Kristóf Szabó KristofLab interview

“Our democratic society needs its unique and diverse cultural and media landscape in this historical situation, which was unimaginable until recently,” said German culture minister Monika Grütters. “The creative courage of creative people can help to overcome the crisis. We should seize every opportunity to create good things for the future. That is why the following applies: artists are not only indispensable but also vital, especially now”.

These lines, coming from the German government in March 2020, confirm my thoughts about the role of artists, especially now. This is why I was asking painter, media artist, and VJ performer Kristóf Szabó at KristofLab a few questions about the current situation. I was curious about how he was doing, what he was thinking, under lockdown?

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Kristóf Szabó KristofLab interview

- How can artists in Budapest now help society? How can artists, with their creative courage, point to a better future?

- The first thing that comes to mind is that like all my peers, the world has closed itself to me from one moment to the next. There are no exhibitions, performances, concerts. We have to get up from this situation and look for new ways, and this position can be an incentive in itself. From another point of view, appearances in the online space – like exhibitions and concerts - can bring back some of the liveliness we have lost. This can move people out of everyday life, which makes it easier to endure the situation. But as soon as we get back to normal life, I think everyone will crave culture like a mouthful of bread. Our first thing will be to go to concerts, exhibitions, and social events. The energy that is stuck in the artists will break out, and everyone will understand how much art can give people. Until then, courage, the will to live, and persistence can encourage our fellow human beings that this is just a situation that will pass, and something else must come after it.

- Do you get any extra inspiration from such a historic situation? Do you guys feel more motivated now? Does isolation change much in artistic work?

- Looking at my situation, many of my sources of income - theaters, and clubs - have disappeared. Talking to my friends, however, this is different for everyone. Some have been upset recently, but most of us are positive. I feel a flare-up, togetherness. Now we encourage and help each other, a little window has opened overlooking a new street, and it fills the creative people with curiosity. I embarked on a series of paintings that contrast the recently bustling urban spaces with the current emptiness. I also got involved in making an installation inspired by the situation. I do all this at home or online though; I won’t go to the studio. At first, it was difficult to switch to this method, but now the calmness and retreat have borne fruit. I am living in my productive era, which will bring many positive changes in my life.

Kristof Szabo Painter


- How do you intend to (re)connect with your audience in these circumstances? What new tools and platforms you would think are going to help to achieve this?

- My online activity is more now. We recently made a performance in our living room on an online broadcast of a Czech gallery. We did this with Emese Kovács and Attila Szász, under the auspices of the Hoygadayax formation, which made its debut at the closing event of our exhibition with Balázs Csizik. And now we are just preparing for a similar one, Babicska will be the host, but the event will take place in the living room again. Other initiatives have also been launched, with one of my work posted on the 1111 virtual gallery. Now Budapest Art Week has also been postponed, so I presented my studio in the form of an interview. As for now, I can get my work to the audience through similar channels only. This is why we have recently come up with the idea of creating a special outdoor venue with Ziggurat Project, a contemporary dance-centric interdisciplinary company. We have already submitted several applications in Hungary as well as abroad for this. And once normal life returns, we will be able to start location-specific performances with renewed vigor.

- What you would think the single biggest change is going to be in the art world in Budapest once this crisis ends?

- I expect some kind of segregation. Some components become stronger, and others fade. The international art life will recover later, the smaller sectors will intensify, which may bring us, Eastern European artists more attention. Budapest can also be better included in the European art cycle. The big international fairs are much more affected by this situation and thus more attention can be paid to the artists of our country. New forms will emerge, attitudes will be more experimental, traditional forms that have worked so far will be reviewed and new ones will come up to the surface shortly. It will definitely be an exciting period for sure.

Kristof Szabo Artist Paintings


- Is there any “Lockdown” piece of art produced recently that you can share with the readers?

- The series of paintings mentioned at the beginning, which started when we visited Madrid with the Budapest Art Mentor at the ARCO Madrid fair, before the epidemic became serious. And a week later, school closures began in Hungary. Not long after, a friend of mine living in Madrid sent photos of the vacated city, and I took pictures of one of the buildings even during my stay. That’s how the idea came to paint in empty and in bustling versions. Since then, I’ve been asking for photos from my other friends as well. Vienna has now been completed, and the next one will be Warsaw. And another series is in the pipeline too: I have asked artists to collaborate by sending me photos of vacant urban places for rework. I add image errors and glitches reminiscent of corrupted JPG files. I am referring to the impact of man on nature. For example, the spread of the epidemic stems from globalization. Traffic between distant countries has stopped in a matter of moments, and factories stopped working too, no wonder it drastically reduced air pollution. We can also look at man as an error, and perhaps this situation awakens humanity because it cannot continue its way of life with impunity.

- Is there any way for art lovers to support your work, and how?

- The biggest support if the audience follows me on my social media platforms and gets the news of my work in as many places as possible. And when life comes back, we can meet at exhibitions and performances with the Ziggurat Project, to talk about art and other interesting topics. If anyone is interested in my work, they can email me and even look around the studio.

Kristoflab Budapest


Kristóf Szabó – KristofLab was born in 1988 in Győr. He is a visual and media artist. He graduated from the University of Fine Arts, as a graphic designer (2012) and as an art teacher (2013). He won an Erasmus scholarship in 2011 to study in Dresden (Hochschule für Bildende Künste Dresden). Kristóf is a member of the MAMŰ and Hungarian Artist’s Book Association and the Ziggurat Project, which groups are experimenting with various co-artistic collaborations. He is fond of working with dancers or representatives of other branches of art. He took part in several solo and group exhibitions in Hungary and abroad. More recently he is experimenting with the relationship between painting and new media art.


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