I was raised and educated in the Eastern Block, Hungary and my family suffered lots of losses, by the change. My mother and her family were living in Pozsony, (today Bratislava) in 1945, and were stripped of their citizenship and property by the "Beneš decrees" without compensation and forced to move. My father as a middle class intellectual was stigmatized as " class enemy" and his property was confiscated. After my father death, in 1956 I decided to be an artist. With my mother support, which raised me with two siblings, started to learn formal drawings and paintings in evening drawing study group in Győr. From 1974–77 studied art at the Hungarian University of Fine Arts.
Between 1975-77 as an art student in Budapest I was working with normative representations of the female body as a nude model. In live performances titled “Nude Model” - and in photo series - challenging and subverting the female nude model as a norm for study art. “I am not the model, the model is not me.” In the nude drawings series, that I had erased, I analyzed the patriarchal structures in the socialist system of art, which are contradictory to socialism’s promise of equality between the sexes.
The series "Individual Mythology" 1975–1977 - consists of drawings, photographs and performances - was one of my first works dealing extensively with the gender rolls. I overlaid my own free dance poses with historical photographs of several famous modern dancers, such as Isadora Duncan, and projected images on my dancing bodies. In other part of the series I have projected on my body the images of Hungarian history - in other performances in the series - paintings of nude woman from well-known art historical images. Representations of the female body were in my focus in this series.
At the end of 1978 I left Hungary, working first in the Netherlands then in Canada. Later I moved to New York. “Pornography; I Embrace Myself" (1978/1979) is my first artwork after emigrating. The performance and the photo series were made in Amsterdam. The photographs show multiple body images in hybrid, autoerotic scenes which reproduce the stereotypical image of female desire while subverting it at the same time by portraying it as a historical construct.
In the beginning of 80s I worked with several ideas, but one idea was recurrent: the scientific representation of nature and the human body especially female body. At the beginning of this decade and half long work I traveled all over the world and taking thousands of photographs of displays in different 18th and 19th century science, medical, and technological museums. In this photo series titled “Adventure in Technos Dystopium: Dystopium Infinite”. Documented, analyzed, deconstructed the scientific representation of nature and the human body. This photo series was inspired by my first visit to the Semmelweis Museum Budapest in 1976, latter I continued in Tyler Museum in Harlem, Boerhaave Museum in Leiden and the old Vrolic Museum in Amsterdam between 1978-1984, La Specola in Florence, Josephina Collection in Vienna between 1984-1993 and many others. To this photo-series entitled Dystopium infinite I started to write an analytical concept in 1983. I often used as theoretical text the genre of love letters to scientific instruments (1987) and made similias of 18th century scientific instruments. In 1986, I “invented” my own pseudo-persona Edith Simpson, that of a 18th century woman scientist, born 200 years prior to my birth. I “produced” her body of work, developed her imaginary scientific discoveries and created scientific instruments for her, inspired by the 17th century English woman scientist, Anne Conway Finch. My work looks up issues of discontinuity, thinking in particular the women’s position.
In my installations I offered a skeptical critical analysis of science’s attempts to model reality asking power establishes itself and how “rationality” creates ”truth” and “order” within existing power structures.
My theoretically based research between 1983-1990 resulted in a series of installations in which I employed different sculptural techniques and materials: glass, iron, lead, plaster, porcelain, (the same materials I’d found in the scientific museums) along with black and white photographs and texts.
Under the governing title Adventure in Technos Dystopium different installation aspects of the work were assembled under different titles: Natural Philosophy (1988), Morbid Conditions (1989), Fragmenta Naturae (1990). Natural philosophy deconstruct the rationalist scientific method of construction “reality”, that might give unity to a form of experience defined by individual observation. Fragmenta Naturae works with Linnaeus’s taxonomy of plants in which the study of botany, naming specifying defining nature via projected social model - especially in the “sexual system of plants”- wowing the fabric of patriarchal language.
The installation analyses the manner in which scientist and theorists of the rationalist Age of Enlightenment modeled their studies of universal phenomena on man himself. Man the gender, not human kind served as the microcosm from which to measure and analyze perceivable reality. The installation entitled Morbid Conditions concerns 18th and 19th century scientific, medical representation of body. In The Pathological Body I worked with scientific discourse of disease, health and dualities of imposed power over the magnified body.
