A ‘post-neo-avant-garde’ utopia realized

On Miklós Erdély’s art pedagogy


Only for the sake of the hopeless is hope given to us.
Walter Benjamin (2)

It may prove illuminating and consequential to revise the programs of avant-garde artistic thought and education, which were, in addition to being dedicated to revolutionizing consciousness, all but averse to utopian registers. In Hungary, it was Miklós Erdély, one of the most important figures of the avant-garde scene, who pursued significant activity in the field of alternative art pedagogy between 1975 and 1978. (1) Not only did it emerge as a rival to centralized and politically supervised official education, but it criticised the prevailing institutional system that incorporated science, society and politics. Far from incidentally, it was creative thinking and an interdisciplinary approach that constituted the foundations of Erdély’s irregular art pedagogy . The notions of creativity and interdisciplinarity were adopted by art from discourses of the philosophy of science, semiotics, theory of communication and anthropology, not marginally as a result of the cultural revolution of 1968. Robert Filliou, a leading figure of the Fluxus movement, was also partly influenced by the New Left student movements of 1968 in formulating the idea of “permanent creation,” which extended creative thinking to all aspects and areas of life. (3) Joseph Beuys, another protagonist of the erweiterte Kunstbegriff, established a free university in the 70’s, which was founded specifically on the above mentioned notions. (4)

Art pedagogy (Kreativitási gyakorlatok [Creativity Exercises], Fantáziafejlesztő gyakorlatok [Creative Imagination Development Exercises], Interdiszciplináris gondolkodás kurzus [Course on Interdisciplinary Thinking]) (5) was at once a “private utopia” for Erdély. While being engaged in his exercises, he was seriously concerned about issues of utopian thinking. Perhaps his experiences in this field contributed to the realization that if macro-scale systems cannot be changed, the least one could do was create his own micro-environment for survival and sensible life. Consequently, I shall present Erdély’s ideas about the criticism of art, science and society along the lines of utopian thinking, with special regard to a reconstructed lecture from 1977 in this theme. (6) Based on this I shall outline the theoretical foundations of his activity in the field of art pedagogy, as well as the “survival” exercises and techniques developed by him. Finally, to provide a typical example of Erdély’s holistic critical thinking, as a possible and to this day timely synthesis of Eastern and Western theories of knowledge, I will make some final remarks about the alternative logic and metaphysics of the koans.


The introductory lines of the 1981 Optimista előadás [Optimistic Lecture] aptly show how Miklós Erdély considered utopian thinking ineludible and fundamentally important:

“The features of the Post-neo-avant-garde attitude:

1. One must acknowledge one’s own competence with regard to one’s life and fate, and keep to it above all else.
2. This competence extends to whatever concerns one’s life, whether directly or indirectly.
3. In this manner one’s competence extends to everything.
4. One must have the courage to perceive whatever is bad, faulty, torturous, dangerous or meaningless, whether it be the most accepted, seemingly unchangeable case or thing.
5. One must have the boldness to propose even the most unfounded, least realizable alternative.
6. One must be able to imagine that these variants can be attained.
7. One must give as much consideration to possibilities that have only a slight chance but promise great advantages as to possibilities that in all likelihood can be attained but promise few advantages.
8. Whatever one can accomplish with the limited tools at one’s disposal one must do without delay.
9. One must refrain from any form of organization or institutionalization.” (7)

In his lecture on utopia, entitled Remény és lehetőség [Hope and Possibility], Erdély reviewed the history and theory of philosophical utopias from Plato’s The Republic through Morus’s Utopia and the works of utopian socialists, to the utopian thinkers of his time. His train of thought was dominated by theoretical considerations coupled with critical reflection. Practically, the lecturer criticized utopian theories from Plato to Herbert Marcuse, and phrased (based on Hegel and Marcuse) one of the fundamental theses of his lecture – and, ultimately, of his oeuvre – on an epistemological basis: Instead of the society, it is human consciousness that needs to be liberated and revolutionized. In his own words: “One’s image of oneself needs to be modified in order for one to achieve a global and fundamental change of lifestyle. Just as religions made one suitable to revaluate one’s place in the social structure, one needs new metaphysics, by which one can define one’s place and significance in the entirety of existence.” (8)

