About the open competition
The national commissioner announced the competition for an exhibit at the Hungarian pavilion of
the 55th International Art Exhibition – la Biennale di Venezia, 2013 in the autumn of 2012. From an unprecedentedly high number of applications, the eight-strong jury chose Zsolt Asztalos’s Fired but unexploded (curator: Gabriella Uhl) as the exhibit to be presented at the national pavilion.
Consistently explored and extremely minimalist, but also lyrical and memorable as a result, Zsolt
Asztalos’s project was found by the jury to be connected to both the Hungarian and the international contexts. Since the proposed exhibit represents its concerns, both formal and philosophical, in a variety of manners, it makes its subject accessible for the general public of the Biennale.
“Luckily found since World War One, the various bombs, projectiles and grenades (which have an
absurd visual appeal like so many designer objects) were rendered useless by some ‘error,’ making them deny their own fate, as it were,” wrote the jurors. “As a result, they ‘saved’ people’s lives, while their presence, their very existence, created a state of continuous threat, a condition of tension.”
Compact, metaphorical and relying on a broad horizon of thought, the installation at the Hungarian pavilion of the Venice Biennale will touch on both the historical traumas of the 20th century, and the immediate results of tension in contemporary Hungarian and European society.
About the concept
grace – terror – (in) memory (of)
Each bomb has its own story. Which is essentially one of two kinds. Bombs may explode and thus
fulfil their role as objects made specifically for the purpose of destruction, and then enter history
books and the personal histories that families maintain.
Zsolt Asztalos in his turn looks into another possible story in the installation he has created for the 55th International Art Exhibition in Venice: the story of the malfunctioning device which stays with us, generating, interpreting and symbolizing conflicts among humans. In what semantic fields can these destructive objects, these relics of wars waged and raging, these latent carriers of a constant threat, be interpreted, asks Asztalos. His “found objects” are multiple representations of conflict situations, open to simultaneous interpretations on personal, local, regional and global levels.
An unexploded bomb makes a statement. It thinks. Motionless. Mathematically. The process frozen by chance devours time. They are manifestations of a state of grace. The machine that was created to destroy man left its original function, and went on (may go on) to write the history of humanity on its own, creating personal myths and narratives which may make the inexplicable, if not interpretable, at least relatable. It is with its own disorders that technicized society creates an opportunity for mystery to work—while denying its very existence. Their fault or “unnatural” behaviour extends the temporal dimensions of the conflicts, even reveal them as timeless. The theoretical approaches, as well as the research and installation praxes of the visual arts have been instrumental in processing the brutal traumas of the late 20th and 21th centuries. It shows that bloody genocides occur in the name and shadow of false slogans about humanism. They were dropped but did not explode. What has become of them? How did they determine the future, our future? These are the questions that Asztalos’s installation makes us ponder on, rigorously, in all their ramifications.
About the catalogue
The texts selected for the catalogue of the exhibit, published separately in English and Hungarian,
serve to offer an interdisciplinary approach to the issues raised by the installation, involving both
the humanities and the natural sciences. Csaba Horváth, a bomb disposal expert, offers a history of the technology; mathematician László Mérő introduces the reader to the mathematical definition of chance; and poet and Benedictine monk Mátyás Varga provides an overview of the Christian teachings on grace. We can learn more about the artist and the installation from the study of the curator,
Gabriella Uhl. The personal reflections of the national commissioner, Gábor Gulyás can be read in
the introduction of the volume.
About the installation
The installation comprises twenty videos, each presenting an unexploded projectile found in Hungary.
The vision of the destructive weapons, which hover in a homogeneous, indefinite space, is complemented with the sounds of the world around them, and thus the films open the way to new
The inscription of the past into the future takes place in a group of works that use different media,
including videos of unexploded bombs which resemble stills but for their fine movements,
and a video that employs a different perspective (panorama projection). The latter, 9-minute film
shows the present-day history or everyday functioning of the places where the unexploded bombs were once found. Built on places where danger is a physical reality, the present has transposed the unexpressed tensions and conflicts into the people who live there.
The website at http://www.fired-but-unxeploded is an integral part of the installation: it not only provides further information on the exhibition, but also aims to create a worldwide map of conflicts with its interactive interface.
An application available for all smartphone platforms will guide visitors through the exhibition and will provide more information for those who want to further immerse themselves.
ABOUT THe exHIBIT OF 2013ZSOLT ASZTALOS (1974)
Fine artist lives in Budapest