Tamás Kaszás & Anikó Loránt
Born in 1976 in Dunaújváros, Hungary; born in 1977 in Székesfehérvár, / Lives in Budapest and Dunaújváros, Hungary; lives in Horány, Hungary
Adriano Pedrosa (AP): You are interweaving many topics in your new work for Istanbul. Tell me about “symbol rehab.”
Tamás Kaszás (with Anikó Loránt) (TK/AL): We spent our childhood in pseudo-socialist Eastern Europe, a nice time for a child, at least on the surface. Clear messages had been mediated by the system’s fine decorative elements. I liked those symbols made with “progressive design.” Their optimism made us happy and promised a better future. After the so-called “change of the system” these decorations dissolved, yet nothing replaced their message. I realized there was nothing real behind the pictures; they were fakes simply covering something bad. Still, the energy I got from them had a real effect on me. If today I look at them without their historical connotation I still feel a shining, positive energy. On the other hand, many symbols became used and burned out in recent history. Often these images are connected to ideas that we still support in the present. Partly this is why I started a rehabilitation program for exploited and abused symbols. I think they might be useful as models for reflection if we transform or combine them as collage. In our project there is a section based on the coats of arms of socialist countries. They don’t follow the rules of traditional heraldry, and most of them are based on a wreath motif. We can see them as complex emblems that operate as symbols. I stripped them of their textual elements and erased details that had obvious meanings, like the red star, the hammer and sickle. Later I separated the distinct elements one by one and built up new emblems. We might see this practice as an aesthetic game and call it formalism. However, sometimes from formalism, utopian or political pictures can be created.
AP: What about the structure and display of the works?
TK: We often create complex installations in which we put together smaller pieces—drawings, objects, photos, videos—that are all connected to the same topic but using different media or styles, as if they were made by different people in a community or collective. The structures that hold them must give strong visual impressions and offer different roots for viewers: to dive into or just pick up a few details on the surface. It is also important to use cheap, eco-friendly materials that are readily available and easy to work with. The avant-garde art movements developed progressive exhibition design, and we are inspired by artists such as El Lissitzky, Klucis, and Frederick Kiesler. We do not follow their permanent seeking of the new but just take their ideas as know-how in a do-it-yourself booklet. We try to imagine this knowledge built into folk traditions, supported by a community where everyone can share individual creations or studies on topics of common interest. For such structures the basic bulletin board is a starting point, with its simplicity and ability to show paper-based information in a temporary way.