Many scientists agree that the pandemic gives a new opportunity for humankind to lead a slower and more sustainable lifestyle. Do you agree?
It makes sense these days to think about what might work differently in the novel state after the crisis – if we can talk about sharp boundaries at all. In spite of this, I don’t think it is worth speculating about what returning to the future will be like in a present so hard to live. Focusing on the here and now – as in a therapeutic or meditative situation – may be the most vital part of the concept of slow life. In order to return to an eventually accelerating social life one day and avoid immediately reviving our old habits, we need to start to make changes now both individually and in small communities. Of course, we should not confuse this with this year’s quarantine productivity pressure concerning so many of us, which can also be traced back to the production pressure of the capitalist system. The point seems to be to pay attention to ourselves, attempt to silence our environment (if possible), and think over what difference it makes to live our lives in isolation. This isolated state may confront us with questions and emotions we could not deal with in depth before because the noise was too much. In my opinion, self-reflection should precede all thoughts on how we can build more sustainable systems together that enhance stability and openness instead of promoting production and growth.
Obligatory isolation has changed the way we communicate. This process may have advantages in the long run, however, it may also lead to the development of bad practices. In one of Asimov’s novels the inhabitants of a planet only communicate with each other through teleconferences (referred to as viewing in the book), since they find the idea of face-to-face interaction unbearable due to viruses and bacteria (among others). Communication is only one example of major change – in general, shall we hope for a better or worse future?
From a certain aspect, it is a misconception that our everyday lives have changed radically. It is true though that numerous new rules and official regulations have become part of our lives, together with a continuous sense of fear. Apart from this, I have noticed that everyone, including myself and my environment, faces the same phenomena and tasks as before, but on more extreme levels. I have disabled all mobile notifications on my smartphone, and I am trying to create an environment as relaxing as possible and exclude the chaos prevalent online. What matters the most is that we should not let the online world take control of our lives, but it should always be our individual decision as to whether we are ready to spend time on social media and news sites. I don’t think that we would like to communicate through viewing after the pandemic. The need for human interaction has truly increased during these past months dominated by all the regulations and isolation. If all is clear, we won’t be able to get enough of each other’s company. That might have been the case with Asimov, too.
Exhibitors of Slow Life – Radical Practices of the Everyday examine both social and economic reasons of the climate and ecological crisis and their possible solutions from different viewpoints. Why did you choose this subject matter for your artwork?
Anna Zilahi and I turned to new realism and ecological theories simultaneously during our year at the University of Fine Arts – among the old institutional frames of the university these concepts seemed so novel. When we realised this and found out how incomplete this discourse in the Budapest art scene was, we founded an artist group called xtro realm, which Rita Süveges also joined a bit later on. From the very start, our main aim has been to share transdisciplinary knowledge. Anthropocene used to be a vague term three years ago that many people used as a broad and obscure signifier without knowing what it meant. The climate crisis has gained wide publicity since then, and the project we have been building since 2017 has started to attract a much wider audience, which is great. My work exhibited at the Slow Life show dates back to the period when I started to get acquainted with the closely related new realist and ecological theories. I was interested in hyperobjects – a term coined by Timothy Morton – that stand for spatially and temporally dispersed entities that we cannot comprehend as a whole, we can only accommodate one detail at a time. Examples include global warming, the biosphere, or the stock market as a whole. I created a photo series using an infrared filter that gives insight into a radiation spectrum invisible to the human eye. We see an all-encompassing layer of reality that is a basic part of how the world works, yet we can only experience its effects. Healthy flora reflects this radiation during photosynthesis, which results in images where the vegetation appears brighter and comes to the fore. And since I used a long shutter speed, it does so in another temporal dimension. This technology is frequently used for military or agricultural purposes as well.
How does the current situation explain and situate (or perhaps annul) your selected work for the exhibition? Is there a new project you are working on now?
My photo series is related to the current situation on numerous levels however, this is true of any artwork focusing on ecological issues. I mainly read these days, and although I do have plans for new projects, at this point it is quite hard to imagine the ways in which presenting these works would make sense later on. Art certainly has a particularly important role in interpreting the crisis. I am quite pessimistic about how this critical situation will affect cultural life though, already in the short term. During the past few years, the art scene has been shrinking, and the opportunities and perspectives of young artists are constantly decreasing. It is quite certain for example that many will leave their artistic careers as a result of the crisis, who could have created and exhibited important bodies of work in a more livable system.
Is there any topic/problem/phenomenon that you encountered during the quarantine and would like to work on in the future?
I do not think I would address any particular topic related to the pandemic directly, rather loosely related ones. I have also realised that staying in quarantine and slowing down has a beneficial effect on my relationship with specialised literature. Earlier, the jobs I took in addition to artistic activity didn’t leave much time for reading, but now I’ve lost most of them. And now I’m a little puzzled by how ideal the current situation is for in-depth research and artwork – I have never had such suitable conditions in my life. Deep down, there is a shameful feeling lurking inside me: in some ways, I do not wish this period to end too fast, since I don’t know whether I will experience a similar one later on. I am afraid of how it’ll feel like to get back on track, and I keep warning myself to use this period wisely and make the most of it.