17 567 2 850 5

Ilona Németh

17 567 2 850 5


Curated by: Krisztina Hunya

Opening: November 2, 2016, at 7pm
Curatorial guide tour - November 28, 2016, at 7pm
On view: November 3 - December 4, 2016


„In some way, all things are congealed moments in a longer social trajectory. All things are brief deposits of this or that property, photographs that conceal the reality of the motion from which their objecthood is a momentary respite.“ Arjun Appadurai: The Thing Itself, 2006


Ilona Németh’s cryptically titled solo exhibition is a continuation of the artist’s long-term quest, which delves into her family chronicle and carves out moments of politics incessantly interfering in individual lives. The exhibition can be read as a continuation of her show Revised Version in 2014 at tranzit gallery Bratislava, where the audience was already introduced to the political affiliations of members of her family. Németh’s immediate surroundings – objects, characters, and events – often serve as starting points for video and photographic works, alongside appropriated or manufactured pieces. The artist’s choice of specific objects as reflections upon individual narratives and universal concerns might remind us of Arjun Appadurai’s seminal article The Thing Itself, and of his “idea that persons and things are not radically distinct categories.” Human and other material subjects are entangled and equally defined by their transactions and social relations. A person may take on the status of an object when excluded from prevailing legal systems, while a person’s belongings reflect his or her status within society. People on the move around the world constantly face the question of what they can take and what they need to leave behind.


The presentation at SODA gallery focuses on three distinct personalities, each represented by three furniture pieces from their inventories. Originating from different periods of Eastern European history, the tables each bear witness to their owner’s destinies, their unfulfilled or achieved aims, and changes in the political climate around them. They are forms of profusion transfiguring from a commodity into an art object, they are abstractions charged with the hopes and struggles of their owners. Like a photographic image, they capture moments, thoughts and fingerprints in the cracks of their wood, their splintering paint and traces of caretaking by new owners and contexts. In Ilona Németh’s practice, they find a new role embedded in the illusion of permanence in the art realm – at least for the time being. The exhibition 17 567 2 850 5 is aimed at concealing and transcending the material value and vulnerability of the objects, taking advantage of the corrosive effects of history. 


The first image of the exhibition show Németh’s father, a former leading representative of the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic, guiding a delegation through the Flora Bratislava, 1971 (2012) in the recently demolished Park of Culture and Relaxation. Seemingly floating, flowery bubbles of baroque wit are overwhelming yet absurd stances of a deceptive system built around a series of centralized rites. The Negotiating Table. 1991 (2014) belonged to the same person, mirroring a later period in history and lacking the aforementioned notions of grandeur. Its resilience of opening and closing, enfolding and shattering stands as a fragile reminder of how history and chance may take their turn.


A volatile nature is equally present in the title piece of the exhibition, an earlier, simpler, and less fancy furniture model of Czechoslovak design. Bit by bit, the shiny tabletop slides over and returns, engulfed by wallpaper full of meticulous calculations, endless tides of taxes and allowances. 17 567 2 850 5 (2016) is a portrait of a household in numbers, brought down to the bottom line of the person’s or family’s accounting. It bears the marks by the owner, a poor poat WW2 refugee trying to manage a living within an autocratic system.


The third table in this setting reveals the context of wealthy farmers cultivating their own land with their families. The work "Všetko zbaliť . . ." (Pack up everything . . . 2016) returns to the postwar times of reckonings and deportations across the re-strengthened and re-defined Mid-European borderlines. Families of Hungarian national descent living in the Czechoslovak province were collectively marked as war criminals; many people were denied their citizenship, often facing deportation and forced labor. A robust, manly sound pounds relentlessly from the very center of the installation, carried further in the rattling cutlery. It may refer a distinct voice opposing the course of history, or perhaps the heartbreak of resignation and surrender.


Today, the pounding echo of resistance to the turmoil of history can still be heard around the globe and the forces of political conflicts are constantly gaining strength. Nonetheless, the stories of the Past told through an arsenal of enchanted tables are not only landmarks of personal beliefs and anxieties, but speculations on the possibilities of these roles being altered. Are these objects on display at SODA Gallery items of everyday use or artworks, with the potential to awake social awareness? Are we left with the subjugated role of experiencing history as it unfolds or can we become actors, agents and dissidents ourselves?


Krisztina Hunya is a freelance curator and project manager. She recently curated the solo exhibition METOD with Ilona Németh at the project space ZÖNOTÉKA in Berlin, which she has been co-running since 2014. She is currently enrolled in the postgraduate study program Cultures of the Curatorial at the HGB Academy of Visual Arts in Leipzig, and Assistant Curator of Contour Biennale 8 (Mechelen, 2017) curated by Natasha Ginwala.


This exhibition was realized in cooperation with the Slovak National Museum – Museum of Hungarian Culture in Bratislava, Slovakia.

With financial support / Realizované s finančnou podporou
Fond na Podporu Umenia

Úradu vlády Slovenskej republiky -
program Kultúra národnostných menšín 2016


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