An exhibition by Miklós Erhardt
7 November – 5 December 2018
Curator: Attila Tordai-S.
Str. Napoca, no. 16, Cluj
The exhibition by the Hungarian artist Miklós Erhardt is structured around three video works: a documentary made in collaboration with Claudio Feliziani about members of a workers' collective in post-war Italy (Enzima Rosso, 2001); a détournement called Disambiguation (The Society of the Spectacle) (2018) based on Guy Debord's famous film from 1973 and on the artist's original and revised translations from 2004 and 2018 respectively; and „...That I Won't Become Whom I'd Wanted to Be” (2018), a personal re-enacting of a scene from a classic Hungarian documentary from the 70s. The three works, although using different approaches, are all referentially linked to radical leftist movements of the second half of the last century by presenting examples of rather isolated, minoritarian experiments. The title of the exhibition resonates with our current social, political and cultural situation in which such progressive narratives are increasingly misinterpreted, discredited and eradicated to the benefit of either neoliberal relativism or old-new nationalist myths.
The Red Enzyme focuses on an early, peripheral and „non-canonised” precedent of the Italian Autonomia operaia movement. In the mid 1950s, workers' collectives in Civita Castellana in Lazio county founded a number of small ceramic factories. The momentum and ideological background of the experiment was provided by the strong Italian communist movement, but the factories, co-owned by the workers but operating within a capitalist structure, met with resistance even within the communist political nomenclature, let alone the per se hostile capitalist environment.
Guy Debord's magnum opus from 1967, The Society of the Spectacle, is an iconic representation of the hyper-radical position of the Situationist International in the May events in '68 in Paris. Nevertheless, by the time he made the film by the same title in 1973, revolutionary hopes were crashed and the movement lost momentum. This places the narration (that otherwise faithfully follows the text of the book) in a rather elegiac context, supported by the footage that seems an illustration of the total domination of the system, rather than an active means of revolutionary propaganda.
The re-enactment „...That I Won't Become Whom I'd Wanted to Be” is based on a documentary from the 1970s (Princess in Rags and Tatters by István Dárday, 1974) that examines the shortcomings of the workers' education policy in socialist Hungary. The author Dárday was member of a socially engaged filmmakers' collective that made a series of bitterly ironic documentaries calling the system to account for the lack of real inclusivity and solidarity. In this film, framed by the tragicomic documentation of a musical performance in a workers' hostel, a young worker talks about his life with such directness and sincerity that he alone outweighs the shallowness of the interviews made with other figures.
On the subjective level, the films confront the viewer with monologues by persons defeated in their fight with powerful systems. The defeat dispossessed them of their energies and illusions in different manners and to different degrees, thus they open up different ways of dealing with one's past. Through the juxtaposition of the three autonomous works in the exhibition space, a fourth intellectual-existential trajectory is being outlined – the one of the artist, whose approach across the films made in different periods, seems shifting, through appropriations, alienations and approximations, from the position of a compassionate outsider to intellectual and symbolic identification.
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