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Meaning Under Surveillance

“The strengths and weaknesses inherent in the communication forms of power – that’s what I am primarily interested in.”
Gábor Gerhes

While in Neue Ordnung, the previous exhibition of Gábor Gerhes, he presented imaginary secret societies, now he examines the mechanisms of openly functioning oppressive systems of power. His observations are focused on the communication processes between different regimes and the individuals under their governance.

Language, i.e., the basic tool of information exchange, is both topic and medium for Gerhes. In this exhibition he turns towards words with a linguist’s curiosity and questions and with an attitude inspired by Victor Klemperer’s book about the language of the Third Reich.

These latest text-based works of Gerhes present elevated ideas that are so often (ab)used and recycled by different regimes. Motherland. Beauty, strength, diligence, readiness, endurance, loyalty etc. – Gerhes rips these words out of their contexts and places them into the gallery space – that is, into an extraordinary position of attention, and he does not stop there. Since these creations have both the aspect of a conceptual artwork and that of an object or an installation, it is not only the mere texts inserted into the artistic context that convey the message but also the ways and the media of representation. The process of (text) interpretation is deliberately distracted and redirected by the typographic design, the material qualities, and the installation solutions of Gerhes.

Gerhes refers also to another important element of the Third Reich’s communication strategy in his video work, namely as to how the art exhibitions created for propaganda purposes reveal the guiding principles of the fine arts policy in national socialist Germany. His work paraphrasing the triptych of Adolf Ziegler, President of the Reich Chamber of the Visual Arts and Hitler’s favorite painter, highlights the artistic qualities of the conservative genre painter who was responsible for the general perception of other artists whether they were supported, disapproved or dishonored by the government; and brings the dictator’s personal taste into the scope of analysis as well.

Among the non-text-based objects presented at the exhibition there are cross-like mahogany structures on the way of transformation only suggesting their virtual future forms. The works examine the relationship between the systems of power and the Church the institutions of which are well known of their high crowd-motivating capabilities. The Herend porcelain plate from 1964 is another example for the textless works. It bears a portrait of Gerhes as a child and its particular story introduces us to the half-finished history of communication between the cadres and their inferiors in the Kádár era.