A piece of the dead viewed

By Christine Rotter

HAZAI javak or Domestic Goods is exactly the type of exhibition that I like. For, although it is small, visiting times are severely limited and its exhibition space slightly unusual (two rooms of a first floor flat in District III), almost every piece stays in the mind long after leaving the collection.

Ten artists have contributed works of mixed media and various styles to the exhibition which will be travelling to New York after it finishes its run here on Mar 4.

As its name suggests, the exhibition is concerned with the household, household objects and traditional concepts of „domestic life” and „a woman’s place,” which are constantly being redefined in today’s „climate of globalization.” It also brings up questions on domestic aesthetics and traditional chores, minus the irony. It tries to show how borders between the simplicity of home and art of the masses can be crossed. To a certain extent, the works also point out, seemingly unemotionally, the passing of feminism’s „golden age.” Two pieces in particular which have stayed with me are Feszített pohár (Glass in tension) and Ereklyetartó (Memory display case), for want of a better translation.

The first piece consists of a plain water glass suspended between two bolts on the wall by thin steel cables. It is „in tension” as it appears pulled in opposing directions by the cables. The piece is hard to turn away from.

A glass is such an everyday mundane object, which we are so used to seeing on a table or a cupboard shelf, that it is almost disturbing to see it as a suspended work of art.

It „turns the creation of home and interior, which is traditionally regarded as a woman’s responsibility, completely on its head,” says the small book that accompanies the exhibition. The second piece I want to mention may be more disturbing for me than for the average Hungarian, as I don’t think we have any similar traditions in British culture. Ereklyetartó has three parts to it. There are two hollow cuboids of glass which contain nail clippings and one round case that has hair in it. All three cases have a magnifying glass at the front through which the objects are viewed. Apparently it is a custom here to place such artifacts from the dead in display cases as visible memories. While this alone is a little disturbing to me, a Hungarian friend of mine was shocked that the artist has displayed her own nails and hair and she is still alive. The small book tells us that this piece „questions connections between art and body. The exhibit highlights connections between objects we like to preserve as memories and interior decoration, kitsch and transcendence. „The nails and hair, which continue to grow even after death, are at the same time human remains and also a symbol of thousands of years of femininity and female preening.”

There are other works too, definitely worth seeing, of mixed media and individual messages. Each has its own novelty value. The exhibition is interesting, thought-provoking, free and definitely worth a look at if you are in the area.