“Having witnessed and survived the Balkan conflict, I am extremely tired of politicians with a dictatorial attitude…”
Artist EdE Sinkovics was born in 1971 in the former Yugoslavia. He clearly voiced his revolutionary ideas and strong criticism already in his high school years. He fled from the Balkan War by pretending to have a mental illness and escaped to Hungary in 1991. He has been living in Budapest ever since. Upon admission to the Hungarian Academy of Fine Arts, he began visualizing his postwar trauma in a colorful expressive style. Out of necessity he painted on doors and other reused objects. He was a daredevil of the time, and his courage and upright ideas still characterize his most recent critical works about Hungary’s current leader. He made soap sculptures of Victor Orbán and other Hungarian “players”.
These works are displayed in Vienna till March 13 in Kellergalerie art.ig. Visit the vernissage on Wednesday, March 13.
Tina Kaplar: As far as I know, you have been planning this exhibition for over a year but not a single gallery in Hungary has been brave enough to exhibit these soap sculptures. You didn’t give up, and now they are displayed in Vienna. What is your drive?
EdE Sinkovics: Since I, together with Hungarians born outside of Hungary, have been given the Hungarian nationality, I have become more and more concerned about the domestic political situation. Having witnessed and survived the Balkan conflict I am extremely tired of politicians with a dictatorial attitude, who consider themselves artists and want to shape society after their character with their lack of creativity.
After a while I have become “ideology-full”. Since the vast majority of communication revolves around Prime Minister Viktor Orban, it was obvious to shape this phenomenon with his character. Kabinet art is my answer to this populist attitude: I create souvenir soap sculptures and sliding puzzles with his character in different sizes. Every now and then these figures pop up at public places like Buda Castle or at the market.
This project has various layers, what challenges you artistically in it?
EdE Sinkovics: The media, and I too, are fascinated by his portait. I am interested in involving popular forms into art. Politicians get an enormous amount of inspiration and ideas from art, mostly for marketing purposes, which is why I decided to use politics as a source of motifs. I make pop art portraits of public figures, hence I am becoming more and more of a public figure myself. So people start to say things about me – I personally don’t mind, since it goes naturally with the public figure status, and the only possible outcome is that I become famous. My art is ideal for displaying at garden parties or team-building events. I recommend it both to the governing party and the opposition for morphological scanning. The medium, soap, is relatively easy to forge, which also underlines its popular nature.
You said in an interview that art is the statue of liberty… and now liberty is made of soap?
EdE Sinkovics: Yes, home-made organic soap that looks durable at first sight but erodes with use. The first time I used soap was in Serbia, when I casted a lifesize couple sitting and kissing on a bench. It was exhibited on the main square of Kanjiza for Europe Day 2010, and a tap was placed next to it so anyone could use it for washing their hands, and in the process, transforming and reshaping it. The transformation could be followed online. I expected it to last for two months, but after the third day people started to interact with it more drastically, they simply took home chunks of it. Something similar happened to the Tito bust last year in Novi Sad: first it was given a cherokee haircut, at night it was given piercings, and by dawn it was beheaded, taken off its washing machine pedestal, and finally it was kicked all over the main square.
So apart from being provocative it also has a democratic element in it, the freedom of speech.
EdE Sinkovics: Yes, everyone can express their opinion. I did it by molding it. The system produces its own critics and enemies. In the first place I wanted to practice and enjoy my freedom of expression. Unfortunately, in the Hungarian art scene it is not really working and the project was not welcome at any exhibition venues. As I work with remakes, this gave me the idea of exhibiting in public places such as a flea market. Not all artists have access to commissions from the higher class, but as an artist, I can allow myself the freedom to deal with it – after all, art has always been luxury. The ambiguity of this project lies in the fact that I have presented it at a flea market and since then it has become viral in the virtual (social) world, acting as a metaphor for sculpture itself: it is tangible yet slippery, it is suggestive yet ephemeral .
Remakes have been your focus for the past decade, and this is the topic of your doctoral thesis as well. You have created new interpretations of the best Hungarian paintings, French masterpieces, and a homage work dedicated to R.B. Kitaj. What are you working on at the moment? Any future plans?
EdE Sinkovics: I’m working on my new series “Paintings Without Meaning”: A mixture of unexpected themes, remakes of mostly unknown artworks, the sexually abused meets the deformed cartoon, the protagonists are from very popular modern artworks. I would like to create pieces seemingly without context, brought together only by their bizarreness. The title of the exhibition could be: “A shared exhibition by EdE Sinkovics”.
The arts community in Hungary is operating under conditions reminiscent of the Soviet era, with the right-wing government of Orban and the Hungarian Academy of Arts (MMA), a private institution that has since become the official body, taking almost entire control of the cultural sector. How do you judge the changes in the institutional framework of the Hungarian art scene?
EdE Sinkovics: There is no time to judge. You need to react before their new proposals. As for the unorthodox changes and nostalgic overtones, we have to give radical answers disguised as new ones so that everyone can understand them. As long as newer and newer stadiums are built instead of financing culture there is little hope.
On the evening of Wednesday, March 13 in the Kellergalerie art.ig will be the vernissage of your exhibition. What can expect?
EdE Sinkovics: We are going to present the new anthem for KABINET ART.