Artist statement – Ottó Szabó // Robotto


I create kinetic sculptures and installations, often having sassiness, playfulness to it. The materials I use are considered as trash, they’ve lost their original function and meaning but during the recycling/up cycling process they gain a new mission. Coming from Paks, an industrial city with the only nuclear power plant in Hungary machines and big systems had great influence on me. 

Collecting something is common in everybody’s life, but I collect junk, which is much rarer.  If I find materials, I start a game: how to transform something useless to well-made art, to a special object. I give one more chance to a broken glass, or piece of wire to hang on a wall as a piece of art. I worked at the English National Opera in London as a prop maker, where during my lunch breaks I collected shells and stones from the riverbank of Thames. The created sculptures (Lunch Break Warriors, Low Tide) contain the entire story of the finding, its origin and more beyond. 

I include the spectator to my work: The piece works on its own as well, but comes to life by an action of the viewer, weather it is by pushing a button (Csepel GE), or rotating a handle (Csámpás). 

My sculptures are the actors of a specific Eastern European self-mythology, in which the original function and history of the materials and the fictional elements create a mixture of an alternative reality. For example, my final work at the University of Fine art, the Csepel GE. This is a kinetic sculpture made of found objects such as car and motorcycle parts. I not only created the piece, but also its history, making the viewer doubt whether the story is true or not. This exercise robot was created by the Hungarian Robotic Corporation which started in 1964. This dancing robot was the first one of many series. It helped factory workers to exercise, move their bodies during the breaks of the long, exhausting and monoton days of producing the GDP for their beloved communist party. 

As an Artist I had a chance to create bigger installations (Settler) as well, to my home town’s gallery. It’s main character, the post human farmer brings out lightness from darkness and infertility but comes to halt, when bumps into light, facing his own pointless goals, becoming a mechanical Sisyphus. 

I experiment on other fields as well; I work as a set designer for theaters, especially for puppet theaters (John the Valiant, Fairy mother). It is a challenging but exciting work how to use the stage as a screen, how to fill it up with new ideas. Creating for kids allows me to reach a new curious - but very critical - audience. Keeping their attention is crucial, so I design the sets and puppets in the philosophy of this puppet theater quote: We need a wonder in every minute. My puppets are basically kinetic, functional sculptures which really come to life by the help of the actors.

I am also part of Nem mi voltunk/That was not us, a group of contemporary artist. In our work we process the inspiration, subject with humor. In the Memento project, we created public memorial plaques for moments and monuments at Budapest and Prague. We focused on banal, but very typical events, which are bound to the given neighborhood. Memento Budapest places its memorials dedicated to this phenomenon of the inner VII. district – also known as the party-district. 

I have currently experimenting and have interest in two fields. I am started to play with plants, incorporating it with sculptures and installations. I also would like to recycle in bigger scale, by applying the characteristics of my work on public spaces, buildings. 

Szabó Ottó