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MEOW! | Capa Center

Cats are not only the most favorite subjects of the legends of the past, but the digital flood of images of the 21st century, too. In Capa Center’s 8F Gallery, we can explore the secrets of the popularity of the animals living with us but forever remaining a mystery as well as that of the relationships between cat and human through the cat photos and personal stories of nine contemporary Hungarian artists. The exhibition is open to visitors for free between July 15 and August 30.

If we had to illustrate the essence of the 21st-century billow of digital images undulating through the channels of the internet, we would most probably go with a kitten photo. Even though dog persons has been disputing this unto this day, the unofficial mascots of the internet are the mysterious, free-spirited and fluffy cats. In addition to the obvious beauty and cuteness of the animal, it earned its immeasurable popularity in contemporary visual culture with such features as its human facial expression, astonishing intelligence, unaffected humor, endless unpredictability and aristocratic nature. The layers of meaning related to cats have been piling up on each other since their domestication. Even though taming cats lasted for a legendarily long time, during the several thousand years that have passed since then, cats have become a complex animal symbol as the companion of man: the animal of the night and an esoteric knowledge; the epitome of acumen; the symbol of femininity; and the icon of lust. The clarity and popularity of the “cat photo” genre derives from all this. 

The MEOW! exhibition features a tiny segment of the world’s ever-expanding archive of kitten images. The collection of photos from nine contemporary Hungarian artists (photojournalists, photographers, artists) are accompanied by their short personal anecdotes about feline-human and human-human relations, aspects of image theory, sociological observations, superstitions, obsessions, eyes, and whiskers. 

The exhibition features a photo of Róbert Szabó Benke about his own cat. “A significant part of my works are quite personal, I mainly cover my important connections. The same applies to Dr. Miciváry Mici. It’s not ordinary how she took part in my life: she witnessed my relationship, then the end of it, later on she was given away, and we met again in 2018, and then the final goodbye… this is how I can summarize our story in the briefest way possible. Mici was the subject of several of my works during that time.” 

In her series titled PractitionersÉva Szombat  presented people who take an active role in shaping their lives and do a lot for their happiness. “Some find fulfilment in keeping and adoring pets. This is why I went to a cat show in 2015 and photographed the proud and joyful cat owners with their slightly tense favorites” – reminisces Éva about the story of taking the photo. 

As a documentarist photographer, András Hajdú D. simply “ran into” the scene displayed at the exhibition: “I was commissioned by the Hungarian Charity Service of the Order of Malta to create a multimedia project at the very poor settlement of György telep in Pécs when I saw this tiger carpet laid out on a dryer. My brain started to move and record: the tiger is a fantastic symbol, could allude to the father figure of the boys at the settlement or perhaps one of the animal print clothing pieces of the girls living there. On such occasions I usually register that I have an opportunity to play with the given sight and I wait to see if anything happens with it during the day. In this case, life produced a completely surreal scene, just like I anticipated it: a black cat appeared on the corner and simply walked to the carpet and looked up to the tiger as a role model. Everything got on one image, the background reveals the milieu perfectly, and the kitten symbolized the search of the boys at the settlement for a model to be followed.”

The diverse set of symbols and manifold faces of cats through the personal stories of nine artists until August 30 at Capa Center’s 8F Gallery. 

Artists: András Bánkuti, Szabolcs Barakonyi, Andrea Gáldi Vinkó, Gábor Gerhes, András Hajdú D., Fanni Máli, Róbert Szabó Benke, Péter Szarka, Éva Szombat

Curated by: Emese Mucsi 

Visiting is free of charge!

For further info, check out the Facebook page of the event and the website of Capa Center!

Source: press material

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