CRITIQUE - Annika Toots. Lõks. KUNST.EE 2014, 2, 57-59
Annika Toots’s Kafkaesque essay on Dénes Farkas’s solo exhibition "A Day That Does Not Exist".
How to describe one of those dreams where you can- not move or scream? How to depict being trapped in a static vacuum that is your own life? This is the situation that Dénes Kalev Farkas imagined it in his recent solo exhibition at the Hobusepea Gallery with the help of a recurring corner motif— a corner we cannot miss, a corner that haunts us and makes us ask: "What is around the corner? Is it a staircase? Can we use the staircase to escape this harrowing space? Is there an exit at all?" As we step into the gallery we enter the artist’s dream. It is not a happy, colourful, adventurous dream; on the contrary, it is a nightmare, the ultimate aim of which is to make us face our own self. I am trying to apply empathy but this only takes me further into an insane nightmare about white walls filled with a silence that threatens never to end. I leave because such a never-ending dream may have a bad ending. Later, at night, the dream comes back—with one famous professor saying: "This is not a corner." But what is it then?
As a curator, Anders Härm has generalised that Dénes Farkas does not simply photograph models of rooms but something that the rooms symbolise.1"A Day That Does Not Exist" consists of four works, each of which includes one or several photographs of a paper model of a single room. The photographs depict the corner of the room via different treat- ments of size, focus or angle. The show opens with Farkas’s arrangement of a so called dysfunctional game—paper book- lets hang nailed to the wall, forming a geometrical ornament and including definitions from the dictionary. All the works are accompanied by texts that refer to the fact that everything the visitor encounters on the walls is the visualisation of one single dream. But it is not the kind of space that could in any way be more precisely identified. The question arises whether the photographs depict one and the same or four different cor- ners encircling the person standing in the middle. In the latter case it is a trap which the visitor has entered in good faith and which has no exit. Clear or perceived hints on social and poli- tical topics, which could be seen in the earlier space models by Farkas, seem to be missing from the exhibition this time.
Through the miniature paper models he has made in recent years, Dénes Farkas has created a world of his own. Parallels could be drawn between his work and that of the German sculptor and photographer Thomas Demand. But unlike Demand, who fabricates reality through his paper and card- board models and colourful maquettes that he destroys after photographing, the paper models by Farkas are minimal and tend towards abstraction. Demand uses scenes from everyday life and significant media events as the basis of his pho- tographs. He recreates them with the help of a paper model— he is a skilful illusionist. "A Day That Does Not Exist" does not offer us a Demand-like whole, but remains dangerously hid- den. The illusion is incomplete and by no means his intention. Farkas does not attempt to reflect reality with the help of his models; his models rather represent the world of ideas, which exists in parallel to the everyday reality. Nevertheless, model creating is part of a creative process for both of these artists.
"A Day That Does Not Exist" opened at the Hobusepea Gallery on 29 February—a day that, thanks to some inven- ted regulations, only exists every four years. Farkas has men- tioned that, in his opinion, society is stuck because people concentrate too much on rules.2Existing rules are substituted with others, and there seems to be no bright future in his view. It is possible that "A Day That Does Not Exist" symbolises the deadlock, a doorless and windowless vacuum into which the viewer is also invited. It is possible, that this represents Denes Farkas’s personal trap. The artist has admitted that he has considered terminating his artistic career3because making art is like a trap—not a trap from which there is no escape but a trap that constantly makes one ask: What’s the point of it all? Even though Farkas’s works have always been characterised by a certain absence and the artist distancing himself from his work, compared to other exhibitions "A Day That Does Not Exist" is predominantly personal. The reason for this is that each of us has his own trap from which it is sometimes impossible to escape. The trap makes us constantly think what might be around the corner. We are often stuck thinking about this and may never find the answer.
Farkas’s solo exhibition could be characterised by the notion of the aesthetics of absence. There is no whole, no escape, no answer to the questions, and ultimately, even the present day is questionable. The absence of everything is the mark of a minimalist exhibition in which a recurring corner motif might result in fear and anxiety towards the present as well as the future. It is the absence that is the most striking ele- ment, dragging us towards abstract and undefined scepticism. It is the absence that accompanies us as we leave the gallery space, making us face our fears. The pessimism of Farkas is poetic but haunting.
Annika Toots is a master’s student at the Estonian Academy of Arts.
1Anders Härm, Dénes Farkas Linnagaleriis. – Sirp 28. I 2009.
2Diana Dreving [interview with Dénes Farkas]. Klaasikaraadio, Delta 5. III 2012.
3Andreas Trossek [interview with Dénes Farkas], Elu võimalikkusest pärast surma. – Sirp 3. IX 2010.