The Melancholy of Resistance


Centre of Contemporary Art Znaki Czasu, Torun

06 November 2010 - 03 January 2011

The title of the exhibition was adopted from the title of László Krasznahorkai’s novel, The Melancholy of Resistance, which tells the story of a small Hungarian town, visited by a traveling circus. A massive container enclosing the world’s largest stuffed whale is placed in the middle of the town’s main square. The protagonist of the novel is postman János Valuska, whom the townspeople consider to be a halfwitted klutz, he becomes fascinated by the whale, who is however only seemingly the main attraction of the circus. A key figure is that of the so-called Prince, a part of the circus freak show. He speaks an unintelligible language and exercises an unexplainable power over people, who follow him from town to town. Another key character of the novel is a man named György Eszter, a retired music teacher, who renounces social life and never leaves his home anymore. He gives a monologue propounding a theory that Andreas Werckmeister’s harmonic principles are responsible for the aesthetic and philosophical problems in all music since, and need to be undone by a new theory of tuning and harmony. Immersed in melancholy Eszter searches for new ways of mending out of joint time through changing the rules of harmony.
Julia Kristeva tried to describe the state of melancholy. According to her, ‚Riveted to the past, regressing to the paradise or inferno of an unsurpassable experience, melancholy persons manifest a strange memory: everything has gone by, they seem to say, but I am faithful to those bygone days, I am nailed down to them, no revolution is possible, there is no future… ‚ The difference between melancholy and nostalgia, or mourning, lays in the type of loss. Melancholy is the feeling of loosing something one is not yet aware of. Kristeva also points to the fact that during times when either religious or political gods are toppled, one is especially prone to dark spirits. Periods of transformation, with their states of insecurity, result in a type of social anomia, in which no coherent norms and values, necessary for individuals to function, can be produced. This may lead to the emergence of such behavior as rebellion or withdrawal. Resistance is born when an individual, terrified by the unpredictable character of reality, creates his/her own space according to new rules. The individual trains his/her voice to provide testimony for the possibility of the existence of a different world. Just like Eszter, when he locked himself in his own house, searching for a new social and musical order within the confines of his space. He believed that discovering new rules of harmony, different from those of Werckmeister would lead to the birth of a new community.

The exhibition at the Centre of Contemporary Art in Torun proposes its own, original, method of music-therapy. As Dmitri Gutov writes in a text accompanying his Revolution Opera: ‚when you are singing your thoughts improvising, it is not quite the same as talking. The idea is formulated in a different way. Its rhythm is based on outside logic. Thus, sometimes a thing that would never come out in a prosaic statement slips out spontaneously.’


Collecting is a narration, which actualizes itself into a new structure each time it is newly presented to the public eye. The story told by an exhibition can be a declaration of one’s beliefs, or a voicing of one’s concerns. The potentiality residing in a collection might bring out voices that can astonish not only the authors of particular works, but also the collector.
The Melancholy of Resistance is the third foreign collection being presented in CoCA in Torun. The first was the Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary Collection, the second – the Daros Latinamerica Collection.
M HKA ’s acquisition policy is intended to keep track of developments in contemporary art in a broad international perspective, particularly audiovisual work and ensembles of artists’ works. One aspect which in this respect is coming increasingly to the fore is a commitment related to the globalisation of the world, with ensembles of work from Eastern Europe, India, China, Morocco, and Central Asia and the Caucasus. The exhibition in Torun makes part of this commitment and focuses on that part of the M HKA collection that is oriented towards Post-Soviet Art. M HKA itself set up the project Europe at Large in 2010-2011 summarizing longstanding research on contemporary art in the post-Soviet space. Europe at Large supervised by M HKA director Bart De Baere and Russian critic and theorist Viktor Misiano focuses on Central Asia and Caucasus, two regions that were strongly isolated after the fall of the USSR. The project resulted in groundbreaking exhibitions and the acquisition by M HKA of a series of key works of artists from this region. The presentation in Torun is a selection of the works acquired in relation to the project Europe at Large and the formerly acquired works from Eastern Europe.

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