A media installation by Péter Forgács
Between June and November 2009, the Hungarian Pavilion at the 53rd Venice Biennale featured an unconventional installation by media artist Péter Forgács, entitled “Col Tempo” – The W. Project. Produced by curator András Rényi, the work employs photos and films originally made during the Second World War for the purposes of Nazi anthropological research, and now kept in the Museum of Natural History, Vienna. The collection includes thousands of standardized portraits of prisoners of war, guards and Austrians inhabitants, prepared and archived for “scientific” purposes. Forgács’s work, however, does not seek to offer a historical treatment of the material, but demonstrates, through a labyrinthine structure, the many ways in which we can look at a fellow human being. How does the modern viewer look at, consider, misunderstand or comprehend the same pictures in the different contexts provided by art history, history, contemporary art, biography or psychology? Charged with a dramatic power, the work will confront whoever is willing to read the eyes of these persons with moral issues, the lack of historical recollection and the disturbing experience of prejudiced responses in action.
The installation found considerable success in Venice, where it was seen by 200,000 visitors. It was praised by laymen and prestigious professional forums alike, both in Hungary (Artmagazin, Artportál) and abroad (Art in America, Kunstforum). Since few Hungarians had a chance to visit the Giardini, the work will now be on display in Ernst Museum, Budapest.
Interestingly, the works of Erasmus Prize laureate Péter Forgács – particularly his films, which employ historical motion pictures in the service of a deeper understanding, and his avant-garde installations – are better known internationally than in Hungary. Following his Danube Exodus, which toured the world and was recently shown with success in Ludwig Museum, Col tempo is the second “total installation” by Forgács that is certain to attract significant interest locally and internationally.