All About hu: Impressions of the Hungarian Touring Exhibition

Hey guys, Amy here. It’s been a little while since I’ve shown my face (more like voice, or words) to this podcast, but trust me, I’m still around! It’s been a busy time but you should be getting a little more content from me, whether you like it or not.

So by now you must have listened to the latest episode of Hey Art, What’s Good? In it, myself, Alice and Rosie went along to the Abject Gallery to check out the hu exhibition. We were invited by one of the organisers, Andras Nagy-Sandor, to see the works of five Hungarian artists living and practicing in the UK.

This exhibition focuses on what’s lost or gained in each translation of the artist’s work. Before taking it to Newcastle, hu showed in Dundee. After Newcastle, it will go on to show in London, and it’s designed to change in response to each gallery it comes to.

When you walk into the room, the first things you see is a striking object by artist Zsofia Jakab. This is what first looks like an old spinning wheel but upon closer inspection looks more like an insect. It has insect-like legs and the wool it’s spinning looks more like cobwebs. Jakab came to Dundee from Budapest to study art and was inspired by university workshops to move her practice towards sculpture.


Next to this piece and dotted around the room were the works of Zsofia Schweger. Her paintings of interiors show that while her environment has changed, interiors stay the same. Her paintings look very aesthetically pleasing with pastel colours and perfect symmetry. I personally feel that they offer a sense of nostalgia as they make me think of old Pokemon games too. I also find these paintings very calming to look at. After studying abroad myself (in Hungary actually!) I found that the big change in environments could be overwhelming at times. But going back to familiar places such as a bedroom or library could offer me some solace.


One of the most noticeable pieces in the room was that of Petra Szeman. At the back of the room was a TV and headphones showing her moving image piece. Szeman is from Budapest and now lives in Tsukuba, Japan. Her moving image piece features an anime character that is both herself, and a character that looks like her.  It mixes anime and video game styles with real-life photographs and videos. Instead of a voice over or speech, she uses video-game style typed speech. She goes through a day visiting landmarks around her Japanese city and reflects on her time there. It’s an enthralling piece of art to watch and I can’t say I’ve seen work like this before, so it definitely left an impression.


These are only a few of the pieces we saw at the hu exhibition at the Abject Gallery. There were of course many more amazing pieces of artwork on display that I didn’t get around to discussing. Whether you catch their Newcastle show or make it to their London show, go see them yourself!

We also have a bunch of other blog posts for you to read, so go check them out here.

-Amy Smith

Life in All its Vanity and Fullness is Art, the Highest Art

If life is art, then the documentary Ceremony by Phil Collins at the Baltic very much qualifies. Ceremony is a documentary composed of three parts; the transportation of a statue of Friedrich Engels across Europe to Manchester, the stories of the modern Manchester working class and the celebration of the statue being installed. Engels is known as one of the authors of the Communist Manifesto alongside his friend, Karl Marx. But before this in 1845, Engels lived in Manchester and wrote with Marx The Conditions of the Working Class in England based upon the working class living in Manchester at that time. The themes of temporary work and education that is influenced by the politics and religions of the ruling class in Engels work are still relevant for 2017, when the film was first released. One major difference however is that instead of just being a writers topic, the documentary brings the lives of the people into the forefront of the story. The experiences of people translated into art is a way of prompting action or a response and is the main area I will be looking at. (Well done for getting past the first paragraph, I can only write like a scientist. My apologies).

Ceremony Image(http://baltic.art/whats-on/phil-collins)

Of course people’s living conditions is a popular theme in art. Even Charles Dickens did this, specifically in his novel Nicholas Nickleby. Written in 1838-1839 it strongly critiques the Yorkshire boarding schools of the time. One in particular served as his inspiration: Bowes Hall Academy. This school had horrendous living conditions for its wards and was a representative of most at that time. Dickens witnessed students being beaten, widespread blindness and evidence of death. Charles Dickens used this experience to add depth to his characters; for example Smike the maltreated student, and the vicious headmaster Wackford Squeers. Eventually in 1840, many of these schools went out of business, and the gathered attention on this system by Dickens’ book arguably played a part in this. Dickens was known for his descriptions on a lot of the living conditions of the lower classes during this time and through his personal experiences of poverty.

SBGN(https://www.vice.com/en_uk/article/dp5gwq/shy-bairns-get-nowt-inside-britains-biggest-foodbank)

Unfortunately poverty is also still present today. In 2014-2015 a documentary called Shy Bairns Get Nowt by Vice looked into food poverty in the UK. A food bank, located in the West End of Newcastle, was giving food parcels to 1000 people per week. The documentary primarily followed ‘Barry’ as he used this food bank. We get to know Barry more and more as the documentary goes on and we build up a closer depiction of what he is going through. Other people who use the foodbank and help there are also interviewed throughout the documentary. It represents these people’s reality in a way that evokes a response in you, which I believe art should do. Food poverty is a hidden aspect of society that can affect anyone. The title ‘Shy Bairns Get Nowt’ is a Geordie proverb meaning if you don’t ask you don’t get anything. How much that applies to the people who would rather starve than use a foodbank or a wider acknowledgement of the Shy Bairns of society that are ignored is anyone’s guess.

