17. March 2012. -
Opening: 16. March 2012 at 18:00
Place of residence: Nagybátony-Bányaváros
Until the age of fourteen I lived in the mining town of Nagybátony. My father hailed from a family of miners, he grew up in a mining community and studied to become a mining engineer, although he eventually became the director of a cultural centre for miners and worked there nearly until the end of his life. The apartment block in which I grew up, built in the fifties, was inhabited mostly by mining families. In this building we were all on familiar terms with each other, so it was a traumatic experience whenever there was an accident in the mine. In the mid-sixties, for example, a neighbour died in the mine a few days before Christmas – he was the one who had dressed up as Santa Claus a few days earlier.
It was only in the eighties that I became aware of the fact that in addition to my maternal grandmother’s Catholicism, the mining background was a formative personal experience for me. The series of works where mining appears both symbolically (double hammer) and actually (coal) started in 1984 with Birodalom
I owe special thanks to Éva Körner, who called my attention to Lipót Szondi’s fate analysis method and made me aware that mining as a profession affects fundamental human character traits and leads into the world of compulsive socialisation and destructive instincts (in: Lipót Szondi: Cain, the Lawbreaker, Moses, the Lawmaker).
Mine – Miner – Tatabánya
A town is strongly characterised by the presence of a mine. In the case of Tatabánya (Tata Mine) the name itself is an indication, and the town owes its existence to the mine. I was born there. There and then, as a child everything seemed natural, but now some of that appears to be a little strange.
The housing estate was constructed after the the war and reflected the taste and directives of Soviet architecture, and on Sunday mornings a brass band of miners seated on a lorry made its rounds in the city, providing a musical wake-up call. At school we were to use the miners’ greeting "Jószerencsét" (Good luck), but we had to address our teachers like that outside school as well. It was obvious at the time. I longed for a miner’s ring made of simple, grey metal with two crossed hammers on top against a black backround, and I remember the scary collection of tales entitled The Smart Miner Lad, which included mostly German tales about mines and mining.
My father moved to town as a geologist in the mid-fifties, and I left at the age of 14 to go to school elsewhere.
In 1990 I travelled to Glasgow on a scholarship. I intended to get off the plane wearing a miner’s uniform, helmet, wellies and a Davy lamp in order to present a gift to myself and to the makeshift audience of the airport – the image of the miner arriving from above. I didn’t suceed at the time. I’m still waiting for "Good luck.”
Canaries at the coalmine and hammers
On my father’s side I come from a family of miners from the city of Pécs. My great-grandfather, grandfather and even my grandmother had worked at the mine – the latter at the coal washer. The line was broken by my father, who used to work at the coal power plant as an electrician but later moved to Budapest and settled there with his family.
As a child I spent the winter and summer school breaks in Pécs, and it was my great-grandfather who made the most lasting impression on me. Ópapa had arrived from Slovenia to settle in Pécsbányatelep (Pécs‘ mining estate). He had worked underground for more than 40 years. I used to look at the faded tattoos of beautiful girls from long ago on his sinewy arms. He smoked a pipe, played the accordion, created objects and spoke several languages. In addition to German, Slovenian, Russian and Hungarian he also understood the language of birds. His bed was in the kitchen, we used it as a seat during the day. Above the bed there were beautiful bird-cages displayed on the walls, he made these himself for his canaries, and there was a cuckoo clock next to them as well. Beautiful music, birdsong and the sound of the cuckoo, all at the same time! At the other side of the kitchen there stood the stove, with the chair and the big world receiver radio next to it. Ópapa was in charge of operating the stove. Each morning he took the ash downstairs and brought up the coal from the cellar. In the evenings, when I went to sleep in the room, Ópapa was sitting by the stove smoking his pipe, listening to radio programs aired in languages incomprehensible to me. His birds were already asleep then. In the mornings when I awoke the fire was already blazing and the birds were singing merrily. Ópapa told me about the blind horses living and working in the coal mine for the first time. These days I often wonder whether Ópapa loved canaries because they were used in mines to indicate the presence of methane or carbon-monoxide in the underground tunnels. Ópapa and I often took long walks around Újmeszes and Pécsbányatelep, where the symbol of mining, the two crossed hammers was visible on many buildings.
Last summer in my mother’s flat I was looking for the tiny hammer my father had made me. I remembered a photo in the family album where I’m one or two years old, hitting my head with the tiny hammer. I haven’t found the photo or the tiny hammer, either.