Dear Friends, let me begin this exhibition opening with a little story. Unfortunately I'm the kind of guy who is reminded of a story by everything. So here goes.
This tale was first written down in an 11th century book of legends in the Netherlands and then became quite popular in all of Western Europe. Yet, in Hungary it was collected and noted down just once in 1964 from peasants from Bukovina who were settled in Somogy County.
But how did it pop up out of nowhere in Hungary by word of mouth after one thousand years of mysterious obscurity? This is the secret of secrets and we will have the opportunity to experience one such secret at today's presentation. How can it be that an important artist like Tamás Waliczky, whose works have been exhibited around the world, is having his first major exhibition in his own country only now? We have waited a thousand years for this occasion. This is the moment of homecoming.
The story goes like this:
In a monastery there once lived a friar named Contemplating Conrad. The reason he was called "contemplating" was because he was always meditating on what life in the hereafter could be like. It is in the 90th Psalm that he found the mysterious door leading to the path of the world beyond. The verse says: "For a thousand years in Thy sight are but as yesterday when it is past..." A thousand years are just a day there. Time is different there and even the wind blows differently-but how?
On another occasion during morning prayers Conrad was thinking so hard he didn't notice that everyone had gone to breakfast already. Suddenly, he noticed the sound of twittering: the song of some enchanting bird. It was not a lark and certainly larger than a nightingale but it wasn't a golden oriole either. Contemplating Conrad hurried out of the chapel into the meadow outside the monastery. He stopped under a beech tree and listened to the captivating trills of an ostrich singing in its majestic branches. He stood listening to the bird's song but then became quite cold from the nippy air of dawn, and he returned to the cloister only to find himself greeted by total strangers who looked at him in amazement. They escorted him up to the abbot who determined from ancient books that he was the monk who had disappeared from the monastery 400 years previously and whose name was Contemplating Conrad.
I know a great many tales about the hereafter and it is not very difficult finding the way there either. One needs only to go down into a crypt, or climb a tree reaching through the clouds; sometimes it's enough just to cross a rickety old wooden bridge over a rushing stream and you are already there. But none of the stories from the great beyond are ever simple or exact like Contemplating Conrad's. The sound of the bird's heavenly song in the tree of that familiar meadow at home was enough to lose himself and get a foretaste of the mysterious reality hovering above us: frightening and unfathomable time.
"For a thousand years in Thy sight are but as yesterday when it is past."
If the story hadn't taken place in the Netherlands but here in Hungary, he would have regained consciousness in the legendary Café Japan, at the table of the writer, P. Howard. Thus, he would be our "Coffeehouse Conrad" who would have kept everyone entertained recounting his mystical experiences while drawing the ostrich on the marble café tabletop with a shaking hand. Conrad adjusts to his new environment rather quickly. The headwaiter brings him coffee on credit and soon the gypsy musicians are playing for him in the Tabán. It is possible to accommodate oneself to any age in time. Let us do the same and pretend that nothing is more natural than those buzzing steel birds above our heads and those flashing, beeping thingamajigs in the internet cafés.
I understand nothing at all about computers and especially nothing about programs on graphics and illustration. Though I do have a hunch that the lofty purpose of the millions of dollars spent on the revolution in visual technology was preeminently for the purpose of simplifying and speeding up the creative process. It was for the purpose of making those moving dinosaurs and aliens from outer space more lifelike and not for the purpose of Tamás Waliczky's works to come into existence.
"Get hyped" and "check out." These slogans are basically what the world is all about today. Turn and spin to a frenzy until someone pulls your plug. It's funny how some crazy guy comes along once and spends years making a three minute film with the precision of a miniature painter from the Middle Ages.
In summer when we usually meet I ask, "What did you do last year, Tamás?" "Oh, I created about forty seconds." "Wow, super!"
Then in several years, "The Garden" is completed. This miracle lasting just a few minutes is in itself the equivalent to a life's work of inner richness.
Then the following summer Tamás laughingly relates to me how the film about the making of the film "The Garden" generated more enthusiasm in the industry than the film itself.
Before we start making any sarcastic remarks about artistic public life let's have a look at this film which, in itself, is independent and valid. It is a thought-provoking essay film which, of course, cannot be compared to the original work's magnitude and perfection; but based on the original film's use of technical presentation alone it is amazingly remarkable.
