Márta Kucsora’s Video Works
Márta Kucsora’s art is about the mystery of painting. Her intention is to give an optical impression of the energies that create and shape the Metaverse. In her works, creation and formation—two opposing but inseparable concepts in Aristotle’s metaphysics—take on a synonymous meaning, while her works provide an almost objective visual illustration of the ancient Greek philosopher’s famous thought, “Art loves chance, as chance loves art.”
Known for her grandiose canvases, Kucsora’s video installations seek to expand the traditional tools of painting, breaking the constraints of the medium. The artist’s experiment in combining moving image and sound provides an alternative to the aesthetic experience of the painterly processes that are differentiated but unrepeatable in terms of compositional formulation, which Kucsora also seeks to explore through more effective means of expression for contemporary visual thinking. The starting point of her video installations is the same expendables (different paints, compounds and desiccants that influence their amalgamation) that she utilizes in her paintings. The essential difference, however, is that while in her canvases it is a solidified, finished structure that bears the moving act of thepicture’s genesis, the organic processes revealed by her video works are a memorial to the momentary nature of an ephemeral structure and the gradual rearrangement of the elements that make up the picture. They reveal the disorganized sequentiality of invisible forces, which happens to be the genesis of patterns, the topology of the growth and disappearance of materials of different densities. In other words, the interdependence of the regressive and progressive movements of the vortices of color that crumple into the navel of the world. A similar bipolar, dialectical idea prevails in the so-called “chiastic” patterns known from both literature and biology. “Chiastic structures” refer to transversely dialogical concepts that enter into a symmetrical equilibrium with each other to create the supposedly final appearance of an organism, a literary work or even a painted form.
It seems to be an important aspect of interpretation that Márta Kucsora’s video works do not illustrate the birth of the artist’s paintings, but the logically consecutive stages of the creative process. The only similarity between the two media is that, like the canvas, these several minute-long moving images, devoid of any post-production, showing the materials in their purity and sterility, and hyperbolically enlarged with the help of digital technology, do not follow any pre-established, pre-existing “recipe”. Although it is possible to a certain extent to predict the outcome of a long period of experimentation, taking into account certain parameters (color harmonies, possible consequences of the behavior of chemicals), even two works made according to the same criteria will not produce the same result. Rather, Márta Kucsora’s aim with these videos is to represent in real time, using the film as a technical prosthesis, the infinitely variable morphology of the matter that makes up the universe.
The format of the motion pictures and their chosen aspect ratio is corresponding to the dimension of the experimental space. The event horizon, the location of the pictorial actions, is a well-defined surface perpendicular to the direction of viewing. The composition unfolds symmetrically with the axis of the picture plane, but there is no indication of the extent, depth or direction of the space. The viewer cannot tell whether he or she is looking at the picture from the front or whether the canvas is turned towards him or her. The perspective and the topography of the shapes that make up the composition are solely responsible for the loose layering of the lava-like colors that gradually dissolve into each other. Nevertheless, the picture is the result of a partially automated process, without the artist being present, we can sense that she is in the background coordinating the peculiar erosion of the paints and solvents capable of producing uncontrollable reactions.
The rich visual world conveyed by the videos is centered around the swirling pattern of the paint elixir in the shape of a spindle. The particles of pigment flowing towards the center of the image create island-like formations, breaking the path of the swirl of color that beats in foaming waves. The cloud-like clumps of greasy paint begin to disintegrate, dissolving into a curtain of vapor, then their interlocking rivulets coalesce into a lake, an almost three dimensional mass, whose plasticity is made airily light by the bubbles that pop out of the acrylic.
