On the occasion of András Mengyán’s 70th Birthday
I step into interstellar space
where there are no up and down
Gravitation, free fall.
God’s skew-spaced palm
has place for the whole of
(Lajos Szigeti: Spacewalk)
Something similar happened in András Mengyán’s oeuvre as the poet describes in the above verse. The short text contains three characters. The poet who changed dimensions, versus the earth-bound humanity including the Euclidean spatial, temporal, mental boundedness with the Creator as the main character standing above the two. But how did this casting come about? Anyone who was fortunate enough to read Imre Tóth’s book Palimpszesz won’t be surprised. The science historian (Imre Tóth) collected the history of reception of non-Euclidean geometry that did not prove the sublimeness of the human mind, rather had proven what political and ideological obstacles hinder man to understand, moreover to accept the facts of non-Euclidean geometry. It is futile to hope that the geometries won’t be exclusively made opponents instead of thinking these as coexisting truths. In this way two groups formed, one of those who live earth-bound, and those who venture into the skew spaces. And we are still in the 19th century when it comes to scientific knowledge. In Einstein’s (early 20th century) curved spaces the classical wisdoms (space, time, weight, directions, motion and gravitation) become completely useless. The situation became especially critical with Heiseberg’s and Gödel’s theses as the discerning of subjective and objective disappeared, just as the investigation of separated (inert) objective subjects, things; the belief in the supremacy of the obvious, uncontradictable scientific facts and knowledge dissolved.
András Mengyán is at the main swim of life and therefore steps out of the closed, static, theorem determined system of the Euclidean man. But before we would enter his realm, the transparent and kinetic creative world, it is helpful to cite some revelations that will not only help in the entré but also guide us.
Goethe does not require our hommages, but it doesn’t do any harm to accentuate that he was the exceptional figure of modern European culture. His whole life and substantial life’s work are testimony to this. For him, knowledge of nature and poetry went hand in hand. He perceived the world in unity and postulated that it continuously changes. This persuasion led him to search for the atavistic properties among plants and animals that transform into more evolved and sophisticated forms over time. (Such as in the treatise contained in works like The metamorphoses of plants (Die Metamorphose der Pflanzen, 1798), The metamorphoses of animals (Metamorphose der Tiere, 1806)). He applied his knowledge of natural sciences, like the methathesis in chemistry when describing humans and human relationships. His book titled Attractions and Choices showed such an example of methathesis.
In Mengyán’s art, science and art and also technology intertwines. There are no sharp boundaries between art genres or scientific disciplines. In his oeuvre everything is in motion, and in change and transformation. For him, the world can be described with the metamorphoses of forms and structures.
To understand Mengyán’s works, the great and exceptional Hungarian poet, Attila József, whose works were so often referred to in other context (ie. political), comes to our aid. A relevant revelation from the poet was, that he claimed in his essay on aesthetics, that every aspect of a work is an Archimedean element. This is important in connection to Mengyán’s works as these have no fixed point of view and subsequently the presented forms, shapes are not in a hierarchical relation, especially as the elements making up the work and relations between them are in constant motion and change.
The 7th part of Attila József’s poem Consciuosness is often quoted, especially the verses given below in italics.
I looked up in the night
at the cogwheels of the stars:
from sparkling threads of chance
the loom of the past wove laws.
Then, in my steaming dream
I looked at the sky again:
somehow the fabric of the law
always had a missing stitch, a flaw.
(Jhon Bátki’s translation in the book The lost rider).
It is worth mentioning that there are over a hundred different interpretations of this poem showing that the readers are still without a reference system that could incorporate the work with all of its Archimedean elements. But someting, the loom of the wove laws is reflected in Mengyán’s works. Attila József’s poem is particularly vexing because the poem is made up of numbered parts and it is hard to tell what is in the space between, what connects and weaves the verses together. Just like the disconnected continuity in András Mengyán’s spaces.
For some reason I must quote the scientist poet Mihály Babits as well. If we cite his famous poem The lyric poet’s epilogue (1903), we may discover that the poem is about the Euclidean man’s pain that Babits described with great professional insight.
The lyric poet’s epilogue
I am the only hero of my verses,
the first and last in every line to dwell:
my poems hope to sing of Universes,
but never reach beyond my lonely cell.
Are others there outside, to bear the curses
of being born? If God would only tell.
A blind nut in the nutshell’s dark traverses,
I loathe to wait for Him to break the spell.
A magic circle binds me like a chain,
and yet, my soaring dreams defy the weight –
but wishful dreams, I know, may tell a lie.
