Sustainable Identities

Friday, 11 September 2015 16:01

tag: art | biennale 2015 | contemporary | hungary | sustainable identities | szilard cseke | venice

What really shapes and determines our identity, at the individual as well as at the collective level? Can we even speak of "identity" as a single and consistent entity, with a given structure and well-defined boundaries? How could identity develop in a way that could be defined as "sustainable"? 

Questions – rather than answers – are usually put forth in Szilárd Cseke’s works. His exhibition Sustainable Identities, chosen to represent Hungary at the 56th Venice Art Biennale, is no exception.

Cseke approaches the main theme of the Biennale, All the World’s Futures, by transmuting the Hungarian pavilion into a “cognitive space” meant to wittily relate two key concepts which have become commonplace in the contemporary mass-media discourse: “identity” and “sustainability”.

The main installation, Multiple Identities, draws attention on identity formation processes. It features a network of translucent foil tubes stretched between the walls above the visitors’ heads and containing white moving balls, propelled by electronic fans. The relentless wall-to-wall motion of the spheres highlights the metamorphic nature of identity, whose development is yet driven by the existing environment and categories, just as the balls’ path is ultimately both finite and constrained by physical obstacles (the tubes and the walls).

Cseke’s exhibition includes a large transparent airbed-like element lit from below, bearing the title Sustainable Development. Fed by fans and a source of electricity, it rhythmically inflates and deflates, evoking the human breathing mechanics. The organic appearance of the cushion and its stable position both contrast with the above dynamic network of identities.

Juxtaposition between the two installations seems to contradict the claim made by the title of the exhibition: instead of evolving sustainably,
each identity is caught in endless twists and turns. Cseke’s work can be either the portrait of a single individual whose multiple identity struggles to choose between a multitude of directions, or the representation of a community whose members incessantly go back and forth between geographical, political, social or cultural poles.  



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