Looking at Márta Kucsora’s video works, it is difficult to decide whether she wants to introduce us to the world from a subatomic level or from a galactic perspective. And one may even doubt whether it is the World itself that she wants us to see, or whether she wants to show us its beginning, its origin, “the site of cosmogenesis”, as Paul Klee, who was sensitive to the visions of painting, would have put it. In my view, in these works, Kucsora is trying to convey the aesthetic condensation of the inexhaustible possibilities of nature, an intimate, sublime and poetic, yet awe-inspiring, dramatic, and majestic admiration for the mysterious forces at work in the depths of the universe. Watching these videos, we can ascertain that man is part of the universe, but not the master of the eternal cycle of nature. We may also be confronted with the fact that, in the experience of this mystery, the splendor of monochrome surfaces, organized in bright colors or delicate tonal transitions, plays as much a part as the musicality conveyed by the metamorphosis of forms, the polyphonic ductility of the iconophonic associations linking images and sounds. Kucsora seeks to open up all channels of perception and to make her installation part of a complex concept based on permeations between media. Accordingly, the artist often differentiates the richly detailed visuality of the swirls of color, which almost break the frame of the projection surface delimited on four sides, with indirect sound effects that reinforce the organic character of the works.
The intellectual, thought-provoking fabric of the pluriversality of meanings that can be deciphered from the video works is provided by the acoustic elements that Kucsora draws inspiration from the texts of Alan Wilson Watts, a British-American philosopher who constructed a holistic world model from ideas derived from Zen Buddhism. Watts’ reflections on the self-destructive behavior of humanity, which exploits nature, also provide a possible interpretation of the visual processes that emege in these motion pictures. Indeed, if we assume that Watts’ texts are the verbal illustration of some of the video works, Kucsora’s ecocritical message becomes clear, the recognition of destructive human behavior that regulates the Earth’s physiology and alters the natural cycles that keep it in balance. It is not difficult to see in the video works a stance against the Anthropocene era that is irreversibly toxicising our planet. Twenty-first century scientists use the term “Anthropocene” to describe the recognition that human beings are fundamentally changing the ecology of the Earth. They argue that the economic and political interests that are driving the exploitation of ecosystems are not only responsible for the destruction of our habitats, but are also limiting the social imagination that could show us a way out of the impasse. Márta Kucsora tries to help by using the tools of visual art to develop an aesthetic apparatus that confronts the recipient with these abuses on an emotional-intellectual basis. Through her videos, she effectively captures the magical, fascinating and inexhaustible capacity of nature to replenish its resources, while also suggesting, with a foreboding anxiety, the possibility of catastrophic consequences resulting from the loss of this capacity. Accordingly, Kucsora’s works show self-referential, recursive and self-organizing formations, similar to the physical existence of size, materials and energy, which are in constant motion and, finding an optimum in each other, form a sovereignly functioning, flexible system.
Viewed from a distance, Kucsora’s works pose fundamental ontological questions that ask whether secondary or “simulated” nature, created by human science endowed with artificial intelligence and subjected to our worship of technology, can ever produce patterns as complex as those produced by primary nature, the real designer of our Universe? Once we start thinking we need to take control, it will be like a Japanese garden. The latter is an orchard or a grove that has been arranged for man’s purposes, and there is essentially no mystery or uncertainty about it. In contrast, Kucsora’s “video paintings” think exclusively in terms of organic systems and, using the former analogy, convey the unpredictability and whimsy of English gardens, in the composition of which the human presence is only indirectly palpable. In fact, Kucsora’s works are part of a narrative what Novalis called the “sensible chaos” that perpetuates the bioromanticism of Johann Wolfgang Goethe and the anthroposophy of Rudolf Steiner, regarding nature as the dominion of a single unifying principle that is present in all the movements and forms that make the world work.
The audio-visual register that Márta Kucsora plays in her video works reveals an uncanny affinity with the insights of the renowned social historian and philosopher Arthur Koestler in his book The Act of Creation, which explores aspects of vision and reception, which states that “the highest forms of purely perceptual abstraction on the pre-verbal level are like bubbles of air which aquatic creatures extract from the water” and that conceptual thought is “inexhaustible, like the atmosphere.“ That this theory, which organizes our instincts and intellectual faculties into a common formula, has a scientific justification is confirmed by a recent cosmological hypothesis that the universe is composed of so-called “Hopfions” and that it takes on the same knotted vortex in every possible substance or structure. While no one will probably ever be able to construct an exact visual model of these liquid particles, Márta Kucsora’s videos may provide a possible hypothesis for the mechanism of the “engineered serendipity” organized from these unusual patterns.
Márton Orosz, PhD
Director, Vasarely Museum, Museum of Fine Arts, Budapest