emma-goldman(https://libcom.org/history/emma-goldman-condensed-timeline)

A major champion of ‘reality encased in beauty and truth’ (Joseph Ishill, 1931) is Emma Goldman. Emma Goldman was an anarchist feminist who wrote Anarchism and other Essays in 1910 (would recommend). She was a committed activist and lecturer who critiqued many different aspects of society such as religion, the Soviet Union, and women’s rights. She also worked to bring to the American public plays, such as Crime and Punishment by Dostoevsky and works by Oscar Wilde and Bernard Shaw. She believed that great art has always gone to the masses, particularly that art and life are one and the same. She worked at this all her life bringing reality as radical thought into her discussion. Showcasing or creating art about the everyday life, like the examples given is as powerful now as it was back then.

Even if you don’t know about Friedrich Engels, Emma Goldman or Charles Dickens (I didn’t read Nicholas Nickleby, the internet is a wonderful thing). Showing any reality in an artistic format is what I love about art. Ceremony, Nicholas Nickleby and Shy Bairns Get Nowt are all examples of this. It is about showing people’s lives and struggles in a way that makes you think and even act. Which is what art should aim to do.

TL;DR showing people’s lives and experiences, particularly the lower and working classes at the forefront of art pieces is powerful and important.

-Ellie

References I used and further reading:

The Conditions of the Working Class in England and Ceremony

http://studymore.org.uk/xeng1845.htm#57

https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2017/jun/30/phil-collins-why-i-took-a-soviet-s tatue-of-engels-across-europe-to-manchesterNicholas

Nicolas Nickleby

Nickleby https://www.bl.uk/romantics-and-victorians/articles/nicholas-nickleby-and-the-yorkshire- schools

Shy Bairns Get Nowt 

Shy Bairns get nowt https://www.vice.com/en_uk/article/dp5gwq/shy-bairns-get-nowt-inside-britains-biggest-f oodbank https://gdblogs.shu.ac.uk/b3023955/2015/05/07/shy-bairns-get-nowt-inside-britains-bigg est-foodbank/

Emma Goldman and art in an anarchist sense

http://dwardmac.pitzer.edu/Anarchist_Archives/goldman/ishilleg/ishilleg.html

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2010/oct/06/emma-goldman-modern-anar chist

http://rebels-library.org/files/demanding_the_impossible.pdf

http://anarchy101.org/493/what-is-anarchist-art-today

Anarchism and Other Essays– Emma Goldman (1910)

http://www.accidentalcreative.com/creating/the-urgency-of-treating-life-as-art/

Some Further Thoughts: Sembalance

When you look further into something, things are never as they seem. This was certainly how I felt when researching further into material surrounding the aptly named Semblance, an exhibition by Mani Kambo that recent appeared in our very own Hey Art, What’s Good? podcast (If you haven’t had a chance to hear the podcast you should first go ahead and do that!)

In general, the exhibition featured themes around the ritual and the occult with tools often used for divination, such as tarot cards, incense, palm lines and symbols such as snakes and eyes. Part of the exhibition included handmade paper made by the artist which had been made with lavender. Lavender itself is associated with calming properties and used in creating a peaceful environment for dreaming. Its physical effects have also been used to treat inflammation and may even help to create a positive mental state with its scent. However, the act of the artist putting a herb used for dreaming into a physical object (the paper) reminded me of turning your dreams into something that is physical. Along this same thought, the exhibition also featured incense made by the artist that was burned and filled the air with heavy, pleasing scents. Incense can also be used to induce specific emotional and spiritual states or the future. Unfortunately I can’t remember which herbs were burned (sorry guys!), but again, this ties in with the action of making a spell into a physical object or response.

Another aspect the exhibition explored was the future. This was shown largely through clay models of the artist’s hands that had some detailing of the palms and knuckles creases, and these palm lines were also present in some of the digital prints hanging on the walls. Surrounded by incense, in a ritual circle, the artist’s right hand (which I assume to be the dominant hand) can be perceived to represent conscious future or your future as an adult. The main lines highlighted on the print show the head, the heart and the life line. The depth and the continuity of the lines and how they intersect can be looked at in a number of ways depending on the ‘seer’. However, an interesting thing about reading palms is that they don’t stay the same. As you age or go through life, your hands and the predictions they hold change, so your reading of the future can also change. This was also present in the artist’s own maze necklace and what she talked about: that life always moves either forwards or sideways and never backwards which is similar to how you walk through a maze.

Overall, these things inspired me to look further and engage more with the art. The ways the exhibition, the artist’s words and the divination tools wove together created a story of how things such as dreams, reality and the future all move and transform in many directions and that whilst they may not move linearly, they never revert backwards.

– Ellie Clark

Articles used:

https://ladykira1.wordpress.com/tag/spiritual-meanings/ https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18053656 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3612440/ https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5312835/ https://www.ravenandcrone.com/catalog/a72/magickal-properties-of-incense/article_info.html https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Palmistry