A prison for myself I must remain,
the subject and the object. Heavy fate:
the alpha and the omega am I.
(Translation of Péter Zollman, 2006).
With this said, we have not come to a conclusion of describing the new condition. As Proust indicated in his monumental novel, time disappeared; not simply put off track as Hamlet could have perceived, but unreconcilably disappeared just like man looses his own personal characteristics as described by Musil ahead of his times in The Man without attributes.András Mengyán is not the kind of man who would be restrained into his magic circle or who lived his life as a blind nut in the nutshell. He stepped out into interstellar space, thereby eliminating the blind nutshell; and instead got acquainted to cosmic loneliness. From a closed space he arrived to an open, infinte space. Or put in another way, was thrown into an intermediate space. As Heidegger’s man thrown into existence. Here, the truth of Szigeti’s poem applies, where there are no up and down / gravitation, free fall.
In Baudelaire’s poem Relationships (1857) life was presented as a symbol where perception of the dark of night, the light of day together with all other senses appeared simultaneously, put more poetically, colour, sound and odours merged. The poem comes to mind because of synesthetics; Mengyán experiences the same, but in a more modern, technicized version in interstellar space; the combination of light, motion, colours and forms, and the mind-boggling treat show how everything and nothing functions in the world.
There are other art forms which may clarify Mengyán’s world. As an example the living planet of Tarkovsky’s motion picture Solaris where man can palpate the infinite coexistence and interaction or Kurosava’s Dreams where we can step into Vincent Van Gogh’s painting with the help of film technology or another of his movies where no viewpoint receives emphasis in the perception of the world.
András Mengyán is excellent as a man and as a creator. He not only intercepts the signs of change in the world with great susceptibility but by surpassing the physical and mental world of the three dimensional man, forms his life experience into artwork. This special personality is coupled with systematic, consistent and regular working habit. He follows his own path with venerable endurance. His ability to find and solve problems improves and gets more sophisticated. He surpassed the classical artistic perspective, does not follow any isms or popular trends but pursues his own peculiar creative ability and talent for which he deserves great respect. His ars poetica can be summed perhaps with the fact that he does not depict, nor serve, nor represent; instead answers the challenges of the world in an András Mengyán way. Thusly…
The stages of the oeuvre
1. stage: The Euclidean elements’ dancing order
In his early works forms start to move, create space by rotating, twisting, bowing. Every sequence is independent but a part of the closed system as a whole; the forms reveal their attributes themselves.
2. stage: The Euclidean elements cannot control themselves any more, they break out into n dimensional space (n>3), they become unmanageable, beyond control, fall into chaos. Their dance cannot be ordered, they dance according to an unknown law. The classical mathematical and geometrical axioms loose their validity, light becomes the master to connect the elements, visualize or extinguish them. Then the elements begin again the game of everything and nothing obeying mysterious laws and principles; the infinite game of irregularity, chance, unpredictability and continuous change.
While in the first stage the movement and possibilities of the forms created well-defined structures, it is questionable whether in chaos the independent elements can form a structure or if so what that is. At this stage it is almost like the creator wasn’t András Mengyán but a principle that is hidden from human cognitive capability for the time being. For this reason, we disagree with the post-modern statement that the world is unknowable and unpredictable. We simply have to accept that “there are more things on earth and sky that your wisdom can dream of, Horatio”. It is wise to listen to Shakespeare in this case as well. András Mengyán will certainly have more to investigate and work on.
András Mengyán arrived in intermediate space in the third stage of his creative period; he does not muster and move the forms, does not reify and bring them to life but plunges in the middle of them. Conversion comes about; the creator does not create any more but becomes a part of creation; and what is more, his eyes are dazzled by the enchanted transient phenomena, the virtuoso effects that he himself had enthralled. The macrocosm models the behaviour of the mysterious subatomic particles. The creator himself is a double natured being made of matter and light. In this world things are not in existence but in action; everything is in uproar, glitter, coming to life then to extinguish and die, then to restart their virtuoso life. András Mengyán is an unrestful soul still not at the end of his creative research. Someone who left earthly dimensions behind cannot rest until permeating matter. Yet, the creator ought to know he ventured onto perilous ground just like Adam in Madách’s space scene. But while Madách commanded his unrestful hero back to earth claiming there are things to be done by him there; Lucifer is helpless with András Mengyán. The creator has since discovered glass on which light passes through and illuminates its inner structures revealing the wonderful transparency. The paths of light are infinite, and unknowable for the time being.
I wish András Mengyán good luck on this path and may he not fall from God’s skew-spaced palm.