The Off Biennale Budapest is a self organised project created by independent curators and artists based in Budapest. One of the aims is to develop and rely on structures that are not state funded, in a time when Hungary’s rightwing government drastically alters the institutional structures in favour of a conservative and nationalist agenda or withdraws funding from contemporary art altogether.
The exhibition at Cortex Athletico shows the work of four artists dealing with structures both spatial and societal and the strategies of escaping or challenging those structures. Although there are numerous conceptual connections between the artist of the show, the complexities and psychological momentum their work develops suggests to let go of any categorizing concept and trust the power of the individual works as well as the rich dialogues they evoke.
György Jovánovics’ sculptural work is strongly conceptual as well as informed by art history and literature. His meticulously constructed plaster reliefs build on the tension between surface and three-dimensional space, as well as between order and complexity. While living in Berlin in the 1980s he produced a series of colored plaster reliefs that seem to unite Turneresque graduations of colour with the advent of new “wild painting” of the 1980s. His two 1995 objects, enigmatically titled “House of the Lavender Cultivator” and “House of Lavender Cultivator’s wife” turn his investigations of light and shadow into almost constructivist architectural models.
Eva Kot’átková’s collages deal with the individual’s relationship to normative social structures and institutions, such as the government, school, or the family. She gives form to the invisible, disciplining force exerted by rules, conventions, and rituals: Cage-like objects, acting as physical restraints for body parts, cut-out illustrations from medical textbooks, and images of people tangled up in strings are recurring motifs in her work. Poetic, darkly humorous, and occasionally ominous, Kot’átková counts Czech surrealism and absurdist literature among her sources of inspiration.
Josef Dabernig’s work is also often concerned with social norms and the body. His film Hypercrisis, edited according to a carefully structured system of predetermined time units, is set in a former recreation home for Soviet cinematographers in the South Caucasus, repurposed to accommodate writers. At present, only Boris Martow from Moscow, a talent from the promising times of the perestroika, is on the guest list. Amidst the faded glory of the institution for privileged artists, the poet tries to overcome his continuing creative crisis, while the staff (as usually played by Dabernig’s friends and family) follows odd daily rituals.
Zsolt Tibor’s often large-scale drawings move between an analytic mapping of things, places and shapes, and the associative open-endedness of drawing on paper, although often paired with elements of collage and more recently painting. Tibor is occupied with general and eternal social questions. Personal and cultural occurrences and phenomena are all part of his work, on a pictorial level as well as on a technical one. The dilemmas of everyday monotony, day-today struggles and “idyllic” middle-class existence are dealt with in the form of copying, repetition, erasure, and a delicate balance between representation and abstraction.
György Jovánovics (born 1939 in Budapest, lives and works in Budapest) is a preeminent Hungarian artist who started his career in the 1960s as part of the so called Iparterv group. He has gained international recognition among others by his exhibition at the Biennale di Venezia 1995. His work was shown only twice in Paris, at the 1972 Biennale des Jeunes (for which he was not allowed to leave Hungary), and at the Jeu de Paume’s exhibition L’autre moitié de l’Europe in 2000.
Eva Kotátková’s (born 1982 in Prague, lives and works in Prague) work was included in numerous international exhibitions, among other the Biennales of Venice, Moscow (both 2013), Sydney (2012) and Lyon (2011). This is the first time her work is shown in Paris.
Josef Dabernig (born 1956 in Kötschach-Mauthen, lives and works in Vienna) films, photographs and sculptural works have been shown in museums and film festivals internationally. His solo show in 2014 incude Galerie Andreas Huber, Vienna, mumok - museum moderner kunst, stiftung ludwig wien, Vienna, Wilfried Lenz, Rotterdam, Kunstbunker – Forum für zeitgenössische Kunst, Nürnberg. His work is in the collections of the Centre Pompidou and the Musée d’art morderne de la ville de Paris.
Zsolt Tibor (born 1973 in Budapest, lives and works in Vienna) has had solo shows at Trafó Gallery, Budapest (with Beatrix Szörényi), Lukas Feichtner Gallery, Vienna, among others and has had numerous group exhibitions at institutions such as SMAK, Ghent; Ludwig Museum, Budapest; Krinzinger Projekte, Vienna, HIAP in Helsinki, and Kunstverein in Dortmund.
Andreas Fogarasi is an artist.