Giardini della Biennale
Venice, Italy
13 May – 26 November, 2017

National Commissioner: Julia Fabényi
Curator: Zsolt Petrányi
Organizer: Ludwig Museum – Museum of Contemporary Art, Budapest

The national pavilion will showcase a series of installations, interactive video works and sculptural pieces by the leading Hungarian contemporary artist. Drawing on the notion of futurology, Várnai’s interactive installations evoke the promised utopias of the past and confronts them with the challenges of the present. Recreating the slogans and symbols of socialism, this commission critiques an idealised, futuristic vision using ordinary materials that transcend their everyday function.

“Gyula Várnai’s Peace on Earth! project is about the viability and necessity of utopias; about the fact that although our past conceptions of the future have not come true, new visions are required in every age in order for mankind to achieve its goals. As the current circumstances, including technological development, world politics, global economic and natural crises or the waves of migration keep posing new challenges, our conception of the future is changing faster than before. Although we could have reason to be pessimistic, Várnai offers a reassuring scenario to keep our faith in the coming of a better age. Through his installations, Gyula Várnai’s exhibition evokes the ideas of the futurology and the utopias of the past and confronts them with the challenges of the present. His sources are found material and visual elements, which he puts into new contexts in order to shed light on the fact that our vision of the future is the foundation of all the discourses of economics and power, no matter in which era we live in.

Using visual elements and objects from the past, he creates artworks with the most diverse techniques. In the socialist model city of Dunaújváros – named “Stalingrad” in Hungarian when it was built – where he grew up and continues to live, his sources often include relics of the Cold War era or the aesthetic of industrial environment. Created using simple techniques, his montage-like works overwrite the stereotypical Eastern European world view with contemporary philosophical and literary allusions.” Zsolt Petrányi, curator

“Since my childhood I’ve been living in Dunaújváros, an industrial city which is only a few years older than me. This city was built as a result of a political decision. I believe that thanks to this rootlessness the present and the future got a special focus in the community. For us, the notion of tradition was unknown, it was replaced by the cognition and the exploration. We experienced the present as future. A very exciting present happening in the future. As a young man I wanted to explore the world and considered its exact apprehension happening sometime in the middle far future.” Gyula Várnai, artist

Gyula Várnai: Neonpeace, 2017, light installation, neon tubes on a metalic construction, 4 x 5 x 2 m
Courtesy of the artist