Reality and reflection

“Culture doesn’t save anything or anyone, it doesn’t justify.
But it’s a product of man: he projects himself into it,
he recognizes himself in it; that critical mirror alone offers him his image.”
(Jean-Paul Sartre)

In addition to the exhibition spaces of the Transylvanian Art Centre in Sfântu Gheorghe, other cultural institutions of Szeklerland will join the events of the 7th Graphic Art Biennial of Szeklerland in October 2022, as unlike in previous years, the Szekler Museum of Ciuc will present part of the core material of the Biennial.

This year’s call is inextricably linked to the previous one, with the curator, Ferencz S. Apor, sensitively responding to the global stress and unpredictability of recent years, giving the call the title ”Strategies”.

This year’s call, like the one two years ago, struck a prophetic note, as it called for new creative strategies for the future, reflecting on the events of the past, even before we knew anything about the current war, and thus, wittingly or unwittingly, it also referred to the current situation.

Strategy as a concept was primarily used in warfare and meant the art of winning a war. Although it has a much broader connotation today, unfortunately, our current situation reminds us of the original connotation of the term. Not only the war raging in a neighbouring country, but also the increasingly acute ecological disasters of our time, the fight against the pandemic that has not yet ended, the foreseeably accelerating energy crisis, the economic decline, and so on.

The number of works submitted to this year’s call has not decreased significantly compared to previous years, the jury members were able to choose from 2000 creations by 844 artists, which once again exemplifies the artists’ relentless receptiveness and willingness to take action. This time, 303 works were selected for the Biennial’s core selection, which can be seen in this catalogue.

Although the Hungary, Poland and Romania were strongly represented again this year, the quantity and quality of works submitted by South American and Far Eastern artists was spectacularly stronger than in previous years. This year’s prize winners include artists from Poland, Hungary, Thailand, Romania, Slovakia, Bulgaria and Finland.

Looking at the Biennial’s core material, we are right to wonder what creative strategies art offers to respond to the changing global circumstances, to the uncertainty that is increasingly making itself felt in our everyday lives. Can we find some kind of grip on the unpredictability? How are our personal and individual lives interwoven and influenced by events in the wider world, and how can we respond to them?

Every change generates new social and cultural bonds, that give rise to new relationships and socio-cultural manifestations. In a sea of anxiety, fear, intimidation and manipulation, it becomes increasingly difficult to find a way out, so that an attitude of loneliness and isolation can become a normal behaviour. Is this the new normal? Art has always responded sensitively to crisis situations, assuming an attitude-shaping, sensitising role in society, holding up a mirror to it.

This year’s call of the Graphic Art Biennial of Szeklerland was also a response to a crisis and a questioning of the “new normal”. Multiplicative graphics is one of the most appropriate genres to express a critical attitude, since one of its important roles and aims is to question perceived and actual reality and, if necessary, to confront the reality around us even ruthlessly. This is also given by the technique, since the works created with acid, copper, needle or chisel imply the very essence of the possibility of strong and decisive expression.

The works selected for this year’s Biennial are a beautiful blend of fine art techniques and digital solutions, creating unique experiments and a rich visual language. The sharper lines and colder style of mechanical processes enter organically into dialogue with the more subtle, lyrical linework of planographic, screen-printing, digital and custom techniques. Regardless of their technical execution, their choice of subject matter reveals to a large extent an absurd, cold, threatening world. Through their dialogue, the thematizations of different issues, such as loneliness, pandemic, hopelessness, ecological problems, are brought together into a whole, providing a visual image of the relevant situation of our time.

Looking at the material of the Biennial, the question arises again and again: can art, and if so, how can it bring about change in a reality outside of itself?  This year’s core material, even if it cannot bring about concrete changes, certainly invites the viewer to reflect through the quality of the works and the choice of themes. To paraphrase Sartre, it is a critical mirror of our near and distant surroundings that, wittingly or unwittingly, encourages us to change and move on.

 ”It is not enough to have eyes (…),
one must learn to see.” (Sartre)

Dr. Iréne Kányádi, art historian

 

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