Ilona Németh - Pack Up Everything

Opening: Wednesday, June 7, 2017, 7 pm 
June 8, 2017 - Sept 09, 2017

  • Ilona Németh, Pack Up Everything, Installation view 2017
  • Ilona Németh, Pack Up Everything, Installation view 2017
  • Ilona Németh, Pack Up Everything, Installation view 2017
  • Ilona Németh, Pack Up Everything, Installation view 2017
  • Ilona Németh, Pack Up Everything, Installation view 2017

Ilona Németh’s solo exhibition is a continuation of the artist’s long-term quest, which delves into her family chronicle and carves out moments of politics incessantly interfering in individual lives. Her immediate surroundings – objects, characters, and events – often serve as starting points for video and photographic works, alongside appropriated or manufactured pieces. The exhibition “Pack up Everything” introduces three distinct personal narratives, each represented by three furniture pieces from their inventories. Originating from different periods from the late 1940ies to the early 1990ies, the tables each bear witness to their owner’s destinies, their unfulfilled or achieved aims, and changes in the political climate around them.

The title piece of the exhibition Pack Up Everything (2016) reveals the context of wealthy farmers cultivating their own land with their families. The work returns to the post-War times of reckonings and deportations across the re-strengthened and re-defined Mid-European borderlines. Families of Hungarian national descent living in the Czechoslovak province were collectively marked as war criminals; many people were denied their citizenship, often facing deportation and forced labor. A robust, manly sound pounds relentlessly from the very center of the installation, like a musical instruments that echoes in the rattling cutlery. The accompanying archival material traces the historical situation of forced deportations and attempts to reconstruct their paths through the Central-European landscape.

A more modest furniture model of Czechoslovak design marks a corresponding environment and lack of orientation. Bit by bit, the shiny tabletop slides over and returns, engulfed by wallpaper full of meticulous calculations, endless tides of taxes and allowances. 17 567 2 850 5 (2016) is a portrait of a household in numbers, brought down to the bottom line of the person’s or family’s accounting. It bears the marks by the owner, a post WW2 refugee who left the Czechoslovak territory for Budapest and managed an economical living based on the socialist regime’s possibilities.

Yet the ‘winners’ and ‘losers’ of political transition periods are often related, as the archival image of Ilona Németh’s own father suggests. Jenő Németh is captured at the top of his carrier a former leading representative of the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic, guiding a delegation through the Flora Bratislava, 1971 (2012) exhibition in the recently demolished Park of Culture and Relaxation. Posthumously, the image appears as a symbol of transiency set in a deceptive system of absurd worldviews reflected in the cosmic appearance of white flower arrangements. The Negotiating Table, 1991 (2014) belonged to the same person, resembling the acts of change by movements triggered by the audience. Its resilience of opening and closing, enfolding and shattering stands as a fragile reminder of how history and chance may take their turn.

The artist’s choice of specific objects as reflections upon individual narratives and universal concerns might remind us of the idea that persons and things are not radically distinct categories. Human and other material subjects are entangled and equally defined by their transactions and social relations. A person may take on the status of an object when excluded from prevailing legal systems, in the limbo of refuge, or the dilemma when adapting to new orders; whereas objects are defined by their owner and gain significance through the appreciation of society. In a world of global networks and asymmetric relationships, people on the move constantly face the question of what they can take and what they need to forget? Németh decides to remember and translates individual destinies into the creaking and clinking sounds of invisible table apparatuses.

The exhibition “Pack Up Everything” was first presented at SODA Gallery Bratislava and travelled subsequently to Knoll Gallery Budapest. The research and loan of archival materials was made possible in cooperation with the Slovak Museum for Hungarian Culture (Szlovákiai Magyar Kultúra Múzeuma - Múzeum kultúry Maďarov na Slovensku)

The exhibition is curated by Krisztina Hunya.

Kindly supported by: