OSA | Visions after the Fall: Program

Visions after the Fall: Museums, Archives and Cinema in Reshaping Popular Perceptions of the Socialist Past

Tjebbe van Tijen and Anna Bálint: Revenge - Solidarity - Heroism: Hungary 2006-1956 a kaleidoscopic view

Insurgents of the Corvin-Köz fighting group from Pest on the left bank of the Danube with an armored car with a hand painted Hungarian shield (Kossuth shield), some with captured Russian weapons.
photograph Erich Lessing
Lynching and mutilation of an AVH (Államvédelmi Hatóság, State Defense Bureau) officer at Köztársaság Tér (Republic Square), after the siege/attack on the HWP Budapest headquarters (Hungarian Workers' Party, Magyar Dolgozók Pártja) on 30 October 1956.
photograph John Sadovy
Collecting money for victims of the revolution in open suitcases without anybody needing to guard them, Budapest, end of October/early November 1956. Some sources indicate that these collections were organized by the Society of Writers on the initiative of a young artist called Miklós Erdély
photograph Stefan Moses

Actors, bystanders, onlookers, observers, partisans and neutrals, adversaries and opponents, perpetrators and victims, witnesses that attest, advocate, laud, debate, refute or denounce. Fighters for a just cause, doubters of intentions, purposeful betrayers, and those who deceive others or themselves. All their accounts, testimonies, interviews, confessions and reminiscences form the basis for reportage, inquiries, juridical evidence, and diplomatic missions, amalgamating over time into all kinds of fitting and conflicting historical interpretations
Professional mediators, journalists, reporters, press photographers, commentators, analysts and editors, as well as investigators - either political or juridical - have to decide what they find - or pass off as - true, tentative, doubtful or false. Like the colors of the rainbow one can distinguish between what lies at the opposite ends of the spectrum, what is factual and what is not, but when it comes to differentiating between one shade of color and its neighbors it may become difficult, sometimes impossible, to tell them apart. The construction of history may be seen as 'a truth-finding mission', but its result will be neither stable nor singular.
Gossip and rumor have wings, slander and smears are hard to wash off, denial can be more than a defense mechanism and become an offensive weapon, even well-established facts are not beyond perversion; can be twisted. All these elements occurred - and still occur today - in the continuing aftermath and debating of the 1956 Rising in Hungary.
Duality of the Cold War, "good and evil", "free and unfree", often simplified into the economic argument of "capitalism versus communism", made the pendulum that steers public opinion swing up high: "a revolution!", "no, a counter-revolution!!", "freedom fighters", "no, fascist thugs" and so on... Over time, the range of deflection on the scale of opinion has diminished, real and mental distance gave space for appraisal and more reflective studies; regimes have withered, some "secrets" lapsed and have become information sources for a new generation of researchers.
One focal point in time, hardly a fortnight, starting in 1956 with a demonstration on October 23rd, ending with the Soviet invasion on November the 4th, and an aftermath of waning resistance lasting till the middle of December. The number of published reminiscences and collected oral testimonies about those days has steadily grown over the years, but also, many of those involved, who were the only carriers of their personal experience, knowledge and truth, have passed away in silence.
The growth of the historical corpus, the depth of focus created by the passing of time, does not bring us back the original meaning of events; still less will it produce any final conclusions. Half a century later we may see more clearly the wider relations and consequences of that period, while - at the same moment - our perception of its actual atmosphere is hindered by a thickening haze. Some of the original ardor and strife lives on in pictures that have become emblematic, in stories that have become mythical.
The aim of this project is to rake up the past, to unearth similar and opposing interpretations of three events of the 1956 Rising. Events represented by three photographs that have become examplary, symbolizing three themes: revenge, solidarity and heroism. Selecting similar photographs of the same theme and event that give another or different view, that help to better understand the context of the event. Searching for text representations that are directly and indirectly related to the these pictures such as news coverage, picture captions and editorials. Following subsequent usage of these pictures in reports, brochures, books, web sites, juridical inquiries, oral history and archival documentation. Finding also pure textual descriptions of and reflections on the three chosen events in the aforementioned type of sources.
Photographs, captions and other indicative texts, and descriptions form three layers of meaning as in classic 'emblem art' with its motto, pictura and subscriptio (also classified as nomenclatura, pictura, and descriptio). Three layers that act like mirrors that reflect - as in a kaleidoscope - multiple and repeating interpretations of Revenge, Solidarity and Heroism.
The presentation will show a research method and presentation system: 'ChronoTopoScope' - an interactive navigation and display system for material and de-materialized information objects, bringing to life original documents shown in glass cases.

Tjebbe van Tijen studied sculpture in the Netherlands, Italy and Great Britain and in the mid-60s became interested in active in art & technology experiments. He is the founder of the Center for the Documentation for Modern Social Movements at the University Library of Amsterdam (1973-1990), now at the International Institute of Social History, Amsterdam. His research focuses on alternative, independent and radical publications from the 1970s-1980s. Since 1988 Tjebbe van Tijen is working on 'Imaginary Museum Projects' that seek to dramatize historical information. The subjects include Revolutions, Comenius Orbis Pictus; Neo-Shamanism; Literary Psycho-Geography of Amsterdam and Edo/Tokyo; Unbombing the World - One Century of Aerial Bombardments; Mapping Human Violence, and others.

Anna Bálint studied history of Hungarian and French literature and language and Medieval Studies at the Institute de Hautes Etudes de la Renaissance. Dr. Balint worked as an editor of "Helikon literature magazine" and in 1998 joined the Artpool Art Research Foundation in Budapest as curator and archivist. Since 2002 she is active as an independent curator. Her projects include La Ville. Le Jardin. La mémoire (Rome 2000); Timig Art-Filtering Art, (Bucharest, 2001); Interarchive, (Universitat Lüneburg, 2002); Beyond all Borders, (Budapest, 2005), etc.

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Date: June 9, Friday

Time: 10-10.30 am



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