Abdón Ubidia: In Budmerice Castle

One day Batuz discovered a symbol. To invent or discover a symbol is a miracle. A symbol is like a polished diamond. It attracts attention, desires, dreams and nightmares. It is a space of pure energy, forced convergence. Meanings become concentrated, meanings which we will never fully understand nor completely exhaust. A symbol calls out; it convokes; it is a warning, a wild call to the human heart.

The sun, the circle, the sword, the cross. If we try to enumerate the great symbols we find in the end there aren’t too many. And Batuz discovered one of them. What does it entail?

Before anything else we should recall that Batuz is an artist, a painter of large, textured works. In the center of these paintings he has placed a vertical, irregular line that divides the work into two irreconcilable spaces. This line marks Batuz’s paintings. They are known by the line; that large painting with an irregular line down the middle that breaks the work in two, is a Batuz.

In this line Michel Butor saw a border, or the synthetic form of all borders, and he wrote a beautiful text about it. But it is possible to find many diverse meanings in the line. In principle this is because the line has become a symbol and thus doesn’t belong to a single artist, but to the world from which it came and which it so well defines. It is a cosmic idea: the whole made up of its parts. Each part must be completed with its counterpart in order to be a whole. Thus each part is desire, yearning, dream, nostalgia for the other, need for the other. Each part is defined by the other, by the presence, the intuition and, at times, by the fear of the other. So also the parts are condemned to proximity, to attraction and mutual jealousy. There is a tension in the parts, a violent and a and also peaceful tension.

We can extrapolate this idea, move it to various concrete levels. Male and female, as Enrique Molina suggested, left and right, one culture and another, one language and another. In any case we are always marked by what is happening on the other side of the line.

The same impulse that helped Batuz discover this great visual symbol, years later would bring him to create the Société Imaginaire. At the heart of this creation the original idea persists, though mediated by a wise purpose: writers and artists from diverse parts of the world enter into dialogue about their dissimilar experiences. They speak about how they see the world “from the other side.” In this fashion the Société Imaginaire is also a great line of separation and union – Butor’s border – that puts us face to face with no other arms than our ideas and, to be sure, our imaginations.

At times I have thought that for Batuz the Société Imaginaire is another of his great works of art, though an imaginary one. A painting constructed without brushes or paint or concrete materials. A work realized with free wills: a castle in the air (and it seems that castles may also be one of our emblems) because we too want to be part of this fantastic construction, made up of dialogue and polemic, convergence and divergence. And the fact that at first it was the dream of an artist doesn’t bother me. Rather, I like it because I understand it well, and I must confess at the same time that my own strong personal desire is, in fact, for communication at any cost.

Yesterday morning while walking with Tim Keating on the long road bordered with poplars that leads to this Castle at Budmerice, he told me something that I found very important: “We should think about the person who, a hundred years ago planted this roadside with poplars, because in some sense he already imagined that we would be walking here one day.” It’s an appropriate metaphor: a road is also a line that unites and separates two parts of the world, in space and in time.

I think that the Société Imaginaire is a road, a road that joins not only what is behind with what is in front but also what lies on either side. Batuz designed it first, and now we are but a few who walk along it.

Abdón Ubidia
Budmerice, Slovakia
November, 1993