Kristóf SZABÓ - KristofLab

When Fluxus was founded at the end of the 1950s, one of the driving forces behind their form-disruptive artistic ideas was a critical attitude towards the elitism of the art world. [1]

Abstract Expressionism that reigned in America at the time, the last kicks of Modernism and a final attempt to keep the grandeur of modernist ideas on the pedestal, was finally exhausted by the 1960s. Fluxus's proposal for a new language of contemporary art was not entirely new, as they looked back to Dadaists and Futurists for inspiration, who had already started down an experimental path after the First World War, asking what contemporary art was.

 

One of the ways in which both Dada and Fluxus pushed the boundaries of art was through the fusion of different artistic disciplines. Their aim was not only to challenge the dogmatic elitism of art, but also to create situations in which the power of art could have a real impact on everyday life, and the alienation, detachment and incomprehension that many people are unfortunately all too familiar with could be dissolved in the experiential nature of art.

 

All this makes it understandable that a progressive artist like Kristóf Szabó, aka KristofLab, would turn towards the form of Gesamtkunstwerk (i.e., a total work of art incorporating many art forms) in order to create a total artistic experience and invite the viewer into an experience that they cannot evade and cannot “defend” themselves from.

 

In much of his work, Kristóf Szabó does not present himself as a “one-man show” who expects the viewer to passively receive his artworks. KristofLab, as the name suggests, is an experimental laboratory, a place, a platform where different elements and people can meet and experiment with each other. Perhaps that is why KristofLab likes to work with dancers, musicians, make videos, make music as a DJ, and treats nightclubs or summer festivals as art venues in addition to the white cube exhibition space. As the artist writes, “The visual interactions that appear on the installations, paintings, and projectors are creating a real relationship with the observer and often cause a special space experience. Site-specific works define my artwork, often transforming the exhibition or performance space into a particular world.”[2]

 

At the same time, Kristóf Szabó paints regularly, and his starting point for his art is entirely based on what he sees, on visuality, and through that, on painting. A constantly intriguing question for him – which, incidentally, is at the heart of painting – is the question of views, and images we see. What exactly is a view? How real is what we see? What do we really see? Kristóf Szabó's street scenes, the buildings they depict break down into pixels, deconstructing the reality of the view. Just as images in a computer can be broken down into pixels, the reality our eyes see is nothing more than a set of perceived impulses that our brain later assembles into an interpretable reality, enabling us to recognize them as a house, a bus, the sky, and so on. But do the house, the bus and the sky exist, and do they exist as we see them? In Kristóf Szabó's paintings, urban landscapes are broken down into abstract compositions through pixelation, and we realize that we are holding a world constructed by a view as our reality.

 

This reality, according to Kristóf Szabó, is far from ideal: in the urban landscapes and scenes, man is nowhere to be found. But the traces of man are all the more tangible, and the monsters he creates, the burnt-out nature that is violated by built space, bring to life a posthuman dystopia. Nevertheless, the drama of the situation contrasts elegantly with the emotionlessness of analytical observation. Influenced mainly by Zen practice and philosophy, Fluxus artists similarly juxtaposed the tension of social critique with the dispassion of analytical insight. Think of John Cage's 4'33" performance or Laurie Anderson's songs: these works are both social commentaries and calls for a different way of looking at the world. KristofLab's diversity thus results in an artistic practice that does not leave the viewer alone, demands work and does not allow the viewer to escape from the artistic experience. Many such art practices would help us to really start seeing and living differently.

 

Since 2016, Kristóf Szabó (1988– ) has consciously used the name KristofLab as a brand for his interdisciplinarity and media art activities. He graduated from the Hungarian University of Fine Arts in 2012 with a degree in graphic design. He is a member of the Ziggurat Project, and since 2015 they have been collaborating regularly on site-specific experimental performances from Norway to the V4 countries.

 

Text by: Délia Vékony, art historian & curator
 

[1] https://www.theartstory.org/movement/fluxus/history-and-concepts/

[2] Szabó Kristóf, https://kristoflab.com/

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