Splash & Grab

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Gábor Arion Kudász – Human

 

Words by Max Ferguson from Splash & Grab 4.

“To begin this work I chose my own narrow horizon, that is, limited enough for me to inhabit while flexible enough to examine all that is human. At the very start, an enigmatic object accidentally got in my way. It was a brick, which later on proved to be the perfect symbol, so many human qualities are compressed into it.” - Gábor Arion Kudász

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Bricks, taken in isolation, are more or less pointless. Like us, they only acquire their raison d'être in association with their fellows.  It is in their community that they have meaning.  Whenever a brickie lays them out in any one of an infinite number of patterns, they form the structures of our houses, walls, factories and offices. They mark the boundary between Inside and Outside – between the inner kraal in which humanity subsists and the dangerous otherness of the bush, the desert, the sun and snow. As in any aesthetic enterprise, the successful interaction of function and form determines the beauty or ugliness of the building. People have been making and using bricks for thousands of years. The first written scripts were baked into mud slabs.

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Gábor Arion Kudász is a Hungarian photographer and lecturer in photography at the Moholy-Nagy University of Art and Design in Budapest. Human (not Brick) is a project about brick factories. For Kudász, bricks are explored as a metaphor for “human scale” – the set of information and physical qualities that characterise the human body, its capabilities, and human social institutions. Approaching his project as an academic, he spent a year of doctoral researching online, digging into archives and searching for images of scientific material and experiments. Practical photographs and figures from the mid-20th century were a visual guide. His trips to brick factories took place over two years. The small sharp lines that separate light and shadow in Kudász’s photographs recall those made by the Hungarian masters – Moholy-Nagy, Brassaï, Capa and Kertész – at a time when photographers were still exploring the camera as a tool of mechanical reproduction.

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In one photograph a workman stands alongside a tower of bricks piled to about his own height, which seems to establish a commonality between bricks and man – and at the same time emphasises their essential differences: one inert, standardised, the other moustachioed, rumpled, alive. Humans are not, as fascists would have us have it, like bricks. Kudász recounts making this portrait. “My first encounter was Otto, who works six days a week in three shifts. In a single eight-hour shift he oversees the production of 18,000 bricks, the equivalent of three to four standard family homes. His dreams are haunted by bricks, but in the twenty years he's been working in the factory, he insists, he never thought of what he would build for himself from one day's worth of bricks. Otto is about six bricks tall, that would take 15 seconds of his life to produce.” In this image the brick-blocks, though his equal in height, are photographed not as his equal but as his creations. Other images in the series incorporate bricks into the workers' lives and performances. They are utilised, celebrated as powerful, distorted almost beyond recognition, now imposing, now fragile. Always necessary. We are left to ponder on the discrete ubiquity of bricks.

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Max Ferguson