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Uncertainty as a definitive experience – Zsófia Szemző’s photo-based collages

03 • 02 • 20Barta Edit - Szemző Zsófia

A graduate of MOME’s graphic art and media programme, Zsófia Szemző currently works on her DLA at the Hungarian University of Fine Arts. She already has won several Hungarian and foreign scholarships. By her own account, drawing is her prime choice when it comes to developing, destroying or assembling situations. Among other things, the modalities of narration are a subject she studies through human interactions and relations, the family conditions and stories. The same aspect pushes some of her work in the direction of participatory practices. In recent years she took an interest in photo-based collages, and she looks upon photography as a constituent of the image or a graphical element. She clips and uses the images of old books and magazines, collecting both Hungarian and foreign-language publications. Over the years, her collages became increasingly elaborate, the relationship of the image constituents more and more complex, the meaning of the pictures ever more intricate. She plans to make larger collages. She likes to contemplate, and her interests usually lead her to an anthropological mindset, looking for man’s place in nature, interpreting and underscoring actions, seeking synthesis. Her solo exhibition, Side Product, opened in Hidegszobastúdió in 2018, and she was CEAAC’s artist in residence in Strasbourg, thanks to a scholarship from Budapest Gallery. In the following, you can read the artist’s commentary on some of her collage series.

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View of Zsófia Szemző’s studio.

Uncertainty Principle (2017–2018)

“In physics, the uncertainty principle means there is a basic, theoretical limit to the possibility of ascertaining certain physical quantities simultaneously and with complete accuracy; the accuracy of one quantity is to the detriment of the other’s precision. In other words, inaccuracy appears on the atomic level. The main organizing principle of the series is uncertainty, and what is an essential quality of collages and montages, fragmentariness. These images may resonate with viewers because this fragmentariness is a side effect of how we live today. It follows from how we see the world, and what we do when we interfere with almost everything, changing the natural course and outcome of things. We reject chance and try to control our environment, but this may produce another chance occurrence, and in the end, uncertainty might prevail. It is thus important to have coordinate relations. This becomes possible with the changing of scales.”

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Zsófia Szemző: Uncertainty Principle, excerpt from the series, 2017–2018 © Zsófia Szemző

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Zsófia Szemző: Uncertainty Principle, excerpt from the series, 2017–2018 © Zsófia Szemző

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Zsófia Szemző: Uncertainty Principle, excerpt from the series, 2017–2018 © Zsófia Szemző

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Zsófia Szemző: Uncertainty Principle, excerpt from the series, 2017–2018 © Zsófia Szemző

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Zsófia Szemző: Uncertainty Principle, excerpt from the series, 2017–2018 © Zsófia Szemző

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Zsófia Szemző: Uncertainty Principle, excerpt from the series, 2017–2018 © Zsófia Szemző

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Zsófia Szemző: Uncertainty Principle, excerpt from the series, 2017–2018 © Zsófia Szemző

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Zsófia Szemző: Uncertainty Principle, excerpt from the series, 2017–2018 © Zsófia Szemző

Secret; Everyone Drinks Water (2019)

“Both series are colourful, patch-based, are dominated by amorphous spatial elements. The photographic elements direct the viewer’s attention towards a centre, but in these materials the characteristic organizing principle is not homogeneity, as in Uncertainty Principle, although uncertain, apparently random elements continue to produce the unity of the image.

The tension that emerges in some of the pictures of Secret is to point to the reality under the surface, which is forced to become a secret. What does it mean if all you are is secret and forbidden, or any of the further alternatives: hidden, opaque, unnoticed, veiled, hazy, suppressed, withdrawn, illegal, concealed, unlawful, not permitted, disguised, covered-up, private, invisible, coded and unknown? In evolution, mimicry is a form of adaptation, when an animal or plant assumes the external appearance and behaviour of other living beings or its environment, with the purpose of self-defence. The starting point for the pictures was The Story of the Marranos, which tells the history and modern life of Spain’s 14th-century Jewish converts."

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Zsófia Szemző: Secret, excerpt from the series, 2019 © Zsófia Szemző

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Zsófia Szemző: Secret, excerpt from the series, 2019 © Zsófia Szemző

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Zsófia Szemző: Secret, excerpt from the series, 2019 © Zsófia Szemző

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Zsófia Szemző: Secret, excerpt from the series, 2019 © Zsófia Szemző

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Zsófia Szemző: Secret, excerpt from the series, 2019 © Zsófia Szemző

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Zsófia Szemző: Secret, excerpt from the series, 2019 © Zsófia Szemző

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Zsófia Szemző: Secret, excerpt from the series, 2019 © Zsófia Szemző

"The series Everyone Drinks Water focuses on water. As in Secret, the space is again divided, but the elements of the image, which are of diverse quality, cohere to form a flow diagram. What emerges is the availability or absence of water, another problem of current relevance.”

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Zsófia Szemző: Everyone Drinks Water, excerpt from the series, 2019 © Zsófia Szemző

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Zsófia Szemző: Everyone Drinks Water, excerpt from the series, 2019 © Zsófia Szemző

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Zsófia Szemző: Everyone Drinks Water, excerpt from the series, 2019 © Zsófia Szemző