Thursday, 20 August 2015

On art, suffering and being Eastern European - #interview with Zsolt Dudas

The Hungarian-born Zsolt Dudas' work is unsettling yet fluid. The pieces exhibited at Walcot Arts Chapel in Bath, as part of the recent collaborative exhibition Fathomremind me of Alberto Giacometti's Man Pointing - a sculpture that was created just after the WWII atrocities, as if it was crying out: 'How can we possibly continue doing art after this human tragedy has happened?’ Zsolt who is currently completing his MA in Fine Art from Bath Spa University, tells me that among artists, such as Francis Beacon and Marlene Dumas, poetry and literature, especially the 1950s-60s existentialist philosophy, have also had a profound influence on his art.

Heads  - by Zsolt Dudas (source

IL: What made you become an artist?

ZD: I don’t consider myself an artist because I don’t know what makes one ‘an artist’. Is it education? Do you wake up one morning and decide that you are ‘an artist’?

IL: I guess agreeing with either of those terms defies the whole concept of being an artist…

ZD: I think my problem with calling myself ‘an artist’ is that I’ve seen a lot of people call themselves artists, but I don’t think they are. For example, simply painting things like cats and dogs doesn’t make one an artist. To be one, you need to have something to say. It’s a way of educating yourself, of opening your eyes to see. First of all, I like to call myself a human being.

IL: …who just happens to do what he likes through art?

ZD: (Laughs.) It’s not always what I like.

IL: Does your art reflect any political messages?

ZD: I would love to believe in that. What I see happening in contemporary life is that people want to express what they see rather than what they feel. Some art is different – more of a statement expressing the experience of ‘what it’s like being in my body’. I would like to think that my art is more of a reflection of how I see life, how I see society and contemporary history.

IL: What do you think is wrong with our society?

ZD: Our society is over-regulated. It’s not about trusting people, because you don’t trust anyone. It’s as if you need to explain yourself every time you want to express something towards another human being. Sometimes you want to just touch someone, but you cannot touch anyone because of Health & Safety, and other regulations - you may go to jail. This system doesn’t allow you to experience your life as a whole; you have to write everything down, sign everything.

In certain cultures which have not been touched by civilization yet, people have living words – they are telling stories rather than writing them down – which is a beautiful way of living, more of an experience. You lend things to someone because you trust that person; there’s no need to write it down or make a contract. They operate on a much more moral, ethical level than our 'civilized' society.

IL: One of your sculptures exhibited here, at Walcot Arts Chapel, is called Homo Economicus. Can you tell me a bit about that?

Homo Economicus - From Exhibition Fathom - by Zsolt Dudas
ZD: The term ‘economicus’ is often used in sociology, psychology and economics. The term refers to human beings as utilities – you are consuming things; constantly making sure you are buying and consuming things. Because of this constant consumption, you yourself become a product, and you forget what it is like to live. You become obsessed with buying more and working more.

This is what I imagine happens to someone who is just working and working, and consuming things. You end up wanting more and more and more, and you just work, work, work, and you don’t have time to live. You are trapped in this circle; your body becomes fragmented. You end up in pieces and lose yourself.

IL: Your work has a lot to say about suffering…

ZD: Human suffering – this is something I don’t like but it is present in our life. Sometimes we suffer because we want to suffer; other times we suffer for others; or we suffer because of our needs and desires.

IL: Do you have any theories on suffering?

ZD: It think that suffering is all about consequences. You suffer because you are the one who is making all the decisions in your life. And there are consequences to your decisions and your acts. Suffering might be a consequence of your act. Consequences is, I guess, another word for karma.

IL: Sometimes the ideas that attempt to explain suffering seem a bit black-and-white…

ZD: There is one suffering when you are suffering from the way that you live when you end up like homo economicus. Or there is the suffering for someone else when you end up on a field executed. It is difficult to make a clear distinction between the one and the other type of suffering. When you think about a society as a whole, the suffering is more like consequences of someone else’s act. If someone is executed, those are the consequences of other people’s acts. Totalitarian regime is a way of dealing with social issues, an attempt at simplifying life. But the leaders cannot see that people are suffering from that simplification.

IL: I hope that they have the consequences in mind.

ZD: Yes, it’s a little bit dark, you don’t really want to see it or think about it. In some way or another, we are all passive even though we know that these things are happening and these regimes are causing suffering – but we are not acting, we are not doing anything.

IL. I always thought that if everybody followed their passions and dreams, they would be so pre-occupied, that they would not be prone to jealousy or envy which seem to cause a lot of suffering.

ZD: …or they wouldn’t hurt other people, because they would be so obsessed with their own way of living.

From Exhibition Fathom - Walcot Chapel Arts - by Zsolt Dudas

IL: Has your day job influenced your art?

ZD: During the day, I work as a healthcare assistant in a hospital. There, I deal with the human body a lot – I see the human body, I touch the human body, I talk to humans. It’s like a life drawing class – I can see people as they are. I see when they are sick, or cannot move, or when they are dying. They are suffering, in pain, recovering, making progress, happy. Whether I want to or not, I pick these things up. When I draw or paint, it is always something I thought or experienced. And it relates to human body. I believe in analogies in life – the position of then human body, when someone has been executed for example, their motion, their physical position is very similar to the ones I see in the hospital. But each has a different story and a different setting. The only thing which is the same is the human body – in the field, in the bed. If you remove the individual circumstances, the landscape, and just look at the body, it is the same. There’s a lot of execution details here, I don’t know if you want to publish that… (Laughs.)

IL: I suppose it may be to do with being Eastern European. When I grew up in Latvia, I heard a lot of stories about atrocities. In school, in my family, on the news people used to talk about the Soviet crimes.

ZD: Mhm, it’s very depressing.

IL: I feel that in the UK, people learn a lot about the Nazi crimes. But it didn’t happen to them as directly as the Soviet crimes happened in Easter Europe, so the impact is different. The attitude of the current generation seems to be say that ‘yes, it was awful but it didn’t really happen to use, so we can still be happy’. Whereas in our post-soviet countries the crimes of the Soviets are so ingrained that sometimes you feel guilty just for being happy; you feel this heaviness over something that didn’t even happen to you.

ZD: I guess you carry it with you genetically. It didn’t happen to the West because they were the ones contributing to a lot of the crimes. For example, North America was responsible for the deaths of millions of Indians, and we don’t really want to know that.

IL: Where do you think you belong – in the UK? Hungary? Or are you now a citizen of the world?

ZD: I’m always going to be Hungarian. That’s my culture, the place where I belong. Even after moving away, I cannot help it. The first time I came to the UK, it was very hard to adjust, and I had to fly back home every month. So I’ll always be Hungarian, despite where I end up living. That’s the way I am. I’m not going to change I’m afraid.  (Laughs.)

Read more about Zsolt Dudas and his art on his blog.

Review of Fathom available here.

No comments:

Post a Comment