At that, according to Erdély, the situation is much worse than the “classical” utopians (Saint-Simon, Fourier, Owen) imagined, for even the boldest utopias are captives of their own age and social reality. And not only as regards their vantage points (material and mental premises), but also their horizon of goals and options, since the intrepidity of their ideas was restrained by their language as well as their conception of the world. The gist of the matter in Erdély’s words is this: “While it is able to describe the reality along with which it evolved, language is incapable of grasping the other reality, which is of a different quality, dormant in the sea of unrealized potentiality. To assert that it can describe reality is already an overstatement. Language merely provides an interpretation of reality, limited by its own abilities. Language, eventually, narrates itself. Even when constructing utopias.”

Man, therefore, lacks the freedom even to “construct a decent utopia for himself.” It is, therefore, far from surprising that the ideology critique of Marcuse and the Frankfurt School after Marx and Freud provides firm proof for Erdély that human freedom (liberation and self-redemption) in a capitalist society is nothing but an illusion! Scientific-technological development not only disallows the revolution of language, it does not so much as question the fundamental goal-rational ideology: “… it turned out that the rationality reinforced by a cosmic-level experience cannot lead to man’s liberation. Happiness as a just claim is drifting further and further away, only attainable as unenjoyable, alienated bogus happiness, triggered by substitutes.” Freedom is now (after Hegel and Marcuse) none other than a „recognised necessity” in the prison of language and ideology. Even if it remains unnoticed by the welfare societies’ subordinate subjects of limited freedom. But how could they notice when they cannot conceive of anything outside the ideology. According to Marcuse, the technology of suppression and exploitation in developed capitalism is activated already at the basic levels of needs, desires and possibilities. “This gives rise to that technique of manipulation, delicate as a spiderweb, which Marcuse writes about, and which is almost impossible to discern,” says Erdély. Hinting at the same time at an option for a solution, a way out: “Only the super-sensitivity of the amateur mind and soul can discern and reveal it. However, nimble minds are destined to momentary successes. Even in want of opportunities, hope is still there.”

Of course, this has no perspective unless one is aware of the reason earlier utopian conceptions failed. Erdély points out that earlier utopias (Saint-Simon, Fourier, Owen and the “principle of universal gravitation”) “owe” a lot to the scientific conception of the world of their age, namely Newtonian physics and cosmology. Erdély identifies two basic types of utopia after Vera Nyilas and others: 1) utopia of order 2) utopia of freedom. (9) According to Erdély, neither of these offers a “realistic” alternative for happiness anymore, that is, for mental and existential freedom: the former is evidently based on some kind of suppression, while the latter’s freedom is only illusory, because it remains a captive of language and consequently of rationality. Yet after Einstein, Heisenberg and Schrödinger it very much seems so that the workings of the universe cannot be conceptualized on rational terms! At least Erdély concluded the following quite brief yet expressive phrase on the basis of the new discoveries of quantum mechanics, subatomic physics, cosmology and astronomy, and their epistemological consequences: “Semantic change of the Universe.” The neat and tidy universe of Descartes and Newton gave place to the infinite and curved universe of finite space-time conceived by Einstein, the elements of which can no more be visualized as discreet globes. Chaos and absurdity began to take precedence in the description of physical processes from the 1960-70’s; fractals and the chaos theory became trendy, as well as the paradoxes of subatomic physics, which also turned out to prevail on a cosmic scale.

Of course Erdély is aware that this new conception of the Universe, motivated by quantum physics, as well as its paradox laws are incomprehensible for everyday people, while, together with the familiar, homelike and sensible universe, the familiar omnipotent God of old times died after Marx and Nietzsche and disappeared from the conception of the world that had been regulated by the laws of natural science: “Disregarding the ever more hermetically hidden and isolated confusion of science, even common man lacks the underlying general feeling of justified existence, from which he could deduce, however superficially, the reasons for his daily tasks. Man, uprooted from the religious, intimate and familiar conception of the world, was able to accept that he is the dweller of an eternal universe that works on levels both atomic and cosmic by some trivial ball-principle. This has been such a neutral and distant background for his life that he could easily disregard it. The cosmic desert surrounding this phase, however great, even infinite, bears no consequences with respect to his life.” Perhaps the greatest merit of Erdély’s lecture is that it points out the existential and epistemological necessity of joining theology, cosmology and social theory. A “decent” utopia for expanding consciousness and improving society may only be conceivable by combining the three spheres, since neither of them alone can provide a description of man that would be sufficient for him to view and judge any of them (including himself) from an external stance.

