Ujlak Group

By Kingsley, Diana | Artforum International, November 1993 | Go to article overview

Ujlak Group


Kingsley, Diana, Artforum International


When relating the story of the Ujlak Group, one is tempted to resort to a narrative of the "artists' group" as creative laboratory, a narrative that is in large part responsible for their appeal in this Eastern European climate of uncertain relationships. The group itself, however, rejects any well-greased organizing principle, functioning more as a nonlinear commentary on communication. Their refusal to define themselves and their relationship to each other, and their infinitely renewable impulse toward definition is their raison d'etre. As one of the artists put it, "We ape the experience of understanding the other, which of course is an impossible act."

However impossible, the shows, whether the artists exhibit individual works (often unidentified) or work together on a performance or installation, always seem to reflect a consensus that is poetic, contemplative, and shifting. Their most recent show, as usual running for only three consecutive evenings, was in an abandoned pasta factory, which the group took over legally and have worked out of since 1991. Here the collection of seven installations (by group members Zoltan Adam, Kalman Adam, Gabor Farkas, Tamas Komoroczky, Andras Ravasz, Peter Szarka, and Istvan Szili) managed to conflate hominess, alienation, and insidious violence into an atmosphere at once ironic and transcendent.

From Peter Szarka's vaguely cultic, otherworldly Africa '69 or '96, 1992 (Africa is still a faraway "other" to Hungarians), in which a steam-puffing black pedestal was placed over an image of an African rug projected onto the floor, to Gabor Farkas' down-home but spooky niche constructed from a backpack, table, fishing line, and colored chalk scribbles on the wall and floor (at once innocent art-classroom disorder and scene of violent crime), all the works here spoke to our collective fears and desires. …

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