Antal Balázs, Baglyas Erika, Phil Collins, Esterházy Marcell, Gerhes Gábor, Gruppo Tökmag , Hatházi László, Ipsics Barbara, Kovács Olívia, Molnár Eszter Dóra, Ciprian Mureşan, Tilo Schulz, Várnai Gyula, Gitte Villesen, Artur Zmijewski
Past continuous
Contemporary Reflections on the Cultural Legacy of Socialism
29. May 2014. - 20. June
Opening: 28. May 2014 at 19:00
Curator: Nagy Edina
Remarks by: Sasvári Edit, Georg Schöllhammer
Our exhibition focuses on the relationship between the official culture of the socialist era and the contemporary artworks reflecting upon that. We attempted to pose the questions as to how this rather despised but robust legacy could be treated, what to do with the ideologically contaminated cultural heritage of this period, and how to regard the artworks of the socialist realist* '50s and those of the Kádár era both stemming from similar ideas but representing dissimilar ways of expression.

It is quite controversial how we relate to the socialist decades due to its recency directly involving our present, e.g. by a multitude of still open cases like the name change of streets and squares, the non-disclosure of the list of informants and state agents, and political efforts to hold people responsible for the terror (Lex Biszku). The attitudes towards the era alternate from nostalgia and embellishment to extreme refusal. Paradoxically, the compulsive denial and reconstruction of certain things are both working in a space and context still characterized by the legacy of the same times. Parallel trends determine the mechanisms governing our response to the socialist art when we fail to classify scarcely any buildings constructed in the period as monuments, and when we keep valuable artworks in museum collections in perfect invisibility.

The main features of the exhibition consist of the diverse attitudes towards these issues: conscious abuse of symbols transmitting visual experience across generations, allusions to the cult of replication, exposure of works against suppression, and mindful strategies for processing the memory. The exhibit comprises creations of critical approach, concept ideas using visual aspects only as reference, and works processing personal biographical concerns. The invited artists coming from a wide range of generations and countries display broadly divergent perspectives.

When observing the relations of art and propaganda, one certainly recognizes the bizarre anomaly of mass production and overexploitation of symbols, which, along with gestures, and other well-known socialist realist formula of pathos, got devoid of meaning, annihilated themselves by obsessive repetition. A couple of exhibited works are concerned with this paradox condition showing a way out through reinterpretation.

We considered it important to make a conscious decision when choosing the location. The quest was not only to find an emblematic building of the era but also to find a meaningful site connected to the artistic life of the time. The interior of Fészek Artists' Club, founded in 1901, was transformed during the Kádár regime in a way that created a peculiar symbiosis of the bourgeois milieu and socialist modernism. Fészek played a special role at this time by working as a transitional zone on the borders of different cultural policies.

The exhibition sections are linked by a particular installation adjusted to the properties of Fészek. This installation is made of plastic yarn from one of the closed textile factories once booming and dominating the socialist market. The leading thread meandering in the rooms and places evokes the material culture of the recent past fond of plastic, and transforms the whole space of the exhibition.

By involving people from diverse arts and disciplines and completing the exhibition with related events, our aim is to foster an environment that helps conceive and raise questions otherwise remaining implicit. The exhibition is designed to make visible our ongoing processing of these recent times in a way that can contribute to the reinterpretation of this ambivalent heritage.