Hungary’s Pavilion at the Venice Biennale should be considered as ‘inverted propaganda’. Gyula Várnai’s Peace on Earth project has been that country’s choice and his works show how current administration can use artists to associate themselves with ‘worthy’ values. In this case, the formula includes (what else…?…) ‘World Peace’.
A few year’s ago, former Argentine President, Cristina Kirchner, shocked the vernacular art world when deciding to add her own personal vision of Peronism beside the artist chosen by the Ministry of Culture to represent argentina. Nicola Costantino’s overtheatricalised installation included a personification of Eva Peroón which Kirchner considered needed clarification. Hungary is, I would say, a bit more sophisticated than that but its Pavilion ends up broadcasting a rather formulaic truism that bores with its political correctness. From this point of view, Finland is on the other side of the road both physically (at the Giardini) and metaphorically.
The curatorial text states that ‘the project is about the viability and necessity of utopias. As the current circumstances, including technological progress, world politics, global economic and natural crises or the waves of migration keep posing new challengers, our conception of the future is constantly changing’ (sic). According to the curator, ‘Várnai’s work are referential of the utopias of the sixties but analysing them with respect to today’s possible future’.
Várnai is more a bad curator than an artist. His job is to chose and exemplify what he chose in a more or less clarifying way. Thus, he chose a topic (“Utopias are good’) then he chose a vehicle to visually give shape to this topic (‘Sixties’ iconology such as the Peace Rainbow made with 8000 original pin badges of various organisations, companies, cities, movements and events from the 60s and 70s, one section of the small Ferris wheel at the rural amusement park including one of its cabins, the neon Peace symbol adorning the top of the highest building in Dunaujvaros from 1958 until the early 1990s, etc).
The problem with the ferris wheel cabin and the neon sign, for example, is that one has to be Hungarian to get it and if this is the case the artistic value is not in the concept but in the way these objects are deployed to exemplify the propagandistic topic (World Peace) chosen by the National State. In any case, a bore. J A T