OSA | Visions after the Fall: Program
Visions after the Fall: Museums, Archives and Cinema in Reshaping Popular Perceptions of the Socialist Past
Péter Fuchs: The mysterious events around the Balatonboglár Chapel Studio from 1970 to 1974, in the light of secret police reports and contemporary mass media perception
In the flourishing years of Kádarism, the early seventies, when the "fist was in the pocket, ready to be shown" a brave and dedicated group of young neoavantgarde artists, led by György Galántai, established a small summertime exhibition hall and meeting place - an island of free speech - on the hillside above lake Balaton. In the summer of 1973 the company was expelled from the property in a grotesque, action-movie like assault by the police and some middle ranking Party officials.
A member of the former communist regime's police referred to the young artists who lived and worked at Chapel Hill in Balatonboglár every summer from the 1970 to 1973 as leading a "protesting way of life". In the interview documentary "Vacation, made in 1998", (which portrays the life and work of these artists) you can't tell if the former officer admires the young people for their brave resistance – which he could not express at that time, or is afraid of some kind of retaliation, but it is clear that he is no longer using that arrogant tone of power, which he used against the artists back in 1973.
The young artists and thinkers, who committed "multiple offences against federal law" and who were "sent to hell" by the state officials, but "were never allowed to set out for it" were portrayed as outsiders or even enemies of modern socialist society. Large numbers of secret agents spied on the events, which were considered dangerous to the public even by the Secretary of Defense. Even the adored hero of the "soft" Kádárist era, László Szabó - one of Hungary's first media celebrities - who was the editor and sole presenter of Hungarian Television's feature show on the socially valuable work of the police, known as "Kékfény" (Blue Light) - wrote an article about the socially dangerous elements (the artists) and their den of corruption.
But what Visions, which Fall we are talking about in the title of the conference? László Szabó and the rest of the Hungarian mass media were not directly instructed (influenced, maybe) to intervene in the events of Boglár. They did so as a form of social self-censorship, in defense of orderly life, or good behavior. The officers or former journalists who were against Boglár complain in the documentary that they were following orders... The soft hand of censorship was left in the pocket, and the eager servants of the system (journalists, petty party officers) did their jobs well.
Has anything changed since then? Are we still blind to events like Boglár? Indeed, we still don't know anything about what really happened there. The mass media's only picture of the events – ever since – has been the official version: they were a bunch of lowlifes. In our perceptions of current events, are we ready to learn from the mistakes we made then?
Although the events of Balatonboglár never posed a real threat to the overall system, the pinball (or butterfly) effect of the works of artistic and political free thinkers supported, among many other coefficients, a series of events which led to a political change in Hungary.
The real effect of the change can be seen on the faces of the former servants of the system – some still in power - who appear in the documentary: confusion, fear and some apology. But no real regret.
In my presentation, I would like to examine the relationship between mass media, art and artist at the beginning of the 70' and nowadays. Has there been a fall? Do we know much more about the proceedings of Balatonboglár or even our contemporary art actions? The same level of self-censorship still haunts today's media, although nowadays the primal interests of the audience is the main reason why no-one cares about these topics.
Is it better to cry out and face the total ignorance of a "public" which is seduced by false newsreels and empty illusions than to provoke the wrath of the tyranny? The Fall (or Rise) which was so desired by the artists of Boglár is still not complete. The political side of the fight had been won by the political transition but there is still much to do: to free the mind of the people, to erase their fear of anything unusual or different: for this should be the ultimate work of the artist.
Péter Fuchs is working towards his graduate degree in the Art Theory and Media Studies department of the Eötvös Lóránd University Faculty of Humanities (Budapest) . His project examines historically constructed national identities from the standpoint of aesthetics, focusing, in particular, on the relation between nationalist discourses and different representation of the tools of destruction, of the war weapons as pure objets d'art. Péter Fuchs also lectures on "new and digital media" both at his department and for the Erasmus program. He is also a program coordinator for the Ludwig Museum – Contemporary Art Museum in Budapest and is involved in the project of the International art initiative Tranzit.
Date: June 10, Saturday
Time: 3-3.30 pm
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