‘Perspective’ (exhibition-symposium-screenings)

28 June, 1999 – 22 August 1999, Mûcsarnok (Palace of Art), Budapest, Hõsõk tere

“Perspective is old evidence that we use fragmentally. By rethinking its structure, we can reach a dialogue covering everything that is essential to contemporary art. Questions arise, such as: what is the picture? What are the systems in space and their anti-systems like, where are the limits of artistic discourse?” These questions were asked by János Megyik, a Hungarian artist who was one of the participants at a summer exhibition/series of events entitled Perspective, presented by the Hungarian Palace of art (Mûsarnok) in cooperation with C3 Center for Culture and Communication in Budapest.

The original idea of the curators (Prof. Miklós Peternák, director of C3 and Prof. László Beke, general director of M csarnok) was to explore the almost 500 years of development of perspective and to document its relevance for contemporary art. In view of the enormous amount of material, the curators had to be selective. They ended up showing art pieces as signposts that marked certain periods in the history of perspective, with special attention being paid to the present understanding of the term. The exhibit focused on important pioneers of perspective, such as L.B. Alberti, Brunelleschi, and A. Dürer, to whose work contemporary artists refer constantly. The first part of the exhibition consists of paintings from the flourishing period of perspective, such as 17th century Dutch and Italian painting, geometrical drawings borrowed from the Museum fo Fine Arts of Budapest, and architectural diagrams by the Architectural Faculty of the Technical University. These are accompanied by optical devices and media relics (like peep-boxes, camera obscuras, camera lucidas, telescopes, panorama boxes, etc.), mostly from the collection of Werner Nekes. In reaction to this illusion-producing equipment, the Hungarian artist Szabolcs KsPál created several large red plastic forms which are hanging from the ceiling. From a certain point of view, the fragments are assembled to form a huge chair.

The other part of the exhibition focused on the perception of perspective in contemporary high-tech media art and presents the gurus of the field. For the first time, Hungarian visitors could ride a bike through the virtual text-world of Jeffry Shaw. Perry Hoberrman’s new work, System Maintenance, challenges ideas of interaction by creating three simultaneous environments which the viewer is invited to navigate: a furnished room (great fun for the kids), and two exact models (one physical, one digital). By moving the furniture and viewpoint on each of the three rooms, the visitors can match the components of the rooms as they appear in the projected image. The work of the Japanese Masaki Fujihata operates with a kind of virtual perspective, his installation Nuzzle Afar enabling the viewer to enter virtual space from a distant location. The installation has been connected to ZKM in Karlsruhe and to the Ars Electronica Center in Linz. Once the three countries share the same network, people at these centers will be able to meet each other long distance. The aim of this virtual environment was not only to rebuild an already existing network, but also to create an experimental model of human communication. The keyboard was replaced by a video-captured image, a trackball, and a microphone interface. The Nuzzle-world is composed of three different virtual rooms that are linked among themselves by certain objects. These objects create an opening that allows the viewer to move from one room to the next. One can catch up and come together with someone else, and they will be in the same spherical space, rubbing their noses like puppies.

As far as Hungarian artists are concerned, Márton Fernezelyi and Zoltán Szegedy-Maszák presented their project Promenade which examines the connections between real and virtual spaces, real movement, and the illusion of motion. Using a hand-held navigation device, the visitor can explore the virtual rooms by taking a walk in the real space of the exhibition room. The unusual spatial illusions displayed in the halls of Promenade address the ambiguous relations between the three-dimensional space and its two-dimensional representation as perceived from a dynamically moving viewpoint.

The Exhibition in Mûcsarnok was accompanied by a series of events, such as a scientific symposium, performances, and film screenings. The lecturers held at the symposium “Perspective on Perspective” (1-3 July) endeavoured to grasp the phenomenon of perspective from different points of views, among the topics presented were “Sensation and perspective” (Béla Bacsó), “The Principles of Linear Perspective” (Zbigniew Rybczinski), “Book and Perspective” (Friedrich Kittler), and “Rilke and Perspective” (Péter Pór). There were also artist talks, such as the introduction of the World generator/The engine of Desire by its producers, Bill Seaman and Gideon May. (The final version of World Generator was developed in Budapest two years ago, when the two artists were in a residency program at C3.)

Besides the symposium, there was also a film series (“Projected Perspective”) that featured, among others, films by filmmaker and media-researcher Werner Nekes, as well as films by Gábor Bódy, Tamás Walicyky, Dziga Vertov, and Zbigniew Rybczynski. These films documented a new perception of time as a result of the appearance of moving images, just as the appearance of perspectival drawings and paintings occasioned a new perception of space in the xvth century. As Miklós Peternák wrote in the catalogue that accompanied the series of events, “Within the period between the late 1910s and the early 1980s, a radical shift occurred in the concept of perspective and in the techniques of in image making. If we wanted to understand these changes by means of an analogy, a parallel could be drawn with the period of the Renaissance.”