The “System of National Cooperation,” as the government of Viktor Orbán named itself in 2010, has polarized every segment of society, not excluding the sub-system of contemporary culture and art. As the most effective means to serve this end, the Hungarian Academy of Art (HAA) has not only divided the community of artists and cultural workers owing to the circumstances of its founding and continuous institutional existence, but each of its programs, open calls, or invitations also imply yet another provocative pressure to make a statement: are you with or against us?
“Magazine” covers events and initiations of contemporary culture in Eastern Europe and beyond. As a start, this column examines projects that have recently taken place in Hungary and that also outline some of the major issues the cultural scene is facing here today.
In unhappy times, people are likely to meditate more often on the possibility of time travel: they give more thought to the question of what they could have done differently in the past, or imagine ways of traveling to the future to escape the present. Since 2010, in the Hungarian printed press, online forums, and casual discussions, an increasing number of people have asked, in increasing wonder: “Exactly which era have we returned to?”
The tactical media campaign Abortourism took the form of a fictional travel agency operated by a group of artists in Budapest. The project was preceded by thorough research: its creators surveyed abortion laws, pregnancy termination and contraception technologies in various European countries. Based on this research, the agency set up fictional travel packages containing the costs of abortion (be it an operation or a pill), travel, and accommodation. Started in late 2014, the project called attention to the existing phenomenon of abortion tourism, a special form of health tourism, and, through this, to privileges, repressions, and taboos surrounding reproductive rights.
It was easy to be illegal twenty-five years ago. Maybe also because the whole world was focusing on perestroika, and how the Soviet Union had collapsed. At the same time, capitalism had just emerged in the east. Millions began to drink Coca Cola and Pepsi Cola and smoke Marlboro in the streets for the first time without fear. Living sans papiers was not a problem if you did not commit any crimes. I have been an immigrant in several countries.—In October 2015, Dóra Hegyi interviewed Babi Badalov on the occasion of his exhibition Poetical Activism at Mayakovsy 102, tranzit.hu's open office in Budapest.
Nataša Ilić and Sabina Sabolović, two members of the Croatian curatorial group WHW (What, How, and for Whom), and Nikola Vukobratović, the representative of Alerta, Centre for Monitoring of Right-Wing Extremism and Anti-Democratic Tendencies, Zagreb, held a seminar entitled "How Much Fascism?" in May 2014 in the framework of tranzit.hu’s Free School of Art Theory and Practice. The seminar and the three-part exhibition and event series "Art Under a Dangerous Star" were part of the international collaboration "Beginning As Well As We Can" (How Do We Talk About Fascism?), initiated by WHW. The project explores the Europe-wide spread of the extreme right, contemporary forms of fascism, and the possible ways of resistance and intervention. During the seminar G. M. Tamás, András Rényi, Szabolcs KissPál (Free Artists), Ádám Schönberger (Marom), and Márton Szarvas (Helyzet Group and Gólya) held presentations.