A Performance in Queens by András Böröcz
(Video by Klara Palotai, music by Rodriguez)
by Oliver A. I. Botar
New York, April 2012
Near PS1 in Queens, New York, there is an old, three storey warehouse building, the top floor of which is accessible by a long, straight flight of stairs; no turns, no doors opening off the minimal landings that barely punctuate this relentless assent. At the top is Radiator Gallery, which Tamás Veszi has formed of residual circulation spaces linking rooms that he rents out as studio. Above the middle-point of the long gallery is a pitched skylight, a secret source of mysterious light that adds to its off-beat charm.
Installed at the time was a show, “From Life”, to which each participating artist contributed two works (Curators: Zoe Pettijohn and Christopher Schade). No discernable unifying style or theme was in evidence, but the selection of artists was good, as was most of the work; delicate pieces with a bent towards the enigmatic.
Enigmatic, yet viscerally communicative is the capsule description I would attach to the performance that András Böröcz (one of the participating artists in the exhibition) confronted us with. For at the end of the long corridor/gallery was what initially seemed like a door, but which soon revealed itself to be an old-fashioned freight elevator of the kind installed in the early 20th century. As is typical of these now archaic conveyances, this elevator was also fronted by a folding grate-like metal gate, that Böröcz made good use of. For the repertory of images that he assembled for this performance (“Canary in a Coal-Mine”) included the cage. Thus, in one of the two digital video projections on the wall above the freight elevator (the other was a live projection of the actual performance as it took place), Böröcz is seen opening what seems like a bird cage and mounting it around his head, thus ensconcing this roughly oblong spheroid within the cage. At other points, the same data projector conveyed images of a merrily singing canary in a cage. Every once in a while, during the performance, Böröcz would withdraw to the cage-lift, within which he would lie face down on a table, his head towards the viewers, raise his head and legs off the table as if enacting the “Superman Posture” familiar from yoga, and gently, every so gently, raise and lower his arms like wings in peaceful flight. At other times, presenting Chinese-made yellow tennis balls labeled “Global”, he would inscribe the same word on lemons and on eggs, eggs that he would then puncture on both ends and blow out the contents of. This operation was also performed on an enormous ostrich egg, though in the latter case he would employ a drill rather than a pin. (It’s amazing how much yolk and albumen is contained in an ostrich egg!) The tennis balls were sawed in half, he was seen on one of the dvd’s to be playing tennis with lemons, the tennis ball hemispheres were applied to swallow up yellow roses, etc. Though Böröcz himself made no sound during it, the performance was notcarried out in silence: a trumpeter punctuated his movements and actions withvisceral, emotional sounds.
Böröcz and his then art-partner László Révész were among the most prominent performance artists in Hungary during the 1980s. They toured their work to Canada and the United States at the time, and shared their repertoire of images, themes and motifs between the performances, drawings, paintings and exquisitely crafted sculptures, a mode of operation that Böröcz has remained true to since that time (during which he married Canadian-American artist Robbin Silverberg and moved to Brooklyn). Indeed, Böröcz’s extraordinary craftsmanship was on display as he expertly drilled multiple holes into the ostrich egg and then performed multiple operations on them. Emptying the contents is not something he does with his repertoire of motifs: During his career, these have included everyday objects such as watermelons, horse shoes, matchboxes, barrels, cactuses, paper clips, shoes, train cars, and pencils, just to name a few. And he has deployed these in his work that has delved into weighty themes such as sexuality and the Holocaust. In his highly original works on the latter theme (works that often include simple mechanical parts and often incorporate an element of sound-making employing wood), he never ceases to wonder about how such a catastrophe could have taken place. And presently he was engaged with cages, eggs, barrels, hammers and tennis balls.
He wondered to me aloud the following evening in his Greenpoint studio whether the Chinese factory worker making the tennis balls was aware of what the word “global” that he or she printed onto the spheres’ yellow surfaces might mean to someone on the other side of the world. Böröcz does wonder about what it might imply, and in the free-associative process that he engages in as part of his creative process, it makes him think of the world, of the world egg, and in contrast, of cages, birds in cages, and canaries in coal mines that give us fair and early warning of impending disasters.
Borocz in Fabula
by Julianna P. Szucs
(Andras Borocz: Tul az Operencian [Across the Blue Yonder]
Exhibition at Szent Istvan Kiraly Muzeum, Szekesfehervar, Hungary, May 28-September 25, 2011)
— Is it an object?
