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Supported by Nemzeti Kulturális Alap

Ákos Birkás: Photo-works from the Seventies

The Angel, B/W Photo, 1978

15. November 2012 - 31. January 2013.

Ákos Birkás became as painter well-known, who concentrates on contemporary situations, but
between 1975 and 1978 he worked solely with the medium of photo and textes - connecting to his photographs. He explains the reasons of it in a interview, published in the new thematical catalogue:
„I was a painter, I loved painting, and I was attached to it in a way, but I couldnʼt be. The
problem was that painting was a language that belonged to the discourse of the official
powers. Whatever you said in the language of painting somehow became a part of the
ongoing dialogue between the political authorities and the intelligentsia, simply because the
cultural policy of the day accepted painting as a language. And I felt that everything turned
false in the texture of this dialogue. Granted, I managed to maneuver myself into a
completely marginal position as a painter by the seventies, but I still couldnʼt help feeling that
my paintings could always be used – independently of me – and they could sink into the
disgusting sewer system of manipulated communication. So I slowly realized that I would
have to use a language other than painting, a language not only frowned upon by the
representatives of official power, but also one they didnʼt understand, because they did not
consider it a language to begin with. The “alternative use of photography” was such a nonlanguage at the time. Photography also seemed more suitable, of course, for approaching
the kinds of new problems I reached in my prior work in painting. The experience of painting
or, more precisely, of art history as a whole had become a sort of encased dead matter for
me by then. I carried it with me or rather I attached myself to this huge parcel. This was
perhaps my most fundamental and, at the same time, most noble knowledge of the world,
which singled me out and differentiated me from others. But in the mid-seventies (or perhaps
the late sixties when I finished my studies?) I gradually had to realize that this huge baggage
was dead (from my perspective, at least). So I didnʼt see it this way from the start, out of
some radical impulse, like a faithless person who wanders into a Catholic church
and exclaims about how ridiculous this waxworks is. My attitude was changing step by step,
in a negotiation with myself, as if I were dismantling myself, driven by a tortuous need to face
the truth.“

The topics of the photo series of Birkás are concerning the fine art itself, first of all the
painting, the picturesque image, certain classical painting ideas and genres, exhibition forms
and the museum itself. The venue and the subject of many photos is the Museum of Fine Art
in Budapest.

These works were shown just partly earlier, so the public had very limited access to this
substantial and significant body of work. This exhibition provides the first occasion, when
these photos can be seen together with the film titled Reflections, what Birkás realized
paralell with the photos

A thematical catalogue will be published for the exhibition in English and Hungarian,
containing interpretations and an interview with the artist.

Supported by Nemzeti Kulturális Alap