Ervin Zsubori: To save the saveable
We are living in a digital age. Whatever new is born comes to life mostly in digital form: the image, the sound, the film and the text. Also what I am reading now. They are created, checked by the antivirus programs, if some viruses are found they are removed and then the text is saved. In an ideal case a backup copy is made possibly at another place. The HDD spins and the creator rests.
Our age is not old enough to enjoy exclusivity. It is again and again drawn back by the inheritance of the pre-digital epoch, the knowledge engraved in stone or on paper by the manual millennia: the gigantic unpacked stock which has remained here and there on the irrationally fragmented drivers and is hardly recoverable in libraries. This of course cannot remain so. Because the digital age is at the same time the age of digitalization. Whatever survives (and how many things have not) can be converted to bites. Server here, format change there. (It is a not translatable Hungarian word game referring to table-tennis.) Perhaps the written knowledge is the easiest case. The beam of the scanner sweeps the well-filled bookshelves and the OCR (Optical Character Recognition) programs recognise what is valuable from far away. The algorithm section starts spinning and the figures, ones and zeros are directly recorded on the disk. In other words: what is saveable will be saved.
Strictly speaking this is what is done by József Gábos, he saves what is saveable. He also lives in the digital epoch even though he was not born in it but he has grown into it and operates with the systems, updates to the newest version, gets the picture when it is about pictures and drives the drivers. Of which he prefers the CD drive and what they offer on their tray: the CDs.
To be frank, the days of the CD are gone. Time has passed it by. Today we do not get far with the one hour music or 700-800 MB data that it can carry. It not only not worth driving out on the information highway with, but it is hardly enough to reach the next bookstore open on Sundays. The CD is fallible the CD is the fulfilled destiny – the CD is the minority. In the running machine age the CD is almost human.
What is human is loveable. Initially József Gábos grew fond of the CD as a music carrier. His collection is legendary. His collecting passion is impregnated with an encyclopaedical enthusiasm. He does not simply buy discs. He wants to surround himself by music. If you like, he wants to save it to his own storage place: his home.
But József Gábos is an artist who works in several art forms. On the one hand he is a painter, on the other hand he is a digital artist and sometimes both: a mixed-medium artist. As a digital artist, he has met with CDs as data carriers, which are able to conserve not only sound but also images and almost everything they can record, books also.
O, yes, the books! How many books could be recorded on an ordinary CD, asked himself József Gábos the digitally literate artist, but the answer came from the painter, his visual artist self: maybe 7-8 spines if they are not too wide.
And then József Gábos saved what he was working on, carefully closed down the running applications and meticulously turned off his computer. He estimated the number of unusable CDs which had piled up on the edge of his desk. Since he deemed the stock too poor, he rendered a bigger number of discs useless and started to work. He began to systematically save the world literature, of course Hungarian included, on discs. As much from each volume as one CD could carry.
His inspired collage universe is built up of spines, hard covers, front pages, title pages, opening and closing chapters, imprints, half lines, tables of content and dedications. They reveal the never seen faces of classics. While he conjures up the quoted works with fragments of titles and sentences, he enriches the works with a so palpable visual extra that you feel like running to the closest second hand bookshop or a flea market right away to submerge yourself in a gold ornamented volume of Jókai, whichever deep red book of Modern Hungarian Library, a timeless Goethe discussion or a 9th volume of an unknown encyclopaedia until is not too late, as long as it is possible.
It is a (readable) endless process which not only delights your eyes but can give importance to the already written off CD. Who knows one day a developer may come who, seeing this reformatted discs, walks out of the server room which has swallowed kilometres of unread digitalized books, and, sitting down on a bench in a peaceful park, outlines the plan of a radically new driver which will be able to play the standardizing format: the GJ disc.
[Introduction to József Gábos’s exhibition, titled: CD collection; Arnolfini Gallery, Szigetszentmiklós, 30.05.2015.]