— Is it alive?
— Is it an idea?
Playing by the rules of the well-known parlor game will not reveal the themes of the Hungarian American visual artist Andras Borocz. Of course it is possible to describe the art objects he makes. If a curator were to catalog the pieces in the exhibition titled Tul az Operencian (Across the Blue Yonder) at Szekesfehervar, the museum catalog entries would read something like this:
1. Twenty-six pieces of hand-made paper mounted on bread slice-shaped poplar slabs, bearing ink and watercolor images of humanoid forms shaped like loaves of bread performing postural exercises with one another.
2. Nineteen pieces of gilded mirrors, scratched and scored all over with drawn motifs that include paper clips, bicyclists, saws and extension cords, details that torment or pleasure each other in cunningly complex ways.
3. Fifteen hands pointing index fingers carved of wood and extended by means of folding carpenter’s measure mechanisms, each one a yad, or Torah-pointer, hung from the ceiling, exposing their irregular structures that point in all directions of the compass.
— But these catalog entries would prove worthless since they misinform. Do these works depict objects? Yes, that, too. Living creatures? That, too. Ideas? Yes, that, too. I give up! ›› Click here to read the entire article (PDF)
by Laszlo Szigeti (translation by John Batki)
Excerpt from review of the “Yad” show in Magyar Szo, Slovakia
October 9, 2010
The vertical seems to suggest that we may approach the Seen by way of the Talmudic Books. Except that Andras Borocz’s Torah pointers — objects that come between the hand and the Book — strive to aid us in reading not the Torah but ourselves. They point At Us, at our communities and societies that ARE US. Their maker is clearly aware of the Mosaic command “Ask not about earlier times”, and seeks not things that came before the creation of the world. Not the hands but their gestures are transcendent, their masterfully realized manifold gestures that command, caress, caution and kindly cause. Yet they embody human hands, not the Creator’s. Fallible human hands grasping for Power, in politics and in everydays. From higher up more than one paw — those dictatorial powers of state, established religion, military alliance — cast down upon us shadows of collective egoisms. But these hands are about something else, although they touch (on) the above, totally.
Seen from Europe, these carvings by Borocz could be hand variants for Kafka’s lost humans. Seen from the perspective of Latin American democracies rich in cultural tradition but rigidly authoritarian, these hands could receive any number of descriptors other than Kafkaesque, but their gist would remain the same: the universality of contempt, humiliation and loss of freedoms. For the most energetic fingers pointing at us, and at all points of the compass, are those of the hands of Foucault’s universal power hunger that craves to rule over all Others: lovers, partners, siblings, children, coworkers, employees, clients, patients, passengers, customers, guests. They are interested in us because these index fingers ARE US. They point at us, at our selves, although they address us reservedly, forbidding touch, keeping their distance as the Torah bids. Although Borocz gave the name “Torah Pointers” (Yad) to this installation, it is not only Jewish but above all Greek and Roman antiquity, today reincarnated in the language and form of Euro-Atlantic culture, that shows here in its full violence and cynicism, and irony that (it is hoped) will dissolve these.
So these here, above, could be us, in the spacious exhibition hall of our own hunger for power. Pathetic repeaters of monotonous ploys, champions of greed, basically innocent, we haven’t done anything, and are ready to blame others. Our arms move like folding rulers, mechanical and machine-like; seeing them I must agree with Sartre’s claim that physics leads to metaphysics.
The Torah pointers of Andras Borocz lead to the refined work of Robbin Ami Silverberg; from the vertical to the horizontal. The symbiosis of these two artists exists in their content as well as their feather-light touch. Their refinements are enviable, amazing and inimitable, posing the unsolved mystery of how, through what experiences did both of them acquire such velleities that irk our savagery and seem almost other-worldly? Their fragilities are clearly a meld of individual fate and talent, but, returning to Kafka and his “Trees”, the short text that casts doubt over all factualness, — ”even this, too, is an illusion”. Their difference is likewise evident. Although the intimate heat of creative activity, no less than the warmth of a noble irony, wafts through the world of Borocz’s Torah pointers, the work remains fundamentally cool, some of its gestures unequivocally cynical, thereby placing the viewer in a state of exclusion.