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Experimental Opera on Car Crashes Featured at Hungarian Pavilion in Venice
Németh Hajnal: ÖSSZEOMLÁS - Passzív Interjú, munkafotó, 2011. Photó: Németh Hajnal.

VENICE.- In autumn 2010, Műcsarnok / Kunsthalle Budapest announced a competition for curatorial commission and exhibition at the Hungarian Pavilion for 2011. The members of the jury, invited by the then national commissioner Zsolt Petrányi, were the following: Gábor Andrási (art historian, editor-in-chief of the journal Műértő), Géza Boros (art historian, deputy head of department at the Ministry of National Resources, Department of Arts), Dóra Hegyi (art historian, project leader of, Edit Sasvári (art historian, vice director of the Museum Kiscell / Municipal Picture Gallery), Katalin Timár (curator of Ludwig Museum – Museum of Contemporary Art, curator of the Hungarian Pavilion in 2007) and Krisztina Szipőcs (art historian, head of the Collection Department at Ludwig Museum – Museum of Contemporary Art, editor of the journal Balkon).

The skeleton of the work is an experimental opera that takes place on the stage of life, relating, and reflecting on, the stories of car crashes in a dialogical form: the critical moment slowed down by memory and related in utmost detail; the drive and the course of events leading up to that moment; as well as the complex relation of man to driving, in view of his inclination to fetishize his technical objects.

Filling the space as an acoustic experience, the piece is also presented at the show in the form of a musical film.

The installation is complemented with the librettos of the dialogues, namely the written records of the passive interviews, as well as the real life wreck of a car totalled in a crash, which occupies the space as an evocative artefact. Beyond the individual events that are recorded, sung, or impressed in a chassis, the composed versions of individual life stories suggest the possibility of determinacy with regard to human destiny.

Hajnal Németh’s complex installation of multiple components treats the halls of the Hungarian Pavilion as acoustic units: music fills each space synchronously yet with slight differences. Walking around the exhibition halls, the visitor is free to discover the various layers of sound and meaning, the lyrics, the music, as well as the ambient noises in the presented video.

On the one hand, the installation is bombastic and theatrical; on the other, it displays subtle and philosophical design. The totalled wreck of a car is flooded in red light against the sonic backdrop of a musical composition that evokes associations of improvisational, experimental opera, its libretto based on interviews with survivors of car crashes.

Perambulating the spaces, the observant visitor may experience at least three different stories. Firstly, that of sung recollections of car accidents; police reports in the form of interviews, also available for reading on site. Secondly, the narrative of the motor vehicle as a fetish object of the 20th century, as the presented video footages were shot at typical key sites of car manufacturing and use. The third narrative is the visitor’s own, as there is no set route for the audience at the pavilion. As if the shock-like, punctual time-frame of an accident were unfolded at once linearly and cyclically, leaving the acts of perception and exploration to the rhythm of the spectator.

Hajnal Németh is serious and intellectual, but she wraps this in the façade of mass culture. Her work can be related with existentialist literature as well as the phenomena of Eastern European “new pop”. Nevertheless, no sooner do we hypothetically imagine such an analysis than it is short-circuited by the amplified warning of a colour, shape or sound in this context. The aesthetic of her unique work lies in this individual-existentialist sensitivity, which, owing to its intimacy, is capable of forming arabesque-like surface patterns from the profundities of existence.

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