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Opening remarks by Luca Gőbölyös

Photo: Capa Center


Of This World – Envisioning Alternative Cartographies and A Forged and Delicate Future

opening remarks by Luca Gőbölyos DLA, artist, art professor


I promise to be brief, as I myself detest overly long opening speeches.

For a long time, I considered maps the representations of the view from above, the sort of divine point of view. This most definitely was also because of the famed lines of our poet Miklós Radnóti, known by all Hungarians: “For him who flies above [the land], a map is all he sees,…”

In my latest works, I myself like to take in the view from above: to capture it with my camera, to look at it and to try to understand it from a top-down point of view while discovering, noticing, or even creating structures, connections within. For example, in my video Himmel und Hölle, which is a piece reflecting on the refugee crisis, I used a map of Europe to create a hopscotch pattern, as seen from above, showing countries in a grid system according to their population.

Maps, with their diversity, have fascinated me since childhood. This fascination is similar to that of Jed Martin’s, who says that “the map Is more interesting than the territory,…”, the landscape. Although, in the case of the protagonist of the Houellebecq novel, it was rather Martin’s perverse admiration for handicraft pieces that led him to create his unreflective, and, even for him, uninteresting oeuvre of map-photographs. For me, maps were like snowfall in winter: they brought order to a tangled reality. The snowfall, by obscuring details, made the world coherent, while the maps showed connections that were invisible when looking at the details up close.

Our common interest is in cartography, or the map itself, which is traditionally defined as a top-down representation of the surface of the Earth or other celestial body, or of natural and social objects and phenomena related to the surface, projected onto a plane according to certain mathematical rules or geometric laws, reduced in scale, generalized, and presented in a specific graphic symbol system.

A map, however, is much more than a vision of the origins and interconnections of mountain ranges, continents, and rivers our ever-changing maps show our borders and declare legitimacy.

Not only do they make visible the interconnectedness of the world around us, but, as Lexington Davis, the curator of one of the exhibitions, writes, maps have the ability to “highlight differences and subjective experience [by] drawing attention to the constructed nature of the world in which we live, and the social, environmental, and political relations that shape our everyday reality. Mapping—both in a literal and metaphorical sense—offers the opportunity to chart complex and overlooked terrain, revealing new layers of meaning and modes of interpretation…”
And, as a creative practice, it also has the potential to dismantle common beliefs about the spaces we inhabit.

We all live in our own time and whatever we do has consequences. As artists, we have a responsibility to reflect on the problems of our own time. We cannot ignore the constantly changing borders of countries or even continents, not even on maps, and neither can we ignore the social issues such as our endless consumption, the refugee crisis, the environmental pollution, the climate crisis, or even the trampling of human rights.

The basic question of these exhibitions is: how can art contribute to a more sustainable post-pandemic future? The projects on display [curated by Lexington Davis and Eric Lawton] explore not only how art can confront and critique a new world, but also how it can help build it.

The essence of all things lies in their history, says German economist and sociologist Max Weber.

Natural disasters have been an integral part of human history, but civilizational disasters are on the increase, as a result of recent social changes and industrial and technological restructuring. It is clear that without an understanding and interpretation of the past, we cannot imagine our future. Some of the images exhibited here reflect on what and how we remember. Which communities use which solutions, and what kind of object culture do they create to make their own work easier? Is there such a thing as a collective memory? Who builds it and how? And what tools are used to create and modify it? How do our memories change and how do we consciously alter and manufacture them? The photographic image is used as a tool to decipher all, as it is a typical form of representation of this genre and the production/creation of memory.

According to the ethologist Vilmos Csányi, we exist in a state of constant activity and production, our modern culture is an unscrupulous system of generating desires, which, on an evolutionary basis, means the end of humanity. In his view, in an ideal future, work will be the privilege of the few, and people will transform their compulsive talents into intellectual activity. If we can create a society in which activity is focused not on the production of objects, not on the excessive consumption of energy, and not on the creation of incredible concrete monsters, but on, say, spiritual fields, competitions, art, creation, even passive contemplation, and philosophy, we will save our planet from destruction.

Conservationists also warn us of the dangers not only of climate change but of extreme consumption and production — these all require a global response.

Cooperation, dialogue, and a common will.

It is rather symbolic that the artistic discourse on the future is made possible by the collaboration and dialogue of artists and curators from 11 countries, and not by a competitive, individualistic attitude.

Although primarily considered in a political sense, the German philosopher and essayist Walter Benjamin believes it desirable that the artist does not separate themselves from those to whom they wish to address. They should not provide their audience with a higher knowledge, and they should not put themselves above their audience. Instead, the artists need to allow their audience to become authors, creators themselves, and the artists themselves should become producers like their audience. Benjamin sees not only the traditional divisions between genres dissolving, but also the distinction between the creator and the reader, or in this case, the recipient, becoming questionable.

The works on display here, these alternative maps permeated by time, are for me, very appealingly, questions rather than statements, encouraging the viewer to look beyond his or her own thoughts for possible answers, which are not necessarily to be found in the realm of rationality.

Victor Hugo talks about those wide, formless, empty spaces of old maps from the 15th century, on which are written these three words, Hic sunt leones, “here are lions.”  According to him, there are such dark corners in humans as well, where passion lurks and growls somewhere within us, here, on these spots and portions of our soul: there are lions roaming.

The exhibition is now open.