Sebestyén Kodolányi and Csaba Uglár: “Abuse”

Sebestyén Kodolányi and Csaba Uglár: Abuse. Project Room, Museum of Contemporary Art/Ludwig Museum Budapest, November 3-25, 2002 

Sebestyén Kodolányi’s and Csaba Uglár’s project abuses the toposes of confraternity and the noble-spirited sentiments of men’s brotherhood. The “documentary film,” an experiment, documents a fraud. The “spiritual community” is dwelling on some scholarly topic first in a room of utterly mysterious atmosphere, then sets out and marches along against a backdrop of the streets, the blocks, and the inhabitants of the city.

The group of men, in garments that imitate sacred habits, visualise both the brotherhood of men in the gospels of the classical early Christian world and the life of orthodox monasteries today, as known to the western world mostly from documentary films.

The camera, following the gloomy figures on a sunny summer afternoon goes on a pilgrimage through the embankments, the empty streets, and neglected tenement blocks of Budapest until it finally drops into the vortex of the carnival.

The objective character of the project, however, proves to be a fraud; the observer of the scene gradually realises that the camera is filming itself throughout. The documentary style employed and the implicit objectivity of it is sheer imitation.

Communion is only an illusion, too. The apparently collective marching is actually the internal journey of the subject. The “Oriental” background music is not an illustration to the “apparent documentary character” of the film, but rather an amplifier; it dramatises the spiritual journey. The monotony of the music is associated with the well-known atmosphere and the repetitive rhythm of the prayers and other religious ceremonies.

The dramaturgy of the film, the alternation of the inside scenes, and the outside sequences in the city are an allegory of the immersion of the subject “deeper and deeper” into the self. The language of the philosophical/religious speculations however is a mumbo-jumbo imitative of the phraseology of mystical teachings, so what the dramaturgical trick really illustrates is the illusion of the subject’s reality.

There is another component of the documentary character: the imitated Orientalism of quasi folk objects (like the camera with its tawdry sequin decoration and felt-tip pen calligraphy organised to create a uniform surface in the sense of horror vacui) which, again, is a paraphrase of the Oriental sacred aesthetics.

The deliberate exoticism of the Oriental world is a fraud as well as an allusion to the sacred myths of the brotherhood which suggest universality and timelessness, especially because the ideology behind the “noble-spirited sentiments of men’s brotherhood” operates another possible type of bond among men: the heroism and solidarity of terrorists.

The ethos of sacred confraternity thus turns into the narrative of monk-colonel/major characters in which the world of Oriental objects is replaced by a series of hints at the mass-murdering militant functions of technology.

Kodolányi’s and Uglár’s Abuse is manoeuvring off the well-known toposes of masculine subjectivity embedded in Oriental and technological pseudo-folklore. Their story is documented partly with solemn and charismatic declarations, and partly with somewhat theatrical scenes.

Thus, they direct a parody of the old banalities of masculine myths, a parody of themselves, in fact, which will complete their fraud when their artistic subjectivity scintillates through abuse and illusion and still talks to us.