Erdély’s lecture is indicative of the fact that theology and cosmology, as fundaments of the general conception of the world, were still perforce interwoven in classical utopias. What is really intriguing, however, is that this “salutary” union subsists even in the case of modern Marxist utopian social criticism and modern theology, even if such analogy is not so fashionable in the world of vulgar Marxism. Erdély provides a “revolutionary” (even in its common sense), but at least surprising parallel between the two “hope researchers”, Ernst Bloch and Jürgen Moltmann. (10) Moltmann approaches social science from the aspect of theology and the story of salvation, in order to mark out a possible path in the terrain of economy and politics for the man of action in search of mundane happiness. Prophetic and often enigmatic Bloch, on the other hand, rises from the foundations of Marxist social theory to the ideological spheres of religion and art in order to discover mundane utopias of freedom and happiness.

According to Moltmann and Bloch, too, the rift between the two spheres and ideologies of Catholicism and Marxism needs to be bridged for man to be able to construct a truly happy conception of the future. Scientific-technological development alone is insufficient. In Erdély’s observation, although the religious conception of the world has already been replaced by futurology, this is also just one of the “techniques of manipulation delicate as a spiderweb.” (Futurology is just as much a captive of the present as the ideological apparatuses are, and perhaps one of the reasons the theology or philosophy of hope was so important for Erdély is that Moltmann and Bloch both had future-oriented mindsets.) In fact, science and technology are in service of suppression instead of man’s happiness. No wonder thus that both modern theology and social theory reach the conclusion that all one has left is hope in the future. And even if this hope is attainable in the form of positive spiritual and mental disposition, there is still need for that certain missing (or rather concealed) new scientific conception of the world, that “new metaphysics”, the ontology and logic of which endows human life with a new sense.

Revolutionizing Consciousness

In Erdély’s view, the new consciousness and the new metaphysics most of all need a new language, one that is capable of conveying the truths of natural sciences, philosophy and poetry, breaking through the naïve realism of the quotidian. The comprehension and mastering of logical and poetic paradoxes led Erdély to believe that starting from the radical technology of montage, it is the principle of the extinguishing meaning that should be applied in language. (11) That is to say, one has be elevated from the level of paradoxes and contradictions, where statements cancel one another’s meaning, to a higher emotional level, where one can experience something similar to the enlightenment of Zen Buddhists and see this world which is based on science, economy and politics, from a new perspective. Erdély therefore draws up an even more radical and consistent alternative in the question of language than Marcuse, his greatest opponent. The reason is that Marcuse, disappointed in his achievements, was by all means looking for some social stratum that would carry out the revolution of consciousness. Erdély’s thinking, on the other hand, is centred around the revolution of art – independent from classes and the categories of social theory –, which may have a liberating impact on the individual’s thinking and consequently on the entire social construct.

Erika Landau’s book on the psychology of creativity was published in Hungary in 1974. Following a review of various psychological theories and schools, the final chapter, practical as well as inspiring for Erdély, focused on issues of creative pedagogy. Landau’s ideas can indisputably be related to Erdély’s art pedagogy: “One of the most important tasks arising from creativity research is interdisciplinary education. Scientists, philosophers, artists and last, but not least, psychologists, study man from their own perspectives. The task of the pedagogue, however, is to create connections between each branch of science so as to make a creative individual of the student. Practically this means that the student recalls associations from other subjects pertaining to the theme in question, or relates this new problem to another, already learned (that is, experienced) problem.” (12)

