Myths of Vulnerability (2023)

Solo exhibition at Glassyard Gallery, Budapest.


Photo: Dávid Bíró

‘That’s your speciality, telling people stories they never imagined – and convincing them it’s reasonable to want to see them come true’ – writes feminist activist writer and filmmaker Virginie Despentes in the foreword to An Apartment on Uranus[1].

The book is a collection of newspaper columns by queer theorist Paul B. Preciado, published in the French daily Libération from 2013 to 2018, which discusses the author's transition in the context of current social, cultural and political-activist issues and events.

He begins his treatise on the emancipation of non-binary / queer existence with the metaphor of the farthest planet and the ancient Greek god. Uranus is the "frozen giant", the coldest planet in the solar system. In Greek mythology, the god of the sky, husband of Gaia/Mother Earth, representative of the first, primordial generation of gods, father of the Titans, including Cronus and the Cyclops. Born from her castration, Aphrodite Urania, the goddess of male love, considered superior, and spoken of by Pausanias in The Banquet, in Plato’s dialogue, distinguishing this celestial phenomenon from terrestrial, mainly heterosexual love. Karl Heinrich Ulrich, a German gay rights activist who fought for the rights of the ‘third sex’ and ‘other lovers’, proposed the term ‘Urning’ (Uranism) in 1864 to describe attraction between men.

Gideon Horváth's installation in a former bourgeois apartment, appearing as a dream-like vision, is inspired in part by this ‘Uranian journey’, by the personal and collective narratives of fluid-queer existence, and by the experience of emotional and physical exposure. The interconnected sculpture-object assemblages of the four spaces thematize the visceral experience of vulnerability, one of the most complex of basic human conditions. Horváth thinks of vulnerability not as a passive state of suffering, but as a liberating form of action, a possible form of resistance. A condition in which the repressed, ambivalent, in-between, liminal knowledge and positions can be revealed.

In the present social context, the body, but especially the body excluded by patriarchal norms, is rarely seen outside the political context. Horváth radicalizes vulnerability through intimacy. For the first time, he uses the fragile, easily malleable yet resilient and enduring beeswax in coloured form and combines it with his distinctive bronze-cast, delicately patinated plant motifs. The fragmented and diffuse forms, drawing on mythological, natural and anatomical allusions: the almost life-size body of a horse, reminiscent of a running centaur, the overripe fruit-flowers, the organs exploding from a fictitious body part, all forming an organic collage. The exhibition ends with an androgynous bust in the final space, born from a reinterpretation of the classical bust format: an ‘anatomical’ portrait of Uranus, modelling the permeability of gender and sexuality, and the possibilities of freedom to exist in fluid bodies.

Lívia Páldi

[1] Paul B. Preciado, An Apartment on Uranus. Fitzcarraldo Press, London, 2019. Translation:  Charlotte Mandel.

photos: Dávid Bíró