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