Exhibition view, Zsolt Irsai Exhibition, B5 Studio, Târgu Mureș, 2011, chair, MP4 player, headphone, adhesive film with text. Photograph: Zsolt Fekete (Lovacska)
Zsolt Irsai Exhibition
19 28 March 2011

“… One can never navigate a contemporary phenomenon, if we don’t observe it, don’t research its history, if we do not view art history as a unified, unfolding phenomenon. (…) I often hear that someone walks into a Gallery and says, “I don’t understand what’s going on”. Of course he can’t understand that if he has no minimal insight into twentieth-century art or art history in general. Because these things are related, these things generated each other, one step brings the next one. In this sense, the twentieth century is a very exciting and truly a unified phenomenon. Whether we consider cubism, futurism, or post-impressionism as the first stages of the twentieth century – all the way to conceptual art or post-conceptual art – we can feel a kind of unfolding, connection, historicity that lies in it. I imagine this as if someone lifts the hood of the latest Mercedes and says they don’t understand what is underneath. But it doesn’t even start here. It starts somewhere at the wheel, or at the cart, or with the fact that there is an axle with wheels. And then the propulsion and a lot more. We can only really understand, or have a chance to understand what is under the hood, when we have a minimal knowledge about the cart or the wheel or the axle. So it is with contemporary art. For someone to comprehend or for someone to truly understand or conjecture what is happening in contemporary art, there really is a need for a kind of art-historical insight.” Zsolt Irsai

The title contains a wordplay: the Hungarian phrase means both “Irsai Zsolt’s exhibition” and “The exhibition of Irsai Zsolt” – making Irsai the exhibiting artist and the one “being exhibited” at the same time. The actual creator of the project is the artist Bartha József, who set the date of the exhibition to mark Irsai’s original intention (“For autumn I have two projects. I will finally go to the doctor. After that, I will start to work and in March I will have an exhibition at the B5 Studio.” Irsai Zsolt, May 2010). The event is a slightly mystical evocation of the well-known personality from the Transylvanian art scene, where the viewer is offered the possibility to meet with the deceased artist: in a spiritual sense, through sitting on the chairs brought from his house and his voice in the headphones, and in a mental/cognitive sense, through connecting with his thoughts (the recordings playing in the headphones have the artist in conversation with the radio presenter B.Szabó Zsolt, on the subject of art, its historical and theoretical perspectives). The objects and sounds are treated like readymades in the séance-like event; it is a memorial exhibition and an exhibition on memory itself; it continues Irsai’s characteristic, social sculpture-like (Beuys) activity, an homage to his immense dedication to art and pedagogical inclination. His deep-toned, elaborately constructed thoughts, which have the effect of an initiation, attempt to persuade us of the importance of art. – Kata Ungvári Zrínyi