AID CONCEPT – 2 October 2005, GÖDÖR CLUB, Budapest
festival to save the documents of underground art

Symposium about the underground art of the 1970s and 1980s (part 2)

full text and audio of the symposium (2) in Hungarian

Symposium (2) in brief

[Ágnes Bárdos Deák] It is as if we have entered a new era in which we can prove that we have the motivation to effect change because it seems that what is going on right now is not liked by many people. I think that what we have now is a bit like the period when we were doing things without really knowing we were – of course there were those who had concrete aims – but I think now we have arrived at a situation we are dissatisfied with [...]
Artpool is dissatisfied with the fact that it has no funds enabling it to continue its work, but mostly we are unhappy because the cause we once believed represented great value seems to have been devalued, while at the same time I firmly believe that this same cause actually represents lasting value. [...]
Az Artpool elégedetlen azzal, hogy nincs miből tovább dolgoznia, de igazából azzal elégedetlen, hogy ennyire leértékelődött az a dolog, aminek azért, úgy hittük annak idején, hogy van értéke, és én még a mai napig azt hiszem, hogy egy értékállóbb dologról van szó. [...]

[Péter Halász] What I know and experience is that we, Hungarians, show no solidarity to each other. In other words, those who are here now, are not able to recognise the interests of others for the simple reason that they have not yet defined their own interests clearly [...]

[Vera Baksa-Soós] For me it is absolutely despicable that this uncultured state I live in wants to close down Artpool. It outrages me, and this topic is closely linked to Tibor Hajas too because the way he assumed responsibility and stood by this cause in public is still impactful I think. So we can’t afford to keep silent in situations like this and let the authorities play us off against one another. I – as a member of the museum’s staff or as a private individual – should also be addressed in such a matter, so in that sense the introduction to this topic was appropriate, and we should absolutely not hide and withdraw when such economic terror – a clever but disgusting version of political terror – is being imposed. [...]

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[Tamás Szőnyei] It is not my duty to protect the government or its politics but I think there was – understandably – quite a bit of exaggeration in what Vera has just said: that it is a political will that wants to put an end to Artpool’s operation. I just don’t think that’s the case. [...] Not that I want to nit-pick every word but I think what seems more appropriate in this issue is carefulness, being under- informed and lack of understanding. [...]

[Ágnes Bárdos Deák] Ok, but in many places manslaughter – killing as a result of carelessness is punishable. You know what I mean. What is happening here is the theft of culture through carelessness, things being forgotten, falsifying history from 1984...

[Tamás Szőnyei] Since up until now Artpool was lucky enough to operate – as it was nicely communicated here yesterday – from municipal and ministerial support and funds won in tenders – well, then up to last year it was a good government and good politics, but has it suddenly become evil? I don’t believe in such sudden changes. It is oversimplifying matters. [...]

[Vera Baksa-Soós] I can’t tell you exact figures but I’m sure that György Galántai and Júlia Klaniczay have not amassed a fortune from the money they received for the past fifteen years as support; on the contrary, they did voluntary work beyond what could have been expected. So in this case I would drop the word ’lucky’. Plus we live in an age when – without wanting to point fingers, but I need to say this – Mihály Munkácsy is celebrated and Béla Balázs can go down the plug hole, right? So these things overlap this year. [...]

[Péter Halász] In any case, Artpool’s function cannot be mentioned on the same page with a Munkácsy exhibition, for example. From the start, Artpool has been dealing with the art of concepts, i.e. conceptual art, which is a purely intellectual art, and with the pictorial manifestations of intellectual art. But conceptual art is not the same product as a Munkácsy painting. It might be more important, it might be just as important, but in my view clearly defining concepts and for concepts to become clear is an extremely important function, a far more important cultural function than a Munkácsy picture hanging on the wall of a rich man [...]
In contrast, it is an intellectual act if in this community, this small group, someone undertakes the task of clarifying concepts and starts collecting things in order for the language that is circulating between us to gain clarity and that we would know what we need to talk about, so that ideas would have a positive effect. [...]
An idea is not conceived in a large group, it is conceived in a single person’s mind, who then communicates it to another, and that individual passes it on to yet another three people, so this is the form in which an idea is communicated, and just because Artpool is not Hungarian national television, not a mainstream commercial channel, not the Műcsarnok and the Ludwig Museum, or not this and not that, doesn’t mean it hasn’t got a function, nor does it mean that its function is actually not stronger than that of the consumer institutions supporting the arts. [...]
As long as the state lives in us as a phantom who distributes things autocratically, i.e. as long as the state is like an isolated financial oligarch and we have no constitutional self-awareness, we are at its mercy and we’ll keep on complaining that the state gives us no money. The state gives no money. It rips people off and then distributes what it took from us. It rips me off. I have to pay my taxes multiple times. I’m taxed when I pay my taxes and then I’m taxed again for the money I’m given by the state, and then again for what I produce. So the state rips me off big time. It makes its money when I buy something too. [...]
And in the meantime, moved by some inexplicable concept – I have no idea what it might be – the state decides to take support away from me. And yes, it’s that simple! Indeed, it’s easier to support classics like Munkácsy than artists whose art requires people to think or it provokes ideas. Ideas to do with personal freedom. [...]

[Péter Sziámi Müller] What you were saying, Tamás, sounds to me like you are saying that the state is like parents who did not mean to cause the downfall of their children but they simply forgot to feed them. [...]
Even the [state’s] most minimal sensitivity to see when the children will end up being starved seems to be dying out and it is terribly dangerous. And not only in our context. And what Péter was saying – that the state should abide by the Constitution and all its stipulations, and have some sensitivity – well, it is really missing [...]
And would the reserves the state claims to have – given it cooked the books – be enough to sustain everyone? Since it already admitted the fact that there will be homeless people, and yes, we’ll get poorer, and indeed, some pensioners will end up in the street… so maybe the so-called reserves don’t even exist. It’s time to clarify this. Or it will be a ‘let’s drive them out’ kind of situation. [...]
In other words, it just doesn’t work that the book-keepers are living honkey dorey and they are really sorry that artists are starving to death. So now we must believe that if there are reserves, all the artists need to look each other in the eye and say that now it is not the time for self-promotion and we should stop getting at each other and instead get this thing sorted based on the principle that a decent culture of the arts has always needed free-spirited, courageous and autonomous people. [...]

[Péter Molnár] What we need to achieve is a shift in attitudes, and it can be realised if we practise our right of free speech [...]
As I see it, past examples have shown that there is something bad, even ill, in our attitudes to what is regarded as traditional values. And in a sense we need to be conservative too and say that these are values – let me reiterate: I’m not only talking about the past but also things pointing forward into the future – that simply must be defended and we should find a creative solution to do it. [...]

[P.M.] Referring back to what Péter Halász said – it is a linguistic issue to define the meaning of words, or what constitutes a text, and then there are quotes from poems and other texts, so it is more a linguistic and political issue that once an institution calls itself the Ministry of National Cultural Heritage, then it should naturally defend things that constitute this heritage, and Artpool is such a thing. [...]

[Péter Halász] The radio did not pay my salary in time and the director just said: What do you want? This is Hungary. and then I said that if even you say ’This is Hungary’, and the secretary and the administrator say this, then everyone can comfortably use this nonsensical sentence as an explanation for everything that happens, instead of