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Márió Z. Nemes, ’’The Simulacrum Bleeds MatterThoughts on the art of Mark Fridvalszki’’, in Artlocator, 2016/3.
The affinity to geometry represents the dream​ of order within creative art, the constructor’s ​fervent wish that the world’s chaotic visuals may​ be grasped in painted art along lines of rational​ ​constructs. Malevich called this sensitivity that​ has detached itself from the set of human and​ ​material forms Suprematism, or the primacy​ ​of pure feeling. The social, technological, and​ ​religious ideologies that drive this pure feeling​ ​are not irrelevant, however—one should be aware​ ​who and why wish to impose order on the visible​ ​while pledging allegiance to some unseen. There​ i​s no art without spirit but care must be taken it​ ​does not turn out to be a mere ghost come to take​ obscene advantage of matter. According to the art​ historian Beat Wyss, one of the pressing issues of aesthetic thought would be to discover the iconography of the invisible by​ ​reaching behind its Modernist ’hush-up’—to uncover and engage with the repressed ideologies of pure feeling.​ ​
In Mark Fridvalszki’s case this ’invisible’ is displayed over a digital background in the sense that​ ​the elements he uses come from the internet—it​ ​is the medium of the technological unconscious​ ​that the artist curates, edits, and fashions. The​ ​purpose of this techno-archaeological work is​ not some sort of mental reductionism but the analytical collage of contemporary patterns that​ ​creates a Mnemosyne Atlas out of ’the culture of​ ​excrement’ (to quote Arthur Kroker). Opening the​ ​technological abyss lets all kinds of cybercultural fumes, vapours, and phobias loose, but Fridvalszki,​ a kind of post-digital materialist, is interested in the material nature of the invisible. For ’The Spirit is a bone’ (Hegel); the unconscious needs to be printed off. Looked at from this perspective, the transhumanists’ dream of man being subsumed into a digital Nirvana, the theological complex of ’casting-off’ the biological hardware seems like just yet another ideology of the invisible—for Fridvalszki’s post-digital aesthetics focuses on the drama of materialism that is fueled by the collapsing, the ’cave-in’ of the digital and the non-digital. The retrofuturist tools, the low-tech exercises in Xerox, and the printed matter’s fallibility all serve to present these glitches, rifts, and fault lines. The aesthetics of flaw, the necro-industrial tactics of damage and by-design distress bruise the infinite and perfect surface of sterile high-tech—but what blood does the simulacrum bleed? The simulacrum bleeds material, but given the post-digital paradox, this bled-off material still retains its roots in the economies of simulation. It is junk, deviancy, and wreckage in which material and spirit are inseparably linked. A digital Pompeii replacing the Nirvana.
One of the central ideas in Fridvalszki’s current research is ’haggard geometry’ (Hagere Geometrie), whose results he has displayed at numerous exhibitions domestically and abroad. This gauntness is an inversion of the Puritan leanings of geometric abstraction in the sense that he visually adheres to the principle of rigorous abstraction, but contextually ’overpours’ this purity with ’wall-to-wall writing’. Looking at Fridvalszki’s work, one cannot ignore his motifs’ well-established cultural-technological background—namely that his post-digital collages draw their inspiration mainly from industrial and military aesthetics. Logos, weapons, aviation designs and surfaces make up his iconography. Gauntness in this context means exploited atrophy, the dominant design of a post-apocalyptic world where the disassembly to internal framework, the fetishizing of the inorganicness of metal is given purpose in a panoramic critique of civilization. The emphatic presence of grey(ness) also does not only stem from some pure aestheticity, but embodies the estranged grayscale of humanity’s technological twilight—one in which alien visitors (the ’Grey ones’) and the melancholy of the geological mentality, the visions of ruins and the desert fuse. ’’Fridvalszki’s works examine the material culture of the military industry analytically, emphasizing the heightened tension between the special, aggressive, and aerodynamically perfect surfaces representing digitizedness, purity, and perfection on the one hand, and the erosion that they undergo during use on the other. Such clean, digitized, and perfect machines can deal ultimate destruction, but they are on the way to obsolescence and becoming wrecks themselves, all while pursuing perfection relentlessly.’’
The phenomenon of necro-industrial erosion poses the question how much the materialization, bloating, and desertification of techno-cultural forms imply a natural environment. Ruins are in a sense the victory of nature over the civilizational object, but nature in the post-digital context is just as questionable a principle as the digitally untouched ’uncontaminated’ material. According to one interpretation of post-apocalyptic perception, this is life without a world (to quote Tamás Seregi), a damaged and melancholy existence scarred by the agony of civilization—the vanishing of the world. This traumatized natural world would be then the post-apocalyptic vitality which opens towards a non-anthropocentric study of natural phenomena, a geological consciousness, by way of its techno-cultural wounds, ruins, and craters. In other words, a new non-human aspect emerges out of the unconscious over-hype and ruination of technology: Earth as planetary machine.
Fridvalszki’s obsessions with materials history and paleontology keep cropping up in his technology-related research, but his works presented as part of the Intermarium travelling exhibition and the pieces in Material Study are radical ’deep-drills’. Contemporary screen aesthetics caves in under the raw materialism of the non-figurative spreads that take the audience on a geological descent towards the silence of the geological sublime devoid of humans. This suggests a sort of arte povera attitude, the subversive exploitation of Georges Bataille’s ’base matter’, but the sensualness of the photocopied surfaces is balanced on the razor’s edge between the material and the immaterial. This paradoxical gravitation is just as elusive and massive at once as the concept of geological deep time associated with Scottish geologist James Hutton (1726-1797), which is the temporality of tectonic movements incomprehensible to human time scales. The geological sublime is the aesthetic of the Earth-Machine, which does not open ’vistas’ or ’horizons’ (given that it cannot be grasped along concepts of a spiritualized Sky), but exposes tectonic abysses and compacted denseness, a cathedral in negative of the post-anthropocentric world.
To sum up, Frivaldszki’s iconography of the invisible and the unrepresentable draws its meanings from the intersection of the anthropocene and cyberculture. ’’In the annals of the present time, technology is presented as crucial to our lives; time does go faster; if you are sensitive enough, you may feel the singularity itself, or the dark euphoria of Bruce Sterling, the never-ending fall into a dark abyss. It is essential then, to grasp this diversified present in its interrelations, one of whose corner stones is technology; the other is the need to achieve a planetary mentality.’’ There is still something left of the ’great modernist dream’ in this intensely time- and context-sensitive interest, though: ’’A key strategy of mine is to ignore local micro-problems, but attempt to grasp the drama and situation of human beings (Homo sapiens) on the macro level, in a planetary or even universal sense, considering our present in the light of the past and a possible future.’’ So modernity’s dream of a grand universal narrative is transformed into the Earth-Machine’s dream in this ’meta-modern’ (Timotheus Vermeulen’s phrase) concept. The Earth-Machine is, however, not the Machine of Absolute Order but a Ghost-Machine, a medium of energies and forces that are beyond human control. At the same time, the phenomenon of eeriness and its phantasm-like visibility requires man, even if we are to retrospectively view it as an empty frame, a vestige, a techno-cultural relic trapped under the ruins of the digital Pompeii.
© Mark Fridvalszki 2016–2023