Tamás Waliczky: Opening words at the exhibition of Ulrike Rosenbach's works

Ulrike Rosenbach is important to me, both as a person and as an artist. First of all, I have much to thank her for. In 1997, I decided to leave ZKM in Karlsruhe; I had no idea where I would go or how I would make a living. Then one day the phone rang and I heard the voice of Ulrike Rosenbach for the first time, as she asked me if I was interested in teaching at the art college in Saarbrücken. I said I wasn't. Luckily, she didn't hang up right away, but instead calmly explained to me the hours involved and how much I'd be getting paid for this. Oh... well, that's different, I said. When can I start? At this point, I still had no idea what I could possibly teach students. She said I could be an example of the creature called "computer artist," and show how I work and exhibit my works, how, in certain circles, there is demand for what I do, how this is a form of art that is possible and can be a means of expression. I liked this idea, and so I have Ulrike Rosenbach to thank for becoming a teacher.

As I taught at Saarbrücken College, I got to know Ulrike Rosenbach better, and I also taught several of her students. As I worked together with Ulrike and her students, I came into close contact with feminism for the first time in my life. Under their influence I read Virginia Woolf's A Room of One's Own, among others. Under their influence I understood how important feminism is and acknowledged how real the problem they fight against truly is, even now. I understood that for Ulrike Rosenbach, feminism is a "cause." By this I mean that it is an aim that looks beyond itself; it is something that doesn't point to the artist herself and is not about "glossing her name." It is about art serving this cause. Thomas Mann writes the following words in his book, Lotte in Weimar: "How beautiful it is when someone has a cause. For that cause beautifies the person in turn." And this is how Ulrike Rosenbach and her art are beautified and brightened by the cause of feminism. It permeates all. Ulrike Rosenbach doesn't teach - or doesn't only teach - because professorship is a respected and well paid job in Germany, but because she has a cause that she wishes to pass onto her students. She doesn't take part in an exhibition so she can add yet another item to the list in her CV, but because she has something essential to impart. And so on, in all fields.

I find it very important that we are able to present such a monumental artist, the pioneer of video art, here, at Pixel Gallery. Not only because she is a "big name," and a "pioneer," but because I believe that when a new idea is spoken for the first time, it usually speaks exceptionally clear and strong. In the works of subsequent generations, this voice blends with other voices, causing it to become muddled, commercialized, and finally completely empty. This is why it is important, from time to time, to look directly at those works in which an original thought and the innocent joy of discovery are manifested undisturbed. The first time I saw Ulrike Rosenbach's early works, it felt like I had washed my eyes with clean water. This incident occurred in the video studio at ZKM, where, in the 1990s, they had acquired a machine that was able to restore old video film. I looked at several videos as they were being restored, and afterward, one of the names that stood out in my memory was the name of Ulrike Rosenbach. I had not yet made her acquaintance at that point. While looking at her work, I understood that the use of video technique in art must have a true, deliberate, and deeply founded reason. I felt ashamed when I saw how precise, cheap, and user-friendly my tools were today, and in contrast, how I utilized them with less innovation and creativity.

In art, a new idea is not born in a vacuum. An artist cannot step out of time; her works are based on the inventiveness of earlier artists and their works. Her works, in turn, are points of reference for the next generation. This is why, if the works of a great artist are, for some reason, missing from this chain, it feels as if an important supporting pillar would be missing from a building. Unfortunately, here in Hungary, several of these "supporting pillars" are missing for various reasons; many significant artists are not only completely unfamiliar to audiences, but to Hungarian artists themselves. This loss affects all of us; countless works of art are plainly lacking this natural building process, resulting in a static uncertainty, as the "supporting pillars" are missing. Thus, a feeling of being excluded from the organic stream of Western European art emerges, leading to an inferiority complex or a pompous self-importance that tries to compensate for all this.

As far as I know, Ulrike Rosenbach's fundamentally important works have not yet been exhibited anywhere in Hungary. Ulrike Rosenbach, who was the first artist in Europe to use video technique in her statues and performances from the 1980s on, is one of the principal figures of modern art in the world, yet has hitherto been unknown to Hungarian audiences and also to nearly all young Hungarian video artists. Perhaps this exhibit will make up for part of this deficiency. And so I am especially happy that this exhibition was made possible; finally, twenty of Ulrike Rosenbach's video works can be seen in Budapest too.

Thank you for your attention.

September 14, 2006

English translation: Nagy Ildikó Noémi