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Turbo-Americanism, Thatcher and the Quits: An interview with András Cséfalvay

Published November, 2013
by Easterndaze


András Cséfalvay is a visual artist and musician from Slovakia. Winner of the Oskar Cepan prize for emerging artist, Cséfalvay has also been increasingly active on the music scene, recording gentle, fragile and bona fide sentimental songs in his bedroom. His latest album, entitled
Funeral the Musical and another tabletop opera
, is out on the label LOM, and captures András’ persona, which is at the same time timeless, quirky and rooted in the past.

You are also an visual artist, working with the conceptual. Your record seems to be a conceptual piece as well, can you explain the concept behind it?

Two great endings were figured out earlier this year. Firstly, it was the death of hope for the ultimate Mayan understanding of Quits, and then the death of Baroness Thatcher. Kindly enough, none of these really interfered with my daily routine, yet when thought about, they are surely inspirational.

The story is of course about a funeral of a great Dame, who is missed, and cried for at the grave. The voice of the Dame is also heard, and she discourages pity, and calls for action. We learn about the wonders of afterlife, and are also reminded, that we, around the grave could not have in reality heard the voice, and continue the mourning. And if there are no caramel and camels beyond the graveyard, if there is no salvation, then the end of the world is ultimately a wish opposing just a constant gradual ad infinitum cooling of atoms.

What are the parallels in working with music and art for you? Is music for you a sort of release or more a “extension” of you other artistic activities?

More than its extension, it is its intention, its driving force and natural part. It would be only the partial truth though. It is more the lack of concentration, and constant shifting from matters that do not seem to give way. Surely I feel often stuck in what seems to be my visual – artistic practice. And I haven’t painted in a while. But it is, as often more a combination of mood, deadlines, books … but not just random stuff, also an artistic mission. I am a decent non-pro pianist, and have been taking lessons for some twenty years now. Making music (even if just for myself) has been an important part of what I like to do. But I also like dinosaurs and spaceships. All of which have an opportunity to play an important part in what I create.

Can you explain the “musical” aspect to it?

It denotes a change in my thinking. I used to call my video-art operas. And when I want to make my thoughts more accessible, I need to switch formally too, right? These are arias, and there are characters in the piece, so I think it passes as a musical.

Getting Pluto from Andras Csefalvay on Vimeo.

The faux Queens English and a certain gothic and Victorian atmosphere are embedded in the album. Can you explain?

Why, it’s Margaret Thatcher! I am not sure how to explain the atmosphere, but if you mean that you are sensing some underlying decomposition, darkness, it is present. But not in a nostalgic way. I don’t believe that there were times that were any better for living or being buried. In truth, it’s enormously interesting to live where I do at this moment, geopolitically. We might have passed the chance, true, but still there is a small opportunity to counter turbo-americanism, and with enough of real-socialism experience behind us to not run into the arms of Zizek. Maybe.

Contemporary music has been looking backwards, engulfed by a retromania for a phantom past. With you it feels different though, somehow more honest, divorced from any current trend. You dress and look like you have been torn out into the present from a more noble past, slower and elegant, when men met in gentlemens’ clubs dressed immaculately and talked about all sorts of worldly matters…

You are exaggerating, but, well, yes, this is what has become of the Eastern European lower nobility, or perhaps those with less of a talent in the enterprise of restitution. Nothing more than a bit of reminiscence in manner.

Funeral the Musical and another tabletop opera by András Cséfalvay