Mark Fridvalszki

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Hunya Krisztina: Romantic Ruins of the 21st Century, 2014
The bunker metaphor in Mark Fridvalszki’s art
Individually shaped yet collectively perceived, nostalgia as described by Svetlana Boym is the incurable postmodern condition that overcomes futuristic utopias and instead spreads the longing for a historical, spatial or indefinite something else. Living in the rejected present while constantly searching for a shelter of certainty, the Cold War bunker represents the entity of this very desire: It has become the romantic ruin of the 21st century. As romanticism praised the fragmented, unfinished torso and longed for a return to nature, in the work of Mark Fridvalszki the bunker represents a nexus of contradictory forces that arise from the contemporary anxieties of controlled and directed societies. In his search for future prospects between self-protection and self-destruction, alienation and self-discovery the artist turns to a time he might vaguely remember from his childhood. Appropriated imagery, ready-made objects, spatial interventions, and the inclusion of sonic space-interpretations (performed by Zoltan Solomon) fill the exhibition space of Labor Budapest and transform it into a new atmospheric environment. In his work the climate of the Cold War Period is not merely defined by the characterization of the two super-powers pursuing an insane quest of defeating the ’other’, but by the constant horror of uncanny forces, ’big red buttons’, and their unpredictable consequences. Set in a period of increased media improvement and visibility, the artist can submerge in a vast archive of documents. There is an intriguing discrepancy between the IKEA-type assembly instructions that show how to dig a bunker in the backyard, and the possible flirting scene of a boy pushing a girl to the ground to cover her with his own body. The quoted British public information series Protect and Survive and the American civil defense film Duck and Cover intended to give guidance how to prepare for a nuclear Armageddon. Thus the anxiety of the time can be fictively re-experienced, it remains hard to fully envision: How do we mentally deal with the possibility of being evaporated in any second? When the artist Mark Fridvalszki approaches the bunker as a spatial metaphor, he invites the viewer to adapt a hermeneutic but skeptical world-view and ponder about these very questions. Even 25 years after Transition, the variety of destructive forces and the number of crisis sources have only increased. End of the world prophecies and political events suggesting the possibility of a Third World War seem to deny Francis Fukuyama’s ’end of history’ vision after the fall of the Berlin Wall. Under these circumstances, the dark and claustrophobic spatial experience of the bunker sets a secure, nostalgic area. It offers an ambivalent seduction to escape from the outside world and leave behind reality, space and time. Whether it is the denial of liberal values and globalization, a meditative pursuit of existential concerns or the longing for refuge and stability, what we are hiding from and what we are seeking is individually defined yet collectively understood. Fridvalszki’s installation starts with a very subjective inner experience and arrives to the romantic place our age is longing for.

© Mark Fridvalszki 2008 - 2021
Last Revision: 10 - 11 - 2017