2010. június 28., hétfő


(Opening speech of a poster exhibition)

I am not at all surprised that I should give a short speech here. It is the normal way of the opening of an exhibition. But I hope you see the paradox idea in it: we are to communicate the visual orally. To be honest, it is not ‘comme il faut’. And to be more honest, it makes no sense. And I also should apologize for not being the man of words.

Of course not only the possibility but the fairness to discuss the works of the exposition and of graphic design on the whole is questioned now. We always tell the students of visual communication that they should be able to express themselves through different kinds of media, they should tell the message and also interpret it. However, life is different. I always find it very suspicious if I should explain to my employers what my works mean, how they should see or interpret them. I thought not to be a gentleman when giving the interpretation of something that can be seen, or I would simply misguide them if it cannot be seen or if they can’t see it, and the meaning I’d like to refer to is only the product of my imagination. And what if only the client cannot see it but hundreds of people can? Keeping on interpreting your work to them is still not moral. You should take it home and work on it or simply give up. For me, my favourite works are the given up. (The only problem is that you can’t make a fortune out of them.)

It was only once that I felt that it is a must, important and it also makes me feel good to talk about pictures, to transform the images, which once I could form on a piece of paper, further into words and also to explain my intentions and to make them clear to the viewers. It took place in a foreign country at the end of the last millennium on a graphic design congress. In a theatre, I had to say some words on me and also to give a lecture and present a slide show on Hungarian posters including mines, too. I tried to give just the basic information on the pictures and almost never referred to what was visible and therefore evident. I gave my speech in English, the audience wore earphones and some interpreter behind the screens translated it into Spanish. After a while, I saw that the audience could not see what I meant. Some took off their phones, asked the others next to them to explain what they saw, to interpret what they heard. Somewhat later, the interpreter informed me on an embarrassed voice through the speakers that he could not follow me and would like me to return to some of the phrases I used and to explain them to him because he could not see what they referred to. Of course, I agreed on it and also told him to come next to me to the stage, so he could easily notify if something would not be clear. He told me through the speakers that he was coming and some minutes later two men appeared on the stage, they were the interpreter and a man leading him as the interpreter was blind - from the moment he was born, as I later got to know. He had never ever seen. It was easy to see that he could hardly or not at all imagine what I meant by the meaning of illusion, when I was talking about works of mine that have different meanings according to the distance and the angle you look at them. Moreover, there were the anamorphic distortions, the visual paradoxes, “optical hanky-pankies”. I had to change my conception on the whole, I shouldn’t apply any of the images in my speech at all. However, my words should have been “visual”. It could not have been very exciting to my actual audience, but he started to enjoy it very much, and – though ashamed of – I also did. I managed to get over the shame you feel if the other person is lacking something you have got, though you do not deserve it. And I didn’t have any moral scruples, as he could not “check” if it is the truth that I am talking about or if I lead him by his nose. Of course, I thought I was telling the truth, or – to be honest – when I was not, I did never keep it as a secret. Let’s face the truth: our profession, commercial graphic design is about cheating. The art of “hocus-pocus”. Just consider the following fact: the product you’d like to sell should be presented as something better, more attractive than what in fact it is. No matter whether your product is washing powder, sanitary napkin or a theatre performance or – especially - a political party. Can the graphic designer be forgiven if he notifies you in good time and makes it evident with some visual effect that you have got into the world of illusion, if he acts the way the famous Hungarian illusionist did and says right at the beginning that “watch my hands, because I’m cheating”?
Let me take the risk of giving another statement on whether words have anything to do with those fields of art whose materials are other than words. As a layman, I’m absolutely aware of the fact that my statement is not at all strong and easy to attack. It was taught that works of art means the unity of ‘content’ and ‘form’. So, it is only ‘content’ that you can transform into words. Their more “important” part, their ‘form’ can never be interpreted like that. Our clearest art, the art of music has only form, therefore, it can never be told. You are able to understand, feel, be passionate about, die for it, but are unable to translate it. If we accept that convergences do exist among the arts – just to avoid the idea of development – I believe in the progress of a kind of abstraction to music forms.
But we went too far. So, it is the connection between words and visual communication that I wanted to dedicate this opening of the exhibition to. I used to had a workshop for young poster-designers in the same country where I met the blind interpreter, and I wanted them to work according to the following phases: first, put into words what your posters are going to be about, that is, the ‘message’. You can also write it down. After this, read these words through once, twice, three times, four times, etc. You will see that there are words, even sentences that you don’t need. Delete them. Reading them through more times, you’ll still find words or phrases that can be deleted. “Minimize and reduce”. And when you won’t need any of the words, of the letters even, can tell that you are ready with your poster.
(Despite of my adventures with the interpreter, I still believe that a good work is not in need of words. This exhibition is neither in one. So please, forgive me for talking so much.)

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