Ilona Németh: Revised Version

Curated by Judit Angel

Text Information/
Picture Gallery/

Opening: September 25, 2014 at 6.00 p.m.
Till October 31, 2014
with DJ Pixy

Opening hours:
Wednesday - Sunday
2.00 - 7.00 p.m.

Address: Beskydská 12, Bratislava, 81105
Shuttle Bus
Vienna – Bratislava – Vienna

ERSTE Foundation is offering a free shuttle bus from Vienna to Bratislava and back:

Thursday, 25 September 2014

16.30h Departure time from Vienna
Meeting point: Opernring 13-15, 1010 Wien, in front of Hotel Le Meridien

21.00h Departure time from Bratislava

22.00h Arrival back in Vienna at Opernring 13-15, 1010 Wien, in front of Hotel Le Meridien

Registration required until 23 September 2014 at:
Please be so kind to register with your first and last name and if possible give us your telephone number to contact you in case of any changes.

It is recommended to bring a passport or ID-Card as a travel document.


Every exhibition, be it a solo or curatorial show, has personal motivations behind it: something has to be said or made public. Insofar as we regard the art institution as an embodiment of the public sphere and a platform suitable for presenting various views and positions for debate, we place the artistic statement in a potentially conflictual space.
The main motif of Ilona Németh’s exhibition is the presentation of the relationship between individuals and history, between art(ist) and politics, for debate. For her, this is articulated as a personal need in a politicised milieu where current politics constantly interferes with people’s lives.
It is not some sort of nostalgia for the 19th century ideal of artistic freedom that leads Ilona Németh to experience the relationship between art and politics as a conflict. Assuming social responsibility, as well as the necessity for making a stand and expressing one’s opinions, are central to her value system. What she is irritated by is the defencelessness of artistic intention/artwork against so-called adhocism, which effects artists who engage in social and political themes.
In order to deal with this conflict, Ilona Németh involves family stories and private histories and resorts to a method of “personal archaeology”. She reaches back to one of the most defining experiences of her own childhood: the regular Sunday conversations that took place between her father and uncle, two left-wing intellectuals. As it becomes clear from the video interview conducted with Rezső Szabó, the artist’s maternal uncle, in those days each of the two men perceived different aspects of communism from his own perspective. While the video interview is essentially a document that sums up the life path and experiences of the uncle, it is also a kind of generational calling to account by the artist. Ilona Németh could not identify with her father, who in spite of his pluralistic views, remained dedicated to communism, or her uncle, who stood fully behind the cause of the Hungarian minority, but had a monolithic, hierarchical manner of thinking. With the rejection of these male role models, however, came the possibility of finding her own path, built on her identity as a woman, a concerned citizen and an artist – and with it the compulsion to grapple with a sense of conflicting responsibilities to herself and to others.

The artist’s deceased father, Jenő Németh, is present through the objects that are connected to him. In the photo, which depicts him accompanied by a delegation as they arrive at the opening of the flower exhibition Flora Bratislava (cca. 1971). Here a life enclosed in conventions and the principle of the centralized system (the leader and his “entourage”) are manifest at the level of representation. Reference to hierarchic structures also appears in another video work showcased at the exhibition, in the video consisting of a montage of archive film material showing a ship and barge, to which the uncle compares himself, an example of responsibility and obligation, and a general leadership model.
While the videos are grounded in principles of narrative and representation, the dramatic presence of the motion detector controlled table – which opens and closes from time to time – refers to the mechanisms of history, and the sepulchral remnant, as an object of family heritage that has finally been put to use, offers a mute presence.
Ilona Németh creates a space in which the elements are connected one to another in multiple ways, as are the content aspects of the works, which are linked in a network-like fashion, and whose points of intersection give rise to different – sometimes contradictory – directions. The articulated questions have no clear answers: we cannot determine the proportions of destiny and adopted conviction in the life path of a person; from the perspective of the present, it is difficult to glean the context of past decisions and to understand the contradictions of a given era/system. Depending on age, social position, political standpoint and cultural background, visitors may arrive at radically different readings. There are, however, lessons to be learned from the instances of confrontation between individual paths and history.
In returning to the visual memory that prompted the idea of the exhibition – the triangle of the young girl and two adult men – it can be said that it is a now mature, adult artist who has managed to alter the basic position: the “discussion” takes place in a space that is not rigidly confined, but open and network-like. While the exhibition provides no solutions for dissolving the tension between individual and collective – artistic versus civic – responsibility, it nevertheless offers some perspectives and creates a condition of equality between positions of debate.

Judit Angel