To remember is obligatory in Budapest and when you remember in Budapest you might not want to comeback because in Budapest like in Havana, the present is willing to happen only if a better future comes by. With subtle care I took memories into my hands and with joy I decided to focus exclusively on fragments. During a month I didn’t pay attention to anything else. Little pieces that I know once belonged to a complete picture, to a picture that once made complete sense”. – Diango Hernández quoted from his artist-blog, inspire-me-again.com (27.01.2011)
Diango Hernández is Blood Mountain’s inaugural Artist-in-Residence in November 2010. His exhibition “a kiss, a hat, a stamp” is by extension the first exhibition to take place at Blood Mountain villa.
The new works, produced by Hernández during his residency and presented as his first solo show in Hungary, pay tribute to Budapest’s tradition of independent creative practices and its rich culture of second-hand goods. He applies a process of finding, assembling, creating and re-appropriating materials sourced from flea markets, antique dealerships and a specialist artisan workshop. His exhibition, “a kiss, a hat, a stamp”, enables found objects to take on new forms and new meanings in this new setting; focusing on fragments and edges, rather than whole objects and surface areas. The show comprises two sculptures, two wall paintings, a collage and a site-specific installation in collaboration with Valéria Fazekas, alongside a special commission by her, a key member of Hungary’s diminishing artisan community.
By positioning Fazekas’ unique headwear on a patina-ed bookshelf juxtaposed with press images of industry, collective sports and new architecture of the bygone Soviet era, Hernández’s poignant comment about the city’s past and present is striking. The understated exhibition design also lends relevance to the Foundation’s location on a former Ottoman era battleground and to the setting, which was once known as a Habsurg era family estate.
Diango Hernández’s artistic practice is at best described as ‘conceptual’: inspired by versions and visions of many lived realities. It is deeply rooted in his Cuban upbringing of the 1970s and 80s and is therefore well versed in the attitudes and visual semantics of the Soviet era. Objects are found, materials are re-appropriated and political rhetoric is handled with lived intelligence, subtle humour and personal sentiment. His practice relies on the inherent narrative and beauty of ‘the incidental’: a chance finding and grouping of objects, which create new ‘entities’ and at once discuss and disguise the artist’s fascination with them. The selection and placement of these objects, however, is not incidental: the meeting of two materials is destiny and is at best compared to a kiss.
Hernandez’s poetic approach and Hungary’s own history as a former Soviet satellite state were an obvious match for Blood Mountain’s first artist-in-residence. HIs residency comprised three tireless weeks of looking, finding, assembling and re-appropriating materials from flea markets, antique dealerships and a specialist artisan workshop. The new body of work became a tribute to the city’s heritage of independent creative practices and its rich culture of second-hand goods.
Beyond the discovery of poignant objects and emotive elements during the residency, Hernández also encountered locals, whose professional expertise and personal engagement became defining factors in realising his project. One such ‘find’ was Valéria Fazekas, a beacon of light in Hungary’s diminishing artisan community. Fazekas creates wearable objects in felt to express a dialogue between the past and present. Trained as a milliner at the height of socialism in the 1980s, Fazekas’s education at once embodied Budapest’s pre-war celebration of The Modern Individual, the culture of custom-making, and also stood in contrast with the de-personification and industrialisation of her times. Even in light of today’s liberal climate, the expressive nature of her work is often misinterpreted as extravagant, rather than expressive and highly individualistic. Hernández’s discovery of her practice and its re-contextualisation as an expression of contemplation, beauty and deep sentiment, are insightful reflections on his own practice.
The third and final space of the exhibition is the artist’s studio, where Hernández lived and worked during his residency. Next to a made bed, a long timber bench represents his working process: books, sketches, drawings, found objects; and a nearby projector showcases examples of a stamp collection he sourced at the local flea market.
Long out of use and almost comical in their naïve visual tone and low currency value, the stamps become quiet reminders of the Soviet era of which the found photographs also bespoke. The exhibition is thus complete and the process of exiting it in reverse become an analogy for Hernández’s working method: reflecting on past narratives and revisiting their material world for fresh ideas and tangible inspiration for the present and future.
Blood Mountain Foundation is a non-profit arts organisation committed to generating fresh discourse about contemporary culture and current affairs. Based in Budapest (Hungary), it seeks inspiration from the city’s rich history and diverse cultural heritage and provides opportunities for exchange between local and international art practitioners and the broader community through curatorial and educational programmes, artists’ residencies and special projects. The Artist-in-Residence Programme offers up to four emerging to mid-career international artists the opportunity to live and work in Budapest for four-to-eight week periods each year. They are encouraged to engage with all facets of the city and to develop new work inspired by these experiences.
Sourcing materials from a local artisan workshop, flea markets and antique dealerships, Hernández’s practice pays tribute to Budapest’s tradition of independent creative outlets and quality second-hand goods. The processes of finding, assembling, creating and re-appropriating are key motifs in his practice: by focussing on fragments (rather than whole objects) and edges (instead of obvious surface areas), Hernández’s found objects take on new forms and sentiment in their new-found setting.