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'Lex Selfie Drama' by Botond Keresztesi at ArtKartell Project Space, Budapest

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From the very beginning, art has given ambivalent answers to the question of how it may be capable of mirroring reality. In the antique times, two Greek painters staged a contest to see which of them could create the most lifelike painting. In the painting by Zeuxis, the grapes were so perfect that birds would try to peck at them. However, Parrhasius became the winner, for all he painted on the canvas was a veil, but it fooled even his adversary. For long since antiquity, the measure of authenticity had been the extent to which art was capable of bringing things tangibly close even if they were actually not present. Today, however, artists have a different role. Media, dimensions and narratives have multiplied. The absurdity of the present is reflected best by taking into consideration how many bizarre situations and unexpected turns overwrite our most basic ideas and plans on a daily basis. Today, faithful representation means the presentation of things lurking in the background, or ones that are simply invisible, yet present. 

This time, Botond Keresztesi goes after the rarely seen supporting characters of the culture of sanitary fixtures. The pictures at the exhibition Lex Selfie Drama (LSD) are in quest of the makers of bathroom mirrors, who have been Photoshopped out of the images. In the course of his quest, he encounters unexpected visitors. It turns out that the mirror is a portal to another dimension, through which fantastic creatures can enter our reality. The Japanese Goblin emoji, the monsters of the nineties computer games Quake and Doom, the liquid metal policeman from Terminator 2 all arrive together with Ucello’s dragon and Picasso’s acrobat. Although these peculiar creatures are invisible to ordinary people looking at stock photos, Kereszesi’s paintings now reveal how they spend their time in our bathrooms. The fact that they have actually been here and are not merely figments of Keresztesi’s imagination is proven by the colourful towels preserving the imprints these creatures have left behind, much like the shroud of Turin. 

From another perspective, Lex Selfie Drama is a thought experiment as to what would happen if making selfies was banned. A dystopia that leaves no room for self-expression. This seemingly absurd assumption is not entirely unfounded if we consider the absurdity of Hungarian politics. The conservative developments of state-funded culture often give the impression that in the eyes of the regime, critical artists are warriors of the dark side, canoodling with monsters. 

However, Keresztesi’s works are far from either black or white. Much rather, his airbrush paintings are detailed, objective observations. Perhaps the snapshots are sometimes too much in close-up, so no wonder we are startled by the unusual nature of the spectacle at first. His last exhibition, for instance, revolved around fake nails: militant nails were towering out of a pink o Bag, clanking on the keyboard and gripping the Mountain Dew bottle. They seemed unfriendly, although they meant no more than to adorn the hand that wore them. The sanitary fixtures at the present exhibition come to life in in a similar manner. Again we are given the sensation that decontextualized bathroom sinks and chrome pipes are no less unrealistic than the virtual characters appearing in the images. The way Keresztesi’s compositions avoid any resemblance of being organic, not to mention their improbable framing, everything we have to know about the present state of reality regarding a given theme is brought uncomfortably close. Surreal creatures help to make the picture we get as accurate as possible.

5.5.18 — 25.5.18

Text by Gyula Muskovics

ArtKartell Project Space

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