Anu Vahtra and Martin Lukáč at Chimera Project Gallery

Artists: Anu Vahtra and Martin Lukáč

Exhibition title: Interpreter’s Booth, An exhibition in two chapters (Chapter 2)

Curated by: Piotr Sikora

Venue: Chimera Project Gallery, Budapest, Hungary

Date: March 1 – 30, 2018

Photography: all images copyright and courtesy of the artists and Chimera Project Gallery

Interpreter’s Booth

An exhibition in two chapters by Anu Vahtra and Martin Lukáč
Curated by Piotr Sikora

 Chapter One

Ignotum per ignotius
The unknown by the more unknown

 Not to create any doubtful theories around the following exhibition I wish to state that the interpreter’s booth I’m referring to in the title is a banal square construction built with a clear purpose to host translators during conferences or any other events that demand simultaneous translation.

Art demands a simultaneous translation or as Ranciere refers to it in Emancipated Spectator, art is a simultaneous translation where the relationship between the content producer (actor) and content receiver (spectator) is fluent and free from any form of stratification. The openness of art lies in the fact that (with the exception of music) this visual discipline is the most abstract one. Indeed, what we are dealing with most of all is a message without words, a shape rather than a story and a sensation rather than a plot. Interpretation is a tool to understand art. By all means.

Let’s imagine a situation in a muted booth where both interpreters instead of working decide to talk to each other. Their microphones are turned off and we cannot hear them at all. Observing their gestures and mimics I become more aware that what I’m looking at now is more of a performance than a dialogue. It has no informative side. Question remains what language they use to communicate: most likely both of their working languages of the day.

If you wish to get a tip how to read the following exhibition I’d suggest you may concentrate on the surroundings rather than the individual pieces per se.

In Anu’s artistic practice we follow banal objects from the environment around us being transferred visually and contextually into abstract images or artifacts. What was before an unnoticed fragment of an interior, a tight corner or a plain shape of a white cube is animated by the artist’s gesture and becomes an art piece, it’s as simple as that. Or is it really?

Surroundings are being reproduced and turned into an abstract piece.

Keywords: animation, concept, cleanness.

Similar tactics are present in Martin’s paintings. By default abstract canvases are never just being hung inside of the white and sterile cube. Furthermore they contaminate the space around them so the expression from the paintings goes beyond the canvas and fills the gallery with all kinds of objects whether they are shoes, nets, wooden panels or banner prints.

An abstract art piece affects its surroundings and turns them into an environmental installation.

Keywords: gesture, expression, contamination.

 Welcome to Chapter Two.

One can never step in the same river twice

Now, equipped with helpful keywords and having a better idea what the art we are dealing with is, I would like to propose a toast to abstraction! Praise the non figurative! Long live the formless form!

All of a sudden two interpreters chatting relaxed in the booth and start to kiss. Their gestures from tender become more dynamic and violent. We can still see them – through this ridiculous plastic glass, being trapped in the claustrophobic temporary architecture that after all is a box made out of plastic. They seem not to care. Temperature is rising and kissing becomes more of a wrestling where two people fight each other in the manner not to cause any harm. It is an odd and awkward performance that makes you feel like a third wheel.

Our brain always tries to connect visuals we see with familiar patterns – something that we have already seen. It’s an old feature from the time when we all used to live in caves and it was necessary to connect a shape like the saber-toothed tiger with a deadly danger. Scientists would call it pareidolia yet for me it is the dumbest thing ever – the most powerful obstacle to appreciate fully the beauty of abstraction. On the other hand however pareidolia is the best helping hand when it comes to interpretation. Allowing us to use variety of lifetime experience in order to have a better understanding of what we see now.

More tips: I would like to call your attention on two things. First is the past – the one that is distant from us and the one that just has happened. In Anu’s work you can see how the past comes back in quasi architectural form – recalling walls that used to be here, playing with installation from the first chapter, nodding to a loop that looks like an inverted eight, involving shadows cast by the previous objects but not the actual ones.

Second – recognition of shapes or pareidolia is often used in Rorschach text (the one with black stains that gained such a popularity in hollywood’s movies). Take a look at the blue paintings by Martin and simply “tell me what do you see, Mr Lecter”.

The booth shakes and dodders. We can hardly see the interpreters; instead one can spot a tangle of different body parts. The booth hops and falls to the right, fake walls brake and fall apart. Then the movement stops as suddenly as it started. The interpreters slowly get up and try to find their belongings without making any eye contact neither with us nor with each other ( what happens in interpreter’s booth stays in interpreter’s booth). They flick dust off their clothes and leave without saying a word. What could they say, and, exactly, in what language?  


I met Ranciere two weeks ago. He is a very nice man. He let me take a selfie with him and my son and publish it in social media. Not a lot of people recognized him at the photo.