At first sight the idea of placing a painting that has been gathering dust in museum storage for more than fifty years and a novel that barely anyone has read for decades together in a contemporary art context seems bizarre. Such a project is strange in the current museological context of Hungary, even though the end of the 1950s, the period in which the works were created, may become topical once again because of similarities in the institutional limitation of intellectual freedom through political interference in power structures and in the reactions of intellectuals. The laying out of such parallels presents today’s audiences with a difficult task, even though appropriation, or the concept of détournement and variations on it, already have a history going back decades and are built into the toolkit of contemporary art. Ferenc Gróf, a Hungarian artist based in Paris, sought to take on this task in the Kiscell Museum of Budapest with the collaboration of the author of this text as a curator.
In 1972 the artist Bálint Szombathy carried out a series of works under the title Flags – photographic documentations of performances that deconstructed the Yugoslav flag. The Yugoslav flag consisted of the French Tricolour, rotated by 90° and with a red star outlined in gold added in the centre. The colours of the Tricolour symbolized liberty, equality and fraternity, while the red star stood for the victorious revolution. The context for Bálint Szombathy’s Flags (1972) was the onset of stagnation within the alternative utopia of self-managed socialism.