Engineered Serendipity. 

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