20 • 01 • 20Ferenc Margl
Rather than training in specific programming languages and fields of development, full-stack developers have an overall grasp of all segments of coding, from background processes to user interfaces. They have mastered a systemic approach that allows them to educate themselves in any of the fields.
This exhibition at Studio Gallery, the venue of the Studio of Young Artists’ Association (FKSE), would not seem out of place in a similarly specced space in Prague, Vienna or Berlin, while its subject is very accessible for anyone familiar with virtual interfaces and images.
Biró maxed out the exhibition facility on the corner of Damjanich and Rottenbiller Streets, which has seen some action, and recently, a reduction of floor space: more than a mere exhibition (of images), this is a carefully arranged space, complete with an installation that complements the series, original lighting, an intervention that covers the entire gallery, and electronic music that brings in mind the best Western openings.
It seems pertinent at this point to establish briefly what front-end is. The front-end is what you see when you open a browser (and read this article), or when you start using a mobile app, such as Instagram, Twitter or Tinder. It is an interface that is individual enough to allow you to recognize the product you are using, and sufficiently generic so that you can find your way about it.
The front-end’s counterpart is the back-end, all that is under the hood, the code that runs when the user presses the green Save or the red Cancel button. Developers who are at home in both fields are called full-stack professionals. (As for the title of the exhibition, it may be of art historical interest that in secondary school Biró was looking to a career in IT.)
Biró is certainly a full-stack artist. He creates carefully planned studio compositions, in which everything is where it should be, everything is figured out and tested, creating views that could easily be taken for purely digital works, and would not be jarringly at odds with the flow of pictures we see every day in real life and cyberspace. Biró completed the BA programme of Kaposvár University in 2016, and presented Perplex, another conceptual series that reflected on the medium, at the diploma exhibition. Edit Barta, who opened the show, briefly commented on the work of every student in her speech. There were few people in the country, she said, who could illuminate a scene the way Biró could. If now, three years later, you walk through the exhibition with this knowledge—no longer prepared, that is, to accept the images as purely digital constructs—you cannot but agree with Barta.
As already noted, the material of the Front End series merges two, formerly separate projects. The series itself has been shown in different forms: at the artist’s 2018 MA diploma exhibition, and at These Are the Best Years of Our Lives, MODEM’s show in Debrecen in the autumn of the same year, which featured young Hungarian artists.
The exhibition at Studio Gallery was of course again based on the series with the same project title. Each photo is blown up to poster size, and is mounted on a support without a frame. To be more precise, what frames the photos is not differentiated by its thickness and/or material quality, but by its colour. The edge of the support is coloured bright green, a hue that is reminiscent of the green screens in front of which an increasingly large proportion of blockbuster scenes are filmed, before the background is turned into something else with the use of digital technologies (such as CGI). In other words, the photos, whose subjects are definite, practically offer themselves to be placed or inserted anywhere. There is no consistent set of motifs to relate the images to each other. Each makes an impression of being everyday, and at the same time extremely artificial, whether the subject be wooden blocks, a house plant cut through by a white plane, or a piece of IKEA furniture assembled in a way that frustrates its function.
The series is complemented by wooden poles, placed in the centre of the space and painted the same green-screen colour, rising from the floor like the columns of some info chart, free to be filled with content and meaning. With this installation, another element of the culture of the digital image, data visualization, enters the focus of the exhibition. Data analysis and visualization have grown to be a massive industry, with data-centred and data-driven decisions all the rage; to make these, analysts and managers increasingly rely on tables that contain tens of thousands of lines, rather than simple-to-understand and visually appealing infographics. Our everyday existence and anxieties may well be similarly data-driven as we mull over how many liked our recent post, how many read our article, and whether it was shared sufficiently. And if we do not yet visualize bar and pie charts, our thinking is permeated by numerability and measurability, the universal forms of which are the bar charts visible at the exhibition.
There is another visual intervention in the space, which takes the form of small crosses, so-called tracking markers. They are sometimes aligned with the pictures, as if they marked the positions of the corners, but in most cases they appear on the walls sporadically and randomly. These markers define the very aesthetic of one of the works: these standardizing elements are in the focus of the photo, and overwrite the blurred composition—an archival family shot or a press photo—in the background. Like the green frames, these markers set the images in motion, relativize their current position by designating countless possible alternative points for them.
Along with the picture series, the installation and the markers, the exhibition includes a fourth compositional element as well: light. With their cold white and bluish light, the neon lamps produce ideal illumination conditions: there are no disturbing glare effects, dim corners or crossing shadows, everything is optimized for reception as if in an ad-free application.
The execution of Front End is of a very high quality, and the show does not restrict itself to the confines of a customary photo exhibition. Along with the walls, the whole space is brought into play, thanks to Biró’s strategy: rather than using the series and its means to reiterate ad nauseam the subject, i.e. the virtual images of our everyday reality, he adds further characteristic elements to the mix to be interpreted, extends his set of instruments, and turns what is already a meticulously crafted series into a complex exhibition experience. (Translation: Árpád Mihály)
Dávid Biró: Front End
Curator: Flóra Barkóczi
Studio of Young Artists’ Association's Gallery
13 / 11/ 2019 - 23/11/ 2019