How many exhibition works:
Kyiv, Brussels, Budapest
12 September – 10 November 2023
Urbanism – the study of the urban built environment, public space organisation, public architecture, public money, public memory, public taste and public life – is certainly a public matter. There is no need to explain it further. However, the precise subject of what counts as a public matter is not so clear. Especially when we think of such ever-changing categories as the formation of cultural canons: what we hold as worthy of attention, archiving, and protection.
The reputation of modern architecture, based on utopian and humanist theories, is in global decline. Beyond the sporadic brutalism-fan Instagram accounts popping up in recent years, even more voices denounce the modernist units built around primary geometric forms of unadorned metal, monochrome concrete and light as dystopian and anti-human. Similar tendencies surfaced in the former Eastern bloc countries, where the legacy of the state socialist past aggravates the rejection of modernism. The collective transgenerational psycho-traumatic traces of the era determine the way we think about the cultural legacy of state socialism. An integral part of the region's 30-year re/integration into Western hegemony is the expulsion of the state socialist era and all its cultural imprints from the national cultural canon, from the national cultural identity.
The generic indifference and rejection of modernism have been amplified and turned into an active political programme by the FIDESZ governments since 2010. Indeed, it has often been analysed that the Hungarian mainstream of culture and memory policy is characterised by a selective retrospection of the past, focusing on certain phases of an imagined history. While solely focusing on interrupting historical continuity, they disrupt communal memory by marginalising specific periods and their cultural heritage. An entire era is placed outside the past and the present. Its memories are physically destroyed or thrown into oblivion. We can see such practical examples of how modernist architecture is treated.
Yet modern architecture, one determining art form of the 20th century, goes far beyond the boundaries of the state-socialist legacy in terms of time, place and ideology. By the beginning of the 20th century, with industrialisation and the growth of cities, the demand for industrial, residential and public buildings had surged. Architects took the opportunity, breaking free from traditional structural constraints, to use experimental materials and novel construction techniques to create innovative forms and new philosophical approaches to architecture.
Architecture experts consistently argue for preserving and protecting modernist architecture, but they have difficulty winning sympathy from the political and civil lay public. Hungarians do not like modernist buildings. They plaster them with mediocre graphics; they cover them with images. They tear them down and replace them with facades of a historical world that has never existed. Chasing revisionist and purist fever dreams, they destroy the material manifestations of an ideal, pointlessly arguing for a “unified image” of the city. This tendency cannot necessarily be resisted with arguments. Arguments must be materialised; an experience must be produced that vividly reveals to the audience a cultural logic shaped not by the demands of temporal taste and politics but by the desire to recognise, defend and discursively engage with the outstanding achievements of other eras.
Andreas Fogarasi's work is an attempt to evoke this experience. We have already witnessed this ambition in his project Kultur und Freizeit (Culture and Leisure), presented at the 2007 Venice Biennale, where he addressed the transformation or disappearance of the spirit of places through the cultural houses left vacant after the regime change. Following the same agenda in the works presented in the current exhibition, Fogarasi once again aims to display the processes of cultural memory and canonisation in sensory form, presenting modern architecture at the margins of the current cultural canons in both temporal and international contexts.
In the exhibition's focal point, in the series of Sights, simple tourist maps become the material imprints of changing cultural realities. From Belgium to Japan, Fogarasi selected a wide range of old and new publications highlighting the architectural landmarks of these cities. Fogarasi removed the small schematised image of buildings emerging from the maps from their graphic context and transferred them to blank maps. As a result of the visual reduction, the audience is left with only those replicas of buildings that the editors of the time considered to be cultural products of prime importance in the matrix of Zeitgeist, national cultural trends and values, national identities and political ideologies. The series, from various periods and countries, offers multiple possibilities for comparison while at the same time influencing the viewer's own experience. Looking at a map of Budapest from the 1970s, even if we recognise the buildings marked, these are certainly not the sights we would send our foreign friends to. What was then the pride of the city now bears the forced presence of existence. These maps are not only interesting due to local timelines but also as they draw parallels across time and space, between eras and countries. The images of Hiroshima, Kyiv and Budapest evoke different examples of the barbarity of destruction. In some places, foreign governments and armies are bombing, in others, domestic political arrogance and cultural indifference.
The abstract storytelling continues in the Budapest, Stripped series. Moving on the border of constructivist sculpture and found objects, Fogarasi tightly bundles changing paneling elements of public space and building reconstructions. Former and new paving stones, windows, façade elements, metro station tiles tell the sensual story in the language of material, form, colour, size and quality through the realised architectural constructions of the past and present cultural realities.
The benches are atmospheric elements. You can sit on them.
Andreas Fogarasi (1977) lives and works in Vienna, but always has been present in the Hungarian art scene. Fogarasi’s studio practice merges documentary and sculptural strategies. Through his videos, photographs, installations and sculptures – informed by Minimal and Conceptual Art as much as by architectural thinking – Fogarasi explores the act of showing, representations of power and identity in public space, and the relationship between culture and collective memory. Fogarasi studied architecture at the University of Applied Arts in Vienna and visual art at the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna. His solo show titled Nine Buildings, Stripped was held at the Kunsthalle Wien (Vienna) in 2019, his solo exhibition titled Skin City – A város bőre was organised at Budapest Galéria in 2022. His solo exhibitions also include Georg Kargl Fine Arts (Vienna, 2017), Proyectos Monclova (Mexico City, 2016), MAK Center (Los Angeles, 2014, with Oscar Tuazon), Galeria Vermelho (São Paulo, 2014), Galerie für Zeitgenössische Kunst (Leipzig, 2014), Haus Konstruktiv (Zurich, 2014), Prefix ICA (Toronto, 2012), Museo Reina Sofía (Madrid, 2011), Ludwig Forum (Aachen, 2010), Lombard-Freid Projects (New York, 2007). Fogarasi’s work has been presented at numerous groups exhibitions at institutions such as the MUMOK (Vienna), Museo Tamayo (Mexico City), Ludwig Museum (Budapest), New Museum (New York), Kunstverein für die Rheinlande und Westfalen (Düsseldorf), Muzej suvremene umjetnosti (Zagreb), CAC (Vilnius), Frankfurter Kunstverein (Frankfurt) and Palais de Tokyo (Paris).
1053 Budapest, Magyar utca 26.