Absurd Kingdom – The Parodistic World of Truant Art

The exhibition provides an insight into Hungarian and European fine art linked to pataphysics, with a focus on the influence exerted by Alfred Jarry’s drama King Ubu, which started off as a student prank and morphed into a nightmare farce, on fine art. Pataphysics is the (pseudo)science of inverted, imaginary solutions for questions of the world, originating from the French playwright Alfred Jarry, who is now considered by theatre studies to be the forefather of absurd drama. Jarry, however, had a major influence not only on theatrical art but also on the symbolists active at the turn of the century as well as on the greatest avant-garde artists of the first half of the 20th century. Bonnard, Toulouse-Lautrec, Rousseau and Picasso were all inspired by Jarry, and through the international College of Pataphysics, established in 1948 and largely operating in secret, which created a system and continuity for pataphysics, a huge number of artists dealing with pataphysics emerged. The satraps or leaders of the College included Boris Vian, Raymond Queneau, Eugene Ionesco as well as Marcel Duchamp, Joan Miró, Max Ernst, Jean Dubuffet, Maurits Cornelis Escher and Umberto Eco.

Divided into four sections, our exhibition presents the influence of Jarry and pataphysics from its historical context to the present day.

The first section explores the link between pataphysics and the avant-garde in the first half of the 20th century. Using reproductions, it presents the significance of Alfred Jerry and the circumstances of the conception of the drama King Ubu, as well as Jarry’s personal ties with the artists of his time and the intellectual influence on his works of the best-known artists of art history. It proposes the opportunity for a new interpretation of such works as for example Duchamp’s ready-made titled Bicycle Wheel.  The exhibition space will also feature the collection of publications by Péter Tillinger, a member of the College of Pataphysics, which also contains an original ‘pataphysics calendar’ with Hungarian-related names such as Hunyadi Day and Saint Goulash festival.

The second section presents a selection of special visual elements used at the Hungarian theatrical performances of King Ubu from the 1970s to the present day. Included in this material are posters, set designs, costumes, publications and puppets with special artistic value that goes far beyond the usual theatrical visual world and many of which can be interpreted as autonomous pataphysical works. At the same time, the exhibition also attempts to explore the symbolism of the infantile and power-drunk murderous character Ubu and the all-time emblem of pataphysics, the spiral.

The third section focuses on the works of contemporary international adherents of pataphysics. This exhibition space presents the selection adapted to the travelling exhibition of 1 stuzzicadenti per Jarry, curated by Tania Sofia Lorandi and realised in 2008 by the Collage de Pataphysique in Sovere, northern Italy, as well as numerous publications and a large-scale lithograph by Enrico Baj. The displayed works by Italian, European and South American artists pay tribute to Jarry’s last wish, who died at the age of 34. On his deathbed Jarry asked his friend for a toothpick, so in addition to the the Ubu-spiral, the toothpick also became a symbol of pataphysics.

The fourth section of the exhibition comprises works by Hungarian artists dealing with pataphysics, whose works contain manifestations of the absurd, the grotesque, irony and the invisible opposition to power. The displayed works include the unique abstract monotype The Song of Disembraining  by Béla Kondor, who made the Indian ink illustrations for the first Hungarian edition of King Ubu, as well as Albert Kováts’ painting titled Ubu (1967), made as a protest against the Kádár and Brezhnev regimes with its reference to Soviet soldiers depicted equally as icons and puppets with their stiff epaulets and overabundance of medals. Visitors can explore the details of György Jovánovics’ sound installation – a fake news programme he made by ‘hacking’ the daily news broadcast of Kossuth Radio – played in 1970, which is regarded as a pataphysical work and referred to by the artist as the best work of his life, as well as other, hitherto unpublished pataphysical actions. Imre Szemethy’s pataphysical notes were published in the 1990s in the periodical Life and Literature, on its ‘odd page’ 11, under the critical marginal notes. László feLugossy is featured in the exhibition with his video of 2016 titled I saw my back on TV and a new video, while two new pataphysical videos by János Szirtes are also included here.


Curator: GrétaGarami 

on the picture: Photograph of Alfred Jarry on a bike in Corbeil, 1898 


During the accompanying programs, the exhibition can only be visited with a program ticket.


Virtual tour

Absurd Kingdom – The Parodistic World of Truant Art

Abszurd királyság – Az iskolakerülő művészet parodisztikus világa
2023. June 16. - September 17.

Kunsthalle, Budapest

2023. April 21. - June 4.
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2023. June 23. - September 3.
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ALEA IACTA EST ? Exhibition of Zoltán Fábián