The creative approach acquired via art is by all means applicable to other dimensions of life. Receiving art education may prove beneficial not only for artists. “Conversely: we can expect the greatest results if the creative approach is present in other areas of life as well, and if such flexible people turn up in all kinds of apparently insignificant areas, capable of understanding the essence of things and perceiving their tasks at a meta-level.” (13) In addition to playing an important role in modern mathematics and physics as well as Zen Buddhism, meta-level thinking is an important constituent of the Palo-Alto Group’s problem-solving method, which focuses on everyday issues. (14) As opposed to the majority of western psychologists, for whom creativity was a personal characteristic, Erdély considered it a “state of readiness” in which one is “able to recognize the task under all circumstances, and to resolve it resourcefully, individually and originally.” (15) This idea of Erdély interestingly coincides with Paul Watzlawick’s opinion, who considers the recognition of the problem the first and foremost step in problem solving, and emphasizes the importance of a creative orientation with respect to problem solving. According to the Palo Alto Group’s approach, anyone can be capable of finding a creative solution to a problem in any field of life, if they can rise above it or perceive it in a different light. In accordance with this, Erdély claims that the creative man is “capable of revising his condition over and over again, while surprising his environment with fresh alternatives, and helps others overcome adverse and fossilized circumstances.” (16)

Creativity in Art and Life

The Creativity Exercises course started in autumn 1975 and took place every two weeks at Ganz-Mávag Művelődési Központ [Ganz-Mávag Cultural Centre], a suburban location of the Budapest alternative art scene. In those times Dóra Maurer, another significant figure of 70’s avant-garde (intermedia) art, also worked in the Ganz Centre. She held a drawing course there, and in time the two “courses” became coordinated. Maurer later summarized the relationship of the two courses thus: “Creativity exercises teach creative readiness in general, while the task of the drawing course is to specialize this readiness: to provide opportunities for putting forth visual creativity.” (17) The Creativity Exercises sessions would begin with Dóra Maurer setting forth a specific task, for the completion of which Erdély had developed several variants. (18) Maurer contributed the visual ideas to which Erdély linked specific series of acts, practically transforming the ideas into actions. (19) By late 1976, Maurer gradually abandoned the Creativity Exercises, which she explained by asserting that she missed the assessment of the exercises and that she had lost interest in the “etudes of manipulating and controlling one another” – passivity and servility exercises, or the mimicking of movements. (20) The initial novelty of the drawing exercises was the abolishment of the customary boundary between drawer and model. Participants of the course were at once models, doing complex poses with the help of various devices. Later on various hindrances and distortions of the process of drawing itself were added to this exercise. The most common one was drawing with the drawing board flipped with the surface facing outward. (21) The non-drawing exercises were characterised by a mutual and systematic mimicking, repetition and elaboration of movements, and occasionally a camera was used as an important accessory.

The exercises gave rise to novel, surprising and inspiring situations as regards the processes of perception and drawing, thus encouraging creative thinking. Individual tasks helped overcome ingrained schemes and stereotypes of perception. The mentality of the exercises naturally reflected on the principal problematics of 60’s-70’s avant-garde art: original versus copy, identity and similarity, repetition and sequences of minute alterations, representation of movement, action as a new medium of art. In accordance with contemporary tendencies – and in the spirit of interdisciplinarity –, the devices of other branches of art, such as music, theatre, film and photography were used to renew drawing, a traditional medium of fine art.

Additionally, the exercises exploited the inspiring and liberating power of the collective. The goal was to create an atmosphere which could relieve the effects of conformity and the pressure to perform, which inhibit creativity. The participants could creatively and actively control the course of the session, and freely modify the assigned exercises. The syllabus of the exercises had a wider scope, which exceeded art’s layers of meaning, comprising personal and social horizons as well. Participants were confronted with the pitfall of repetition and conformity during almost every session. Besides, through exercises aiming to distract the drawer (the creator), they could experience the hindrances that would befall those who displayed deviant behaviour. As expressed by one of the participants, graphic artist and filmmaker Ágnes Háy: what was going on at the sessions was in fact the “modelling of life situations.” In modelling various life situations, the participants had an opportunity to rise above their problems and reach a deeper self-understanding by observing their own reflections in the other person. (22) Another “disciple”, painter and stage designer Zoltán Lábas, summarized his experiences of the Creativity Exercises as follows: “As a result of experiences of the Creativity Exercises, I developed a new approach, which has helped me discover the connection between art and various other fields of life: my sensitivity to problems has increased, and I am motivated to cogitate throughout my everyday life as well as my creative artistic work.” (23)