The work and the methodology that the installation series was based on was harbinger in New York and has aroused substantial critical interest with reviews in New York Times (1988, 1989), in Village Voice (1988), in Art in America (1988, 1989), Contemporanea (1988), and Tema Celeste (1988) The critical interest continued: Art Forum (1989), Artscribe (1989), Beelding (1989), Forum (1990), Cepa Journal (1989), Seven Days (1990), Arts (1990). I also participated in several one-person exhibition and group shows in Cepa, Buffalo (1988), Arch Gallery, Amsterdam (1989), Ernst Museum, Budapest (1990), Hans Knoll, Vienna (1990) Tom Cugliani Gallery, New York (1989, 1990), Richard Anderson Gallery, New York, (1990), Gemente Museum, Arnhem (1991), List Visual Art Center, MIT (1992).
In the 1990s I started to develop a new aspect of my work with a new title, Manufacturing the Self. In that series of exhibitions of my installations exploring the history of the creation the consciousness of SELF in different cultural, racial, gender, historical and geographical situations. My experience, a cultural displacement, enabled me to understand a process that I call Technologies of the Self, which became the overall title and theme of a new body of work. The same time I use the genre of love letters instead theoretical text, in order to pursuing a subjective, personal voice. This work is based on my earlier deconstructive research, but deploys different concepts and visual formats, in particular the addition of more personal voice and sculptural elements cast in, metal, wax, bronze and rubber. I was particularly interested in how we are structured to create/manufacture ourselves into standard social identity by social, economic and politic force. The Manufacturing the Self is the governing title of the series of installations, which deals with the historical production of selves (19th century Self, 1993) and with intellectual, emotional (Medical Venus, 1993, Body Self, 1993, Medical Erotic, 1993, Convent, 1995) beauty and cosmetic (Hairy Virgin 1994, Young and Beautiful, 1997, Under the Veil, Bride 1997). The formations of Manufacturing The Self: Body Self and Medical Erotic was based on earlier research in science museums, especially medical museum displays. Its central element is the Medical Venus, and eighteen century anatomical wax-model made by Susini for medical studies, ordered by Medici. This embodiment emblematizes of cultural archeology, the female body under the scrutiny of the patriarchal medical gaze. I cast my own body as a Medical Venus; sixteen years after produced a photo series as part of my Individual Mythology taken in Budapest (1976), from the Semmelweis Museum’s medical dummies collection (also Susuni’s work). And nine years after I produced a series of photographs of medical sculptures in the Viennese Medical Museum’s Josephina Collection and at La Specola in Florence. The body of the anatomical female wax model began in the imagination of the sculptor Susini, to it I added a measure of the ecstasy of dissection released by the absence of the dissector, using love letters to both the dissector and the dissected Medical Venus.
The rubber-cast life size sculpture surrounded with love letters engraved into silver plates using the strategy of critical theory in the form of confession. In the love letters dissected body confesses its love for the absent dissector and also to the Medical Venus itself. But the Manufacturing The Self: Medical Venus is not only about the female body, it addresses eroticism that, emerges in an art form cough up in discourse and that comes through in a piece of art which deals with medical discourse and representation.
Manufacturing the Self; Body Self is takes on the body as a concept linking the physical organism to social order, political consciousness, moral development and identity: the female body is not abstract; it is an object of scientific gaze.
The Hairy Virgin another installation within the Manufacturing the Self series is an ongoing investigation of the production of female identities in history connecting medieval narratives and contemporary cosmetic practices. In the same series I have produced other installation addressing critical analysis of cosmetic industry. In the very recent years under title Young and Beautiful I worked on the critical analysis of beauty industry and its affects on woman’s identity.
In the 90’s I have been extending my career internationally, participating in ‘Art in the Nineties’ at the Bologna Museum of Contemporary Art, Italy (1990) and in exhibiting at the Renaissance Society Chicago, New Museum, New York (1991), Tyne International, Newcastle, England (1993), Sydney Biennial, Sydney (1993-94), Sao Paulo Biennial, Brazil (1994) and Art Pallas in Budapest (1995), I have also had one person exhibitions almost every year in New York and at galleries in Vienna and Zurich. Solo museum exhibitions included: Ernst Museum, Budapest (1990), Gemente Museum, Arnhem (1991), Musee Des Beaux Arts de Nantes, France (1995), Ludwig Museum, Budapest (1996), and other measurable participations in the Contemporary Art Museum Budapest, (1997), New South Walles Art Museum in Sydney Australia (1997).
