Éva Freund – Szabina Péter: AQUARIUM

2021, K.A.S. Gallery, site-specific multimedia art installation

The space as a whole is treated as a medium in our installation: considering the special given qualities of the interior of K.A.S. gallery, it is transformed into an aquarium. The artists’ dialogue creates an interpersonal and intersubjective space, which, together with the problems of linguistic communication is brought into interaction with the fluid medium of non-conscious, collective, non-verbal phenomena.

The dialogue-video looks into the relation and operation of verbal and visual language. Through our discursive acts we were searching for situations in which the structure of speech is destabilised, creating different contexts for the two parties. Such moments of the flow of the dialogue breaking can be perceived as blind spots, empty spaces or as events (as if waking from a dream or entering a dream).During the dialogue, we look for their places, and we follow their movements in the videos displayed in the aquariums.

Editing the latter ones, we followed a poetic narrative instead of a linear sequence of signifiers and the signified; an omnipresent coherence, spontaneously emerging parallelisms, the ephemeral presence of analogies.

As the ocean is present in a drop, we watch the ebb and flow of the formation and disintegration of meaning through the pre-and non-verbal experience confined in the aquariums. We react to the movement and fluidity of empty and overflowing spaces and signifiers by fluctuating between the medium of images, language and the pre-and non-linguistic. At times, the dialogue becomes completely empty, while the branches of the aquarium overflow. We aim to create a turbulent yet contemplative medium feeding on experience and momentary impressions, where the meeting of space and visitor can be interpreted as a semi-permeable membrane and is meaningful.

We may invite the perceiver status and self-interpretation to play: fluctuating between the position of the passive consumer, eye witness, guest, co-creator and “fish”. On a micro-level, the aquarium carries in itself what we call oceanic: our boundaries only contain by at the same time necessarily being permeable, too.


The videos playing in the aquariums were edited to a soundtrack we composed. Only one clear sentence can be heard in the 6’40’’ long track: get under the water, just a little bit. This is what we invited each other to do when we reflected on the fact that that virtual presence, the illusion created by online connection makes communication harder and more ambiguous – just like live speech, the use of verbal language is unsatisfactory to really understand each other.

We chose to have a nonverbal kind of dialogue in this installation, giving in to the flow of visual information accessible through the internet. Platforms of virtual chat can easily become projection screens of flowing images. This installation is an experiment to give a frame to the unbridled, unconscious content presenting itself this way. In the dialogue presented on the TVs we try to connect with each other with the use of pictures (from a museum archive) and face mimics.

When we edited the videos in the aquariums, we both used the same raw material: material that we recorded during time spent together and diver’s footage. We created 4-4 videos each, representing our own approach respectively. These videos are played randomly in the aquariums. The transparency of the glass walls hold together the flow of the images. In the larger aquarium that is the Gallery itself, we are inside and outside, in a protected and unprotected state at the same time.

Bodnár János Kristóf has also taken part in creating the soundspace, he mixed and mastered the final version.

We would like to thank Ferenc Őrsi for the deep-sea recordings, András Varsányi for the monitors, Róbert Libel for lighting the dialogue-videos and Tamásn Herczeg for the technical contribution and help in building the installation.