Yesterday's post closed with a rainbow-coloured work of art from the Pavilion of China at the 57th International Art Exhibition in Venice (closing on Sunday), so let's continue the rainbow theme from a different perspective by looking at some of the works of art at the Hungarian Pavilion.
The space is a reflection by Hungarian artist Gyula Várnai about futurology and utopias: past conceptions of the future in many cases did not materialise, so we have to forge new visions to allow us to face the challenges of the present and achieve future goals.
To put across his messages Várnai mainly employs unusual materials from the past to create radically new artworks: his sources are often the relics of the Cold War era or the aesthetics of the industrial environments of those times.
The neon sign with a dove and the message "Peace on Earth!" that welcomes the visitors at the entrance of the pavilion is indeed a modern version of a sign installed in 1958 on top of the highest, eight-storey building on Vasmu (Ironworks) Road in Dunaújváros, Hungary.
Initially named Stalin City, Dunaújváros was built in the 1950s with Soviet help, it was a socialist urban utopia with a main objective – drafting a complex architectural program to create the ideal worker city that could give rise to a new society. The peace symbol physically projected its light on the streets, but it also transmitted an invisible propaganda to the rest of the city that had many locations and places named after it – Peace District, Peace Road, Peace Square, Peace Cinema and Peace Restaurant.
Yet the focus on scientific and technological research and military developments meant that the Soviet interpretation of peace did not take into account human rights. By changing the original sign and using English rather than Hungarian Várnai appropriates a piece of history to wonder if peace is achievable today, if it is still a relevant concept in a world in turmoil or if it is just brandified propaganda, similar to the propaganda spread by the original sign.
The question is repeated in another work entitled "Rainbow": from a distance it looks like a rainbow made of pixel-like elements, but, once you look at it close up, you realise it is made with thousands of metal pins, arranged in the spectrum of colours of the rainbow.
Their metallic surfaces displays symbols of events, political organisations, companies, cities, movements, ideological goals and state enterprises. These wearable badges and mass produced symbols were popular in the Soviet Union and the Eastern Bloc and hinted at collectiveness, common interest or commitment, propagating the mood of the '50s and '60s with their industrial and modernist style.
The artwork recalls the optimistic view of the future that chacterised the Cold War and the vision of peace that superficially veiled all conflicts, reminding visitors about utopias by hinting at the fact that, in many cases, the projects and ideas spread by the pins never reached their goals.
While the meaning of the piece is obviously important, the composition of this artwork is also particularly interesting: Várnai used indeed 8,000 pins to make it and arranged them in a visually mesmerising formation that may inspire also fashion designers to recycle and upcycle what we have to create new and even more striking works.