To Not Insist on Calling It Art – On Attila Csörgő
20 • 05 • 19György Cséka
Since his comprehensive show at the Ludwig Museum in 2009, Attila Csörgő has not really been present in the Hungarian scene except for one or two appearances; rather, his works were featured internationally. Indicating the significance of his art, most recently he was selected into the chief curator’s exhibition at the 57th International Art Exhibition of the Venice Biennale. Fortunately, winds seem to be changing at the home front as his presence has become more frequent, perhaps owing to his representation by the Glassyard Gallery, which was established only recently, in 2017, but has gained all the more importance already.
Csörgő’s show Collisions was organised in March 2018 by Glassyard, presenting a number of significant works, old and new alike, which had never been on display in Hungary. In a manner customary with Csörgő, the show not only presented the most current developments and latest phase of his art, but also works from various periods to emphasise the organic and consistent character of his oeuvre and thought, constantly reinterpreting the meanings of this corpus and keeping its tectonics in dynamic motion. As if Attila Csörgő – and this was characteristic of Archimedean Point as well – had always been putting a different selection of his works on show: every time another slice of with ever-changing correlations. This permanently restructured system, dynamically progressing back-and-forth, yet always maintaining its constant and consistent quality, is also a characteristic of Csörgő’s individual works, like a self-reflective conformation.
The well-thought-out quality of the presentation of his selected works is noteworthy, and it allows for a comparative analysis of his temporally dispersed exhibitions. Combined with the 2018 show Collisions, Spaces for Manoeuvre in 2019 seems to be the development, the expansion of Archimedean Point from 2009 into an all but retrospective exhibition, as each show featured new, previously unseen works that had often originated in earlier periods. It is like observing a continuously expanding cluster or cloud that also keeps changing its shape.
The corpus of Spaces for Manoeuvre was conceived between 1991 and 2018, with more focus on his works from his years as a student in 1992-93 (painting at the Academy of Fine Arts, then studies in the Netherlands). The spectacular, elegant and sophisticated exhibition brought well-known motifs from Csörgő’s system of correlations into play. The artworks on display often reflected on one another, or one developed the other further but each was fundamentally unique and in a sense, closed (in another sense, radically open). To be precise, the objects on display were more than artworks: they were proposals to solve problems of time, space and movement, most of the time backed by a notable mathematical apparatus and special technological solutions.
A distinctive feature of the works is that they oscillate between a closed form, a system on the one hand, and its circumvention, subversion, deconstruction on the other hand – in other words, between order and disorder. Attila Csörgő’s way of thinking and problem-sensitive mindset could best be described with a resolute “what if”. He does not settle for the aesthetically appealing representation of reality or the real, nor for further developing most of the inherent artistic, pictorial, sculptural or photographic problems: instead, he poses the abovementioned question and dismantles various scientific and artistic discourses, takes down their boundaries and reassembles them into something quite unique, always dedicated to asking a specific question or solving a specific formula. Looking at his works, it is difficult to decide whether what we see is the reconstruction of a scientific problem that requires quite specific knowledge and expertise, or an artwork. As Csörgő himself phrased in an interview: “I don’t insist on calling it art…” This very lack of insistence is what makes his oeuvre so exciting and important.
His works (seemingly) dismantle and deconstruct the notion of the artwork and meaning, as well as explicit great existential and metaphysical problems. The artist engenders his creations like an engineer of the utterly indeterminate but all the more exciting future, often leading to total dead-ends, behaving as self-cancelling signs, even if they do not effectively extinguish themselves. The most beautiful example of this is the structure of Clock-Work (1993) with its astonishing simplicity, in which Csörgő merges the clockworks of two alarm clocks to propel each other in absurd perpetual motion while paradoxically measuring time contrary to each other, as the hands of the clocks progress symmetrically and systematically, but in opposite directions, thereby querying and undermining their purpose.
The corpus of previously unseen pieces includes a surprisingly high number of photo-based works, with special regard to the Pseudo-Artworks (1993) series, which operates with the concept of readymade, merely recording objects and assemblages in his environment that appear to be artworks or installations on the street. However, we cannot find reassurance in regarding and interpreting these, as we keep being suspicious that what we see is not random, but the result of deliberate decision, in other words: a work of art. These works query the boundaries between work of art and non-art with their strongly ironic gesture of framing.
As usual, the treatment of the problems is exciting and sensual. From more personal works, which bear the marks of unique handiwork, such as the seemingly simple and absolutely adorable Vicious cubes (2018), with its childishly folded paper structures that provide solutions to sophisticated topological problems, to technically more complex, much more perfectly crafted pieces, like Clock-work (2011). Csörgő’s systems are constructed by the fusion of laws and randomness, with a predilection for exploiting errors and not striving for perfection by all means. One such case, not intended by the artist but fundamentally attractive in its fallibility, occurred when the author of this text was viewing the exhibition, and the discs of one of the Occurrence Graphs got jammed, failing to display the curve calculated by the artist.
The drone of the rotating motor and the inert tremor of the immobilised discs appeared to ironically parenthesise the incessant endeavour of humanity and science to create perfect, closed systems devoid of any error.
This almost certainly took place by far not against Attila Csörgő’s intentions.
Attila Csörgő: Spaces for Manoeuvre
New Budapest Gallery
19/05 - 08/03 2019