Hungary at the 56th Venice Biennale of Art

Interview with artist Szilárd Cseke and curator Kinga German


Author: Tina Kaplár
Published on: 16.02.2015

Hungary has been exhibiting at the Venice Biennale since its beginning being among the first four nations having its own pavilion in the Giardini. For the 56th International Art Exhibition the chief curator of the Biennale, Okwui Enwezor, with the title All the Worlds’ Future!  invited participating artists to explore the theme of possible world’s futures. Hungary will be represented by the site specific interactive project entitled Sustainable Identities by artist Szilárd Cseke and curator Kinga German that draws attention to the limits, the interdependency and the determined nature of the ego and various directions of thoughts. In our interview we asked artist the artist-curator duo about the exhibition, the preparation process till May and about all the necessary background information.

Kinga German curator and Szilárd Cseke artist, photo: Gyula Czimbal

Tina KaplárThe winning project for the exhibition in the Hungarian Pavilion at the Venice Biennale was revealed at the end of last December: it was by your artist-curator duo! Congratulations! Can this participation be regarded for both of you as a peak of your career?

Szilárd Cseke: Definitely. Participating in an art event of such a tradition and exhibiting in front of a professional audience of such expertise as that of the biennale is a great honour for me.

Kinga German: It certainly is, but from another point of view it can also be regarded as a new task in my life that has to be done well. I have never been career-focused and I believe in teamwork even if I have of course my own concrete visions and ideas and I like to oversee the processes.

Before we start talking about the exhibition, its curatorial concept and its preparations I would like both of you to talk about the so-called milestones in your professional development so far….

SzCs:  The changing focus of the Ani Molnár Gallery meant important inspiration to me. As the gallery was becoming more and more opened towards a wide range of media and the opportunities to exhibit mobile objects in front of international audience were expanding, I was motivated to turn to unusual materials and experiment with new techniques. I would also mention the solo exhibition with my mobile objects in the Museum Kiscell, as I definitely consider it a milestone in my career. Also, the site-specific installation that I designed, as part of the Park Gallery project, for a public space in the MOM Park with the title of ‘The Illusion of Progress’ meant a creative boost as well.

KG: The first milestone for me was when I was appointed to write for the cultural column for a daily newspaper with a circulation of 45 000 and the native German colleagues gave a very positive feedback on my creative use of the German language. Another significant experience was when during my cultural management course at the university I could learn from Kartsen Greve and Werner Heinrichs and I could be part of the empirical research led by professor Hans Joachim Klein among the residents of Karlsruhe about the possible acceptance of housing zkm, Museum für Neue Kunst and HfG in a former arms factory, where forced labourers worked during the Third Reich.

Another major milestone was when I got into the Hungarian higher education system and saw all the discrepancies to which I could actively and progressively react, gently shaping the cultural scene and the reception of the contemporary culture, while I could still remain free in this environment. In 2005 the instruction of contemporary art was on very weak legs, and as I came from the Basel-Strasbourg-Stuttgart-Frankfurt region I had much to speak about. Having witnessed the concert performance of Nam June Paik and the Einstürzende Neubauten in Donaueschingen it was easier to express for my students the significance of video art and its impact. I also worked a lot with my students in the field of art mediation that was back then an abandoned territory for art historians.

And maybe the last one was in the autumn of 2013 when I presented my paper at a large conference of medieval art (Forum Kunst des Mittelaters) and the results of my micro architectural research were published by the significant publishing house Imhof.

Szilard Cseke, Sustainable Identities, detail of the installation model, courtesy: Brigitta Nachtmann

A genuine difference of opinion between the professionals was moulded because unlike in its history this year a commissioner of political importance was appointed with no professional background. Part of the art scene boycotted the application itself. What was the decisive factor under these circumstances for you to hand in the application?

KG: The major reason was the authenticity of the jury, we handed in the project proposal after the members of the jury had been made public. At that point we were hoping for more applicants.The other important convincing factor was the fact that the appointed commissioner could not decide in content-related questions and could not vote when the professional jury made its decision. She has to handle coordinative tasks. The third justification was that the internationally underrepresented Hungarian contemporary art scene can not afford the luxury of missing an international opportunity of exposure. I am pretty sure that it would have had a very negative impact on the contemporary art scene of Hungary when let’s imagine Okwui Enwezor with all the representatives of the global art scene along with the cultural tourists encounter with some “DIY art” in the Hungarian Pavilion.…

SzCs: What truly matters I suppose is the composition of the jury. Therefore, when I could see that the selection of the members included professional experts, I made the decision to go for the opportunity. I really appreciate the work of many members in the jury and believe that their competence equals to that of the previous years.  In addition, the supervision and assistance in the preparation process from the side of the Ludwig Museum – Museum of Contemporary Art, Budapest also guarantees professionalism.