It is understandable then, that the "making of" film would pique the interest of the industry. This is where I need to comment that Waliczky's art is not merely about his agreeable anachronism. He uses computer graphics with a classical artistic perspective; through this perspective he was able to delve to unbelievable depths and find the inner workings of a device that will unravel all of its magical possibilities. As a true explorer and with childlike curiosity, he picks, scratches, and searches through electronic space lifting every virtual stone. At the same time, his thoughts, brimming with fantastic ideas for further technical details with the determination of Sherlock Holmes, he searches and finds the hidden and undiscovered possibilities of his raw materials.
If I really understood the subject, I'd write an essay titled: "Waliczky and Time."
And here I'm not just thinking about the relationship between the creative process and time. I'm thinking in terms of how God himself takes one thousand years to create earth days on His cosmic computer.
In his compositions and ruminations, time is a dominant theme for Waliczky; time as bewilderment, time as experience and raw material, all of which finds perfect expression in computer graphics.
Here is just one example from the many technical thoughts, ideas which are at once simple but stupendous, words of wisdom and words of confession. I'm thinking of the work entitled, "Sculptures" in which virtual statues are formed out of human movement. He shows us a vibrating animation among sharp contours. Time is spread before us. We can actually see time.
In the film, "The Garden", we see a compositional thought which has as its fundamental theme a child running around in a garden and whose head is always centrally located on the monitor as the world moves around it. In actuality, this is a metaphor for time. This is a condition of the spirit shaped out of deep empathy and love, a state in which the self is lost. For the playing child, just like for Contemplating Conrad, time stops or rather expands. This is how those few minutes become a thousand years and this is how that familiar garden transforms into an otherworldly terrain. This is where nature and objects take on mysterious implications and finally the world in all of its wholeness and sensation is awakened within us.
In "The Forest" and "The Way" we see contrasting time play.
In "The Forest", one would think that this film only works up to the moment when we realize that these enormous, austere woods are basically a single tree reproduced many times over. This is where the film should end, but fortunately this is where it begins, with the ringing of the tram's bell, with a song, and with travel. And, as in "The Garden" where fleeting time expands, here, it does the opposite; the ever-changing monotony contracts in a single moment, in a heartbeat of sudden alarm within us. It is precisely this technology of endless, monotonous concentration of time to a point of explosion that the film "The Way" utilizes. We see a shrewdly wicked treadmill and, fortunately again, the film does not end with the realization that the heavenly German scenery is in actuality following the absurdly determined running figures and not the other way around.
I don't wish to analyze Tamás Waliczky's every composition because it would become clear very quickly how little I know about the subject.
Thankfully, it is not necessary to have too much training to realize that the work entitled, "Landscape" is also about time. The snow stops falling for a moment, the flakes remain static in the air and that same, peaceful, motionless scenery becomes very, very different in its out-of-timeness.
I dare not speak about one of my favorite films, "The Fisherman and his Wife". Instead, I would like to say a few words about one of his earlier works called, "Pictures" which for us, his old friends has special meaning. It is interesting that even this early work was designed with a fine essay-like style which has a dramatic flair like his later pieces. It is this almost unnoticeable but still very effective, dramatic moment which sheds light on the meaning of the work. Here, at the end of the film we step out of a picture and suddenly see the pictures again hung one beside the other on the wall just like at the beginning of the film. At the end of our journey, we see the picture we stepped into and the one we stepped out of also. The beginning and the end: side by side after traveling through the past's increasingly deep layers and lost moments.
Tamás Waliczky's main character, object, and raw material is Tamás Waliczky and a few others who live in his immediate environment. His is a very personal art but, similar to other great artists, he expects the same personal participation and sincerity from his audience.
I ask you all to embrace this presentation. Don't just give it a glance on the occasion of this noisy celebration. Come back again when it is quiet and when you can immerse yourself in that out-of-time attention such as the little child, Annamari's play in that ages old "Garden" or the way Contemplating Conrad listened to his ostrich once upon a time.
Péter Kárpáti, playwright.
December 17, 2005
Translated by Zsuzsa Nagy