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INHALE! | OFF-Biennial 2020



The OFF-Biennial is halfway through to reaching age of maturity – it has been five years since the first issue started and according to certain opinions, in the case of biennials, it takes 10 years for the event to truly find itself. In relation to this year’s program, the organizers of OFF define not only themselves clearer, but also the role of contemporary design.

 OFF-Biennial has improved much in the past five years: the abundance of programs of the first session was followed already in the Gaudipolis issue two years ago with a narrower focus, and this year, the organizers expressly set slowing down and making the themes more concentrated as goals. In the press event organized in the past few days, Nikolett Erőss, the production manager and curator of the biennial explained this with the fact that for greater sustainability and the truly high-quality implementation of projects, they decided to “only” launch 12 projects this year in the festival organized between April 24 and May 31, 2020.

Az Északi Szél háza / Nordic Wind House, 
2019, fotó/photo by auw

The 12 projects implemented expressly for this occasion are the different artistic interpretations of the buzzword Inhale!. The title denoting the comprehensive vision of the biennial contains several references: on the one hand, it alludes to the poem of Attila József written in 1935, which could give rise to familiar feelings owing to the fears and desires induced by the social catastrophe following the severe economic global crisis even today. Air is also a coveted concept with the climate crisis around the corner and due to the restriction of individual freedoms, and it can also be interpreted on another level: the aim of OFF, as it is put by Hajnalka Somogyi, the director of the biennial, is to bring “fresh air” into the Hungarian cultural life as a new Hungarian brand.

Alicja Rogalska, Broniów Song, 2011, still from video

“What can contemporary art do when instead of scientific facts, conspiracy theories, and instead of history, myths dominate public discourse and creativity itself has become one of the tools of politics and capital? The projects presented not only pinpoint the problems, but propose sometimes utopist, sometimes playful and other times very palpable recommendations beyond critics.”

As it can be read in the synopsis of the program, the organizers attempted to move beyond critical art, and were looking for works that help free the imagination and propose a solution for the problems on a certain level. 

Museo Aero Solar, 2007
ongoing; in Prato, Italy, 2007, Courtesy Aerocene Foundation

The usual momentum of OFF still lasts. Ecological crisis, national identity, parallels between Eastern Europe and South America, changing way of life and diet as a result of climate change – you can meet topics like these, amongst others, at the group exhibitions and additional programs. There will be programs again at such exciting and industrial locations as the Gas Factory in Óbuda and you will also see architectural installations at the bank of the Danube, too. The biggest shot will undoubtedly be the statue of world star contemporary artist Tomas Saraceno floating above the city. In the research workshop of Saraceno called Aerocene, artists, designers and researchers of social and natural sciences experiment with answers that could be given to the fossil energy crisis. The project titled Museo Aero Sola is one of the results of this work, and the audience in Budapest will also be able to see it in the framework of OFF. 

MENÜ imaginaire soirée at
Design Week Budapest in 2018 at Trafóclub
Photo: 
Balázs Mohai / Design Week Budapest

The momentum is also displayed in the new image of the biennial: the goal was to create a bold, punk image that does not necessarily make people think of elitist contemporary art when they run into the posters of OFF. The introduction of the podcast series was also a new initiative, and this way we can get to know the 12 projects more closely and in a more comprehensible manner during 6 episodes. So, the biennial starts off on April 24, 2020, with a huge party at Akvárium Klub, and from then on we will have 5 weeks to absorb the fresh air given off by contemporary art. 

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