Péter Szalay

Residual Value

Venue: acb Attachment
Date: Apr 26 – May 31, 2013

In the first exhibition held at acb attachment, Péter Szalay explores – and combines through recycling – tried and tested forms of preserving and presenting mementos and material remains.
The representational techniques of institutions established with the aim of sustaining shared cultural memory and caring for its material remains, in turn, shape that memory. Péter Szalay, drawing on the techniques of presentation employed by museums of archaeology and ethnography, displays a fictitious set of architectural and material remains – construction debris left behind by the remodeling of acb Gallery – in an exhibition context.

The building rubble created by torn down walls – building materials, architectural elements, discarded objects, and their components – is exhibited as if it constituted a collection of related objects that surfaced during an archaeological excavation. Szalay arranges, groups and processes these elements, as a result of which these fictitious relics are placed on the walls, in the space, and in-display cases, giving the impression of systematized orderliness and directed remembrance.

This artistic gesture brings with it a number of consequences that are worth thinking over. One of these is the relationship between contemporary art and historicality, which is, as per the temporal dimension, by necessity relative. In the present case, the artist, purely through the means of representation, declares something a historical relic, when it isn’t necessarily that. Another important issue raised by the exhibition relates to the concept of the artwork. The material elements that serve as the substance of the exhibition originate from the space of an institution that engages in the presentation and selling of works of art. Through being “reused” and featured in an exhibition, these elements gain new status; they become works of art, which can be viewed, interpreted, and sold. It is this change in status that the title of the exhibition refers to in an ironic fashion: “residual value”, which is also used in accounting (among other areas), stands for the estimated market value of an asset at the end of its useful lifespan. In connection to the exhibition, however, the words that compose this term also bear reference individually.

Although Péter Szalay has earned his degree in sculpture, he works with such varied media as object, installation, lightbox, performance, and video. His works are often operable machines made of simple materials and found objects or their components. In his art, he successfully combines DIY aesthetics known from Eastern European conceptual and neo-conceptual art with the latest advances in technology.      

In Szalay’s essentially intellectual works, there is always emphasis on the meaning-making function of material realization (operation, use of materials), which constitutes an important dimension of interpretation. The thematic of his works is extraordinarily multifaceted, ranging from marveling at the metaphysical essence of simple physical phenomena to reflecting on the social, cultural, and artistic phenomena of the present. His critical attitude is revealed by the ironic tone that often appears in his works, sometimes in the form of language games, at other times as visual games or gags. 

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