The Corner Gallery

Bela Borsodi

Birth Life Death

May 25 — Jun 23, 2024

The Corner Gallery is pleased to announce Birth Life Death, an exhibition of new photographic works by Bela Borsodi (b. 1966, Vienna, Austria). This is his first exhibition in upstate New York. 

Birth Life Death brings together a collection of large scale color photographs, each a depiction of an assortment of items seemingly plucked from modern life at random. Their initial simplicity—both in form and content—is quickly contradicted. Throughout, Borsodi seeks to probe our human condition through juxtaposing objects whose own ‘personalities’ come to the fore and exist with a tension within their surrounding environments. These objects—common things with distinct purposes—are labeled with in-camera lettering that at first feels contradictory and tickles the absurd, then upon further exploration reveals a thread of existential inquiry that stretches back for centuries.

Albert Camus’ essay The Myth of Sisyphus begins with a bang. “There is but one truly serious philosophical problem, and that is suicide. Judging whether life is or is not worth living amounts to answering the fundamental question of philosophy.” The rest, he contends, are a series of games. In one of Borsodi’s images, a fork supports a gnarled beetroot on a wooden incline. The fork is labeled “Sisyphus,” and the root vegetable “The Absurd.” Here we begin to see the game that Borsodi intends for us to play. Humorous but never frivolous, a serious line of inquiry is drawn. 

The images’ casual appearance—hard flash, shadows, and glare—belies a complexity that is both practical and conceptual. Every shadow, dropoff, highlight is considered and each object’s quality has to be just right. Not just any ashtray is at the center of Trinity (where Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit are depicted by smoldering cigarettes), but one that fits thematically and aesthetically. Salome shows a pear, a long established symbol of female form, and below lies John the Baptist’s head—another pear, lopped up top and clearly recognizable as the head of the fruit. It wouldn't work with an apple. Everything is purposeful.

Borsodi’s quotidian objects reveal themselves and us. In one image, intertwined air travel support pillows, one labeled ‘comedy’ the other ‘tragedy,’ sit in a dimestore plastic bucket—a proletarian distillation of dramatic theory that traces back towards Aristotle’s Poetics. In many ways these modest things—cheap electronics, plastic gewgaws, future landfill—are given permission to engage in the same conversations dreamt up in fin de siècle salons, half a world and several lifetimes ago. 

—James Casey


Opening reception: May 25, 4 — 6 pm