Creative Imagination

When the Creativity Exercises course was over, Erdély started another alternative “school” named Creative Imagination Development Exercises (CIDE) (24) in autumn 1977 at a secluded place, Vizivárosi Pinceklub [ Viziváros Basement Club]. In autumn 1978, the course moved to the Marczibányi Téri Ifjúsági Ház [ Marczibányi Square Youth Club], where it lasted about two more months before being transformed into an Interdisciplinary Thinking Course. The mentality of CIDE was organically related to the activity of the Creativity Exercises, only it continued exploring problems of creativity at the level of cognitive mechanisms. Miklós Erdély and his group endeavoured to “loosen those mental jams that fundamentally inhibit the development of extensive creative behaviour.” (25) They adopted the complexity and holistic approach (“essential in modern thinking”) of their earlier artistic practice. Towards the end of CIDE, already at Marczibányi Square, they dealt exclusively with koans for at least a month. (26) As Erdély recalls, the art college students who attended CIDE (András Böröcz, Bálint Bori, László Révész) kept insisting that they deal with fine art at last because think they already could. Probably this was what led to the arrangement of collective exhibitions from 1978, where they created environments for such irregular themes as coal, sand and their movements, or concepts like fidelity.

The Indigo group practically goes beyond Erdély’s own artistic and philosophical ideas, since from the early 80’s on, collective work was pushed into the background and the collective environments and happenings were replaced by individual objects and installations. (27) Nevertheless, mainly owing to Erdély, the artists who began to follow their own paths were able to approach the issues of art, society and politics in irregular ways (as well). (28) The de-fetishizing nature of works made of intentionally ephemeral materials played an important role in this, as well as the blurring of traditional boundaries between art and life. One of the fashionable expressions of the time, interdisciplinarity, was (in part) exactly about this transgression of boundaries. “Mesmerised” by this phenomenon, they took the liberty to film Einstein’s clock paradox or to make an installation on the occasion of a conference on semiotics. However, the actual realisation of divergent and creative ideas was always of secondary importance to Erdély. He wanted to leave dangerous and subversive ideas and thinkers to posterity instead of boring or hardly interpretable works. In the light of the above, it is worthwhile to return to the stages of alternative pedagogy.

The tasks Erdély assigned to the participants of CIDE sessions served to question known problem-solving schemes. In Erdély’s own words: the goal of the assignments was to “doubt the evident.” (29) His principal consideration in devising assignment types was to promote the conception of new problem-solving strategies. Tasks had to be solved in words or in writing, in such manner that everyone could hear the others’ solution, which helped each participant to recognize the logical formulas used by them and the others. (30) The divergence from schemes and stereotypes was further facilitated by the fact that Erdély often put limitations on the problem-solving method to be used: in one word, in three words, in a sketch, etc. The answers were assessed by Erdély on the next session, based on the type of answer and the kind of philosophical, religious or scientific knowledge it relied on. Participants recall that the relationship of art and science was extensively dealt with at the CIDE course. Erdély often mentioned the names of Einstein, Schrödinger and Heisenberg, and the idea of filming the clock-paradox already came up during those sessions. (31) In addition, they criticised and rejected nearly every traditional branch of art at the sprightly meetings, except, perhaps, the genre of happening. As Erdély recalls, “the entire philosophy and range of ideas underlying the avant-garde was condensed in the Creativity Exercises and CIDE.” (32) Erdély already felt then that the entire (contemporary) avant-garde was “lost” in variegating such types of problem-solving that were, in his conception, evident.

According to film director Ildikó Enyedi, one of the participants of the sessions, the essence of the exercises was not even invention, but rather to gain awareness of conformity, to recognize the standard forms of creative thinking. (33) For the only way to overcome customary schemes is to know them thoroughly. The absurdity, insignificance or banality of the questions and tasks contributed a great deal to this. In her article on Miklós Erdély’s pedagogical methods, Enyedi highlights the fact that Erdély’s method differed from those of the established schools of creativity. (34) Notwithstanding the differences, I would like to point out the presence of certain analogies. Erdély himself highlights the importance of the technique of “delayed assessment” in his pedagogical practice. This means that the leader of the course does not immediately criticise the emerging ideas, but lets them unfold. Delayed assessment reduces the pressure to perform, giving ground to free association and divergent thinking. The expression “delayed assessment” or, more precisely, “delayed judgement”, actually originates from Alex Osborn, comprising the fundament of his Creative Problem Solving techniques (CPS). (35) Erdély probably encountered Osborn’s name in Erika Landau’s book, but he was not thoroughly familiar with Osborn’s work. Nevertheless, his pedagogical practice turns out to have characteristics similar to CPS techniques, which build on delayed judgement and brainstorming. CPS is also based on establishing a creative environment, which Erdély refers to as a “creative state”. The essence of CPS is also collective thinking, throughout which, in want of value judgement, the ideas of participants are free to mutually inspire one another (brainstorming). CPS also begins with setting out the problem, which is followed by the phase of divergent thinking that generates ideas, and terminated by a convergent phase directed at a specific solution.

