We met with the Hungarian artist, Tímea Oravecz, in the interior courtyard of a cultural centre located in the Prenzlauer Berg neighbourhood of Berlin. This centre houses projects for the integration of migrants as well as artists’ studios, such as the one of Tímea. A situation that, as you will read, is not anecdotal in any way.
To discover the work of Tímea Oravecz is to be confronted with the contradictions and the hypocrisy of the European model. The artist leads us into a universe where just a few kilometres between two borders are enough to radically change the realities of a system…
Per aspera ad astra
The artist’s background, born in Budapest before the fall of the Berlin Wall, is scattered with obstacles that only reinforced her conviction and enriched her creative work. The works of Tímea are as much inspired by the geopolitical context as by her personal experiences. Her creations are moreover presented in numerous international biennials and prestigious institution.
This was the case for the performance “Per aspera ad astra, 2017” that she realised during the second edition of the “Festival Of Future Nows” at the Hamburger Bahnhof, in Berlin. Here, Tímea was inspired by the shamanistic beliefs present in the Hungarian culture and she questions the meaning of the astral signs used in many national flags.
For this performance, the artist cut all the stars, suns and moons from each flags which she then attached to balloons to send them back to “where they are supposed to be”. She liberates these banners from the weight of their symbolism by freeing them from the absurdity of national identity.
“Per aspera ad astra” is the continuation of the off-site performance “Who is the shaman who stole the star” that Tímea had realised in 2010 on the roof of the Czech Center, in New-York. The original idea for the project was for the symbols to be cut out together with the public, but the attorneys for the Czech Center forbade to do a performance with the audience presence. Indeed, in the United States, you can be sent to prison for destroying the USA flag… so the project had to be adapted. But after all, at the Hamburger Bahnhof, she had the permission just to cut them. The visitors were allowed to be present during her performance and could even be active participants performing the act of letting the symbols flying back to the sky with a huge helium balloon.
In the centre of her studio, the sculpture “Welcome to the EU” invites the viewer but mainly warns the viewer of the difficulty and the physical risk of entering the territory of Europe. The stars from the flag, cut out in metal and as sharp as a weapon, deliver an incisive message in reaction to the migrant crisis in a Europe that is supposed to be open.
Obviously connected to the current situation, the theme takes on a more personal dimension with Tímea. Before Hungary became a part of the European Union, the artist herself was a migrant and often lived between a legal and an illegal situation.
That status and the difficulties that it presents also inspired the series “Time Lost“. The artist weaves together the numerous documents and administrative formalities that she had to complete when she was living in Italy as an art student from Eastern Europe.
This work derides the absurdity and the inconsistency of a system where people waste many months even years completing unnecessary documents.
People from the Eastern Europe have a special sense of humour about the absurd side of life...
Tímea reminds us that before Hungary was a part of the European Union, your life and your destiny could be completely different depending on what side of the border you were born.
In the difference of just a few kilometers the world could seem to be inaccessible to you when you had to pay 1,000 times more for the same thing.
We really must have seemed to be tired when Tímea said to us:
I don’t want to kill you but let me show you something more!
Her studio creates a feeling of geometrical organisation strongly accentuated by the alignment of her “Instant Bag”, a series that she has been realizing since 2006.
These wooden boxes are full of personal effects that she carefully collected and meticulously organised over the years. Her “Instant Bag” function as a memory box, aligning slices of life and retracing her background. The apparent banality of this collection of objects raises a profound question concerning individual identity. Without any doubt, this is one more stone thrown in the garden of Europe.
This functional and methodical use of space is found in the series of collages “Things….Nr.” inspired by the novel “Things” written by Georges Perec and later also the installation “L’ombre delle cose” that she realised in 2016 for the Wedding Gallery, in Berlin. In this superposition of furniture and household objects is a reference to the little apartment in a bedroom community outside of Budapest where Tímea grew up. These living places where it was sometimes difficult to put everything away and where anything that was not useful had no reason to exist. Tímea Oravecz here addresses the home, the sacred place of consumerism, where we are prisoners of our possessions.
Like when you hesitate to move several times so you don't have to transport your washing machine...