My work has been reviewed in Forum (1990), Agenda (1993), New York Times (1993), Village Voice (1993), Profil (1994), Die Presse (1994), Wiener Zeitung (1994), Lapiz (1994), Balkon (1995,1996), Art and Text (1995), ArtForum (1995), Art in America (1993), New Muveszet (1996) and in others. I have received fellowships and grants from the Prince Bernard Foundation (1988), Gordon Matta Clark Foundation (1990), the Pollock Krasner Foundation (1990), Cartier Fellowship (1991), CAVA (1993-5), NYFA (1995), Adolph and Esther Gottlieb Foundation (1996). I have participated in several international panel discussions and conferences. I also lectured and taught in different universities.
In the last seven years I have reconstructed my art carrier in Hungary and in Eastern Europe. I have worked on several large retrospective exhibitions (Budapest, Zagreb, Gyor, Vienna, Berlin), produced catalogues, published my writings, and lectured on feminist theory. Recounting my ideas in 25 years of artwork, in retrospective exhibitions, I have realized, that my experience, my theoretical approach and my scholarly knowledge need to be summarized. I composed a doctoral dissertation, it was published in 2006 in Hungarian. Titled Individual Mythology, From Conceptual to Postmodern.
I plan to work further on the subject; extend my research into a larger Eastern European view of women participation in the seventies conceptual art, and translate and publish both version in English and in Hungarian.
My latest exhibitions were also installations. One of the paintings series titled Lipstick paintings Ala Fontana (2001-06). In this series the punctured and cut holes are wounds into which I have rubbed red lipstick.
This series is based on rethinking Lucio Fontana monochrome paintings series titled Spatial Concept (concetto spaciale), in his buchi (holes) and cut (tagli) cycle, he punctured and cut the surface of his canvases, breaking the membrane of two-dimensionality in order to highlight the space behind the picture. The wounds of the surface open into the third dimension of the painting.
I place my own concept into his conceptual third dimension, that is fundamentally different of Fontana’s cut (tagli) and puncture (buchi) interpretation. The punctured holes penetrating the paintings-body, disclose a concealed meaning. The spatial concept opens into the locus of representation of woman. The painting itself turns into a female body, into a cosmetic-body, on which lipstick covers the injury. In this critical feminist interpretation, the punctures (or buchi) on Fontana’s paintings are marks of penetration, wounds, and the slashes; cuts (or tagli) are vaginas. Fontana’s punctured and slashed painting’s style transforms into strategy. Thus become the locus of my own concept, the critical interpretation of Lucio Fontana’s Spatial Concept.
The installation entitled Venuses, Draperies; BodyFolds (2001-07) exhibited in Budapest Gallery in 2007 contains photographs, and large scale of digital works. Venuses, Draperies, BodyFolds, specially the Venuses; rethinking the representation of the female body, the nude, both on the walls of museums and the pages of art history books. In this installation I focus on 6 Famous paintings from the Metropolitan Museum; - by Peter Paul Rubens: Venus and Adonis, Paolo Veronese: Mars and Venus United by Love, Titian Vecellio studio: Venus and Adonis, Lorenzo Lotto: Venus and Cupid, Giampietrini: Diana the Huntress and a painting of Jacques-Louis David: Antoine-Laurent Lavoisier (1743–1794) and His Wife (Marie-Anne-Pierrette Paulze) - in which the erotic object of sensuality is the female nude and the drapery that surrounds it. The installation also includes several photographs of read drapery, taken in my studio. The installation suggests to its Hungarian audience to rethinks the patriarchal discourse of art; view critically the inheritance and the gender aspect of representation of sensuality.
In my last installation titled Un Chandelier Maria Theresa 2009, I have examined, analyzed the chandelier, which was made for an Austro-Hungarian empress Maria Theresa in 1746. This historic artifact carries symbolic meaning of the Hungarian history also it is a luxurious object made for a woman ruling two countries in the eighteen century. In my perception these historic crystal object overlays the cultural interpretation. In the installation, I situated the historic object between a "Poetic Model" and a "Historic Communication Model". In one hand it is a luxurious object of an empress in certain part of patriarchal history, on the other part of woman history. The way the chandelier was made reveals the fact; it was made for a woman. All crystal elements of the chandelier reveal symbolism of woman's body.
The chandelier of my installation, based on the Maria Theresa Chandelier, I made out of white textile and filled with air. The 8 meter high skeleton of the chandelier was rhythmically erect and prone for a music that I composed from the noise of hitting the crystal elements of the “original crystal chandelier”.