Although the final, convergent phase had no significant role at CIDE, which focused on paradoxes and the extinguishing meaning, it became more emphasised during the activity of the Indigo group. In the early period of the Indigo group, when they created collective environments, the method of designing an exhibition was letting everyone tell their ideas, and the exhibition was built based on the best consistent assembly of ideas. The designing and building stage of the exhibition thus practically corresponds to the convergent phase of CPS. Of course Erdély was not thoroughly familiar with the CPS technique, and what is more, his method was different despite the similarities. Erdély was more interested in randomness and irrationality rather than adhering to established rules in leading the courses. Sometimes he would devote no attention to an answer that seemed right, but scrutinize a much less inventive one instead, or he would appraise an answer for a reason the respondent would never even have dreamed of. (36)

Beyond Epistemology

Erdély declared in connection with CIDE that “the best ideas are close to Zen, that is, Buddhist thinking. Not incidentally. I have come to realize that this is where the technique of extinguishing meaning is used as a religious system or practice.” (37) This was, then, Erdély’s explanation for his preoccupation with koans. With growing frequency, he would read out koans during the sessions. Based on these, participants would write their own similar koans. This was the so-called “Koan-factory” at the Marczibányi téri Művelődési Központ [ Marczibányi Square Cultural Centre]. Pál Miklós’s book A zen és a művészet [ Zen and Art] (38) was published around that time, and it counted as compulsory reading material. Erdély was, in addition, familiar with works of Alan W. Watts and Eugen Herrigel. (39) For instance, he cited the following koan from Watts in one of his studies: “A monk asked Zhaozhou, ‘The myriad things return to one. Where does the one return to?’ Zhaozhou said, ‘When I was in Jing Zhao, I made a cloth shirt. It weighed seven pounds.’” (40)

Erdély considered this koan a rather wicked montage in which no relationship whatsoever is to be discovered between question and answer. The koan was also a favoured metaphor of Erdély, which he used when discussing his own art theory (the technique of extinguishing meaning). (41) The koan is a verbal device of Zen masters, a seemingly nonsensical short dialogue, which helps the disciple reach the state of “satori” or enlightenment. Koans can help the disciple see his and the world’s true, original face. (42) In the course of satori – to invoke the rhetorics of European philosophy – the disciple recognizes the relativity of the world and the futility of separating object and subject. According to Herrigel, satori is “the fundamental experience of being suddenly and violently seized upon by the truth.” (43)

The essence of the koan lies in its liberating effect. Pondering over ourselves and the meaning of life, we are imprisoned in the vicious circle of reflexive thinking, from which there is only one way out: the recognition of the fact that “the mind cannot grasp itself.” (44) The koan can liberate us from the inhibiting effect of goal-oriented and result-driven thinking. “There is something similar to this in the psychoanalytic practice of free association, employed as a technique to get rid of obstacles to the free flow of thought from the ‘unconscious,’” writes Alan W. Watts about the liberating effect of koans. (45) However, the practice of koans more resembles the practice of creativity development methods, whose primary objective is to allow man to overcome the schemes of everyday thinking and be relieved from the pressure to perform.

According to Watts, the satori is “not only a sudden leap from the common consciousness to ‘complete, unexcelled awakening’.” But still, in essence, it is a leap that leads to a higher logical level (Watzlawick et. al. – second degree change), which is capable of bridging the gap between reference systems (Koestler – bisociation). (46) Erdély also seems to have identified himself most of all with the concept of the leap in Zen teachings. In the moment of enlightenment one receives no answer to the great questions of life, just as the Zen master gives no answer to the disciple’s questions directed at the substance of the Zen. Still, mysteriously, the disciple intuits something from the substantial oneness of the universe. Thus, he becomes able to overcome the everyday mentality of naïve realism, and to come very close to a new metaphysics that, through revolutionizing consciousness, may ultimately lead to, if not a better world, at least an idea of it.



1 Extended version of this text can be found in: Miklós Erdély: Creativity and Fantasy Developing Exercises (Translated by John Batki). In: Kreativitási gyakorlatok, FAFEJ, INDIGO. Erdély Miklós művészetpedagógiai tevékenysége 1975-1986. Compilled by: Sándor Hornyik and Annamária Szőke. Edited by: Annamária Szőke. MTA Művészettörténeti Kutatóintézet–Gondolat Kiadó–2B Alapítvány–Erdély Miklós Alapítvány, Budapest, 2008.

2 Walter Benjamin: Goethe’s Elective Affinities. In: Walter Benjamin: Selected Writings, Volume 1, 1913-1926. Eds: Bullock and Jennings, Belknap Press, 1996.

3 Robert Filliou: Teaching and Learning as Performing Arts. König, Köln – New York, 1970.

4 The Freie Hochschule für Kreativität und interdisziplinäre Forschung already existed in bud in 1971.

5 Translator’s note: Erdély’s works untranslated so far, I will include my own translation of his titles in square brackets. In case of further occurrences, I will resort to this translation for better understanding, maintaining nevertheless that these are not official translations of the titles. I will similarly proceed in case of any other such title or institution.

6 The lecture’s manuscript can be found in the Erdély legacy, managed by the Erdély Miklós Alapítvány [Miklós Erdély Foundation]. The text was brought to my attention by Annamária Szőke. I would like to hereby thank her help in reconstructing and interpreting the occasionally fragmentary lecture.

7 Miklós Erdély: Optimista előadás. In: Miklós Erdély: Művészeti írások. Ed.: Peternák Miklós. Képzőművészeti, Budapest, 1991. 133. Cited passage translated by Zsuzsanna Szegedy-Maszák, in: Szőke Annamária: Miklós Erdély: Moral Algebra – Solidarity Action (1972). A case-study (Stuttgart Lecture). Presented on the VRM-Workshop: 28–30. September 2007. Württembergischer Kunstverein Stuttgart. Vivid [Radical] Memory: Research and database project (2006/2007): Conceptual practices from the 1960s to the 1980s under the conditions of communist regimes and military dictatorships in Europe and Latin America.

This study of Erdély is practically a refined version of the 1977 lecture on utopia, focusing on those paradoxes of epistemology, philosophy of science and modern natural science, which might contribute to a revision of “old” positivist science and goal-rational society.

8 If not indicated otherwise, the citations are taken from Miklós Erdély’s lecture on utopia, Remény és lehetőség.

9 Vera Nyilas: Előszó. In: Claude-Henri de Saint-Simon válogatott írásai. Gondolat, Budapest, 1963. 5-28.

10 In Bloch’s case Erdély draws from his late principal work, the three-volume Das Prinzip Hoffnung; in Moltmann’s case his source is the Theologie der Hoffnung. C.f.: Ernst Bloch: Das Prinzip Hoffnung. Suhrkamp, Frankfurt, 1959., and Jürgen Moltmann: Theologie der Hoffnung. Chr. Kaiser, München, 1964.

The Hungarian reception – familiar to Erdély – also made a connection between two works as well as the oeuvre of Bloch and Moltmann. Zsolt Papp: Jürgen Moltmann és „a remény teológiája”. Világosság, 1969/8-9. 474-478.

11 Miklós Erdély: Montázsgesztus és effektus. (1975) In: Miklós Erdély: A filmről. Ed.: Miklós Peternák. Tartóshullám, Budapest, 1995. 150.

12 Erika Landau: Psychologie der Kreativität. E. Reinhardt, 1969. Citation translated by Daniel Sipos.

13 Miklós Erdély: Kreatív és fantáziafejlesztő gyakorlatok. In: Tanulmányok a vizuális nevelés köréből. MTA Vizuális Kultúrakutató Munkabizottság, Budapest, 1978. 64.

14 Paul Watzlawick – John H. Weakland – Richard Fisch: Change, Principles of Problem Formation and Problem Resolution. W. W. Norton & Company, 1974. There are no signs that Erdély would have been familiar with the work of the Palo-Alto Group. The similarity of ideas probably springs from the influence of Eastern mentality and the special significance of paradoxes in their work.

15 Erdély 1978, 64.

16 Ibid.

17Kreativitás – Vizualitás. Exhibition catalogue. Józsefvárosi Kiállító-terem, Budapest, 1976. 11.

18 Dóra Maurer: Egy valódi mester. Havas Fanny interjúja. Beszélő, 24 October 1991. 4.

19 According to Maurer, in making the exercises more animated, Erdély resorted to his experiences as a boy scout.

20 “After some time in the course of solving the tasks I began feeling like a live chess figure – I comprehended less and less of the whole, so I named our activity a servility exercise” – Zoltán Lábas: Kollektív rajzolás az Erdély-Maurer csoportban. In: Művészet, 1978/9. 15.

21 The paper was thus on the opposite side of the board, facing not the drawer, but the model. The drawer had to work bending over, viewing his drawing from an unusual angle.

22 Personal information from Ágnes Háy.

23 Lábas 1978, 15.

24 Translator’s note: the Hungarian acronym would be FAFEJ, a pun meaning ‘blockhead’.

25 Erdély 1978, 70.

26 Zoltán Sebők: Új misztika felé. Beszélgetés Erdély Miklóssal. Híd, 1982/3. 370.

27 The name “Indigo” (a witty acronym of Interdiszciplináris gondolkodás – ‘Interdisciplinary thinking’) was of course Erdély’s idea, and it was not only meant to allude to interdisciplinary thinking, but to one of Erdély’s favourite materials or media, the carbon paper (‘indigo’ in Hungarian) as well.

28 In addition to the already mentioned creative members, such internationally acknowledged artists took part in the work of the Indigo group as Dániel Erdély, János Sugár and János Szirtes.

29 Erdély 1978, 71. Erdély collected the following trivial cognitive categories of problem-solving: 1. Translation or reflection; 2. Double translation (returning to the original solution through a different approach); 3. Intensification (beyond limit); 4. Reduction; 5. Combination, relation (with other problem-groups); 6. Distancing, alienation, rendering uninterpretable; 7. Complete absurdity (usually on the level of language). These are what Erdély called “standard creative operations.”

30 Ildikó Enyedi: Egy pedagógiai technika. (Az 1977/78. évi fantáziafejlesztő gyakorlatok módszereinek elemzése.). Magyar Műhely, Miklós Erdély special issue, 1983. 31.

31 In expounding the special and general theory of relativity, Einstein explains how the time lapse between two events is not invariant from one observer to another, but is dependent on the relative speeds of the observers’ reference frames (trains, as a matter of fact). Miklós Erdély and the Indigo group mixed Einstein’s scientific text into the text of an absurd short story by Kafka. C.f.: Indigo Group (Péter Berényi, Bálint Bori, Dániel Erdély, György Erdély, Ildikó Enyedi, Péter Futó, leader: Miklós Erdély): Clock Paradox. In: Erdély 1995, 215-219.

32 Peternák 1991, 84.

33 Enyedi 1983, 28.

34 Ibid. 27.

35 Alex F. Osborn: Applied Imagination. Principles and Procedures of Creative Problem Solving. Scribner, New York, 1953.

36 Enyedi 1983, 34.

37 Peternák 1991, 84.

38 Pál Miklós: A zen és a művészet. Magvető, Budapest, 1978.

39 He cites Watts in his study Montázsgesztus és effektus. In: Erdély 1995, 150. From Herrigel he read Zen in the Art of Archery. cf. Sebők 1983, 370.

40 Erdély 1995, 150.

41 Peternák 1991, 84.

42 One of the most well-known koans, among the first to be asked by a Zen master from his disciple, goes as follows: “When your mind is not dwelling on the dualism of good and evil, what is your original face before you were born?” – Eugen Herrigel: The Method of Zen, Vintage, 1974. 39.

43 Herrigel, 1974, 122.

44 Alan W. Watts: The Way of Zen, Vintage, 1999. 164.

45 Ibid, 150.

46 Arthur Koestler: The Act of Creation. Laurel, New York, 1964. Koestler distinguished bisociation from association with respect to the functioning of creativity. During bisociation, the thinker brings together and combines previously unrelated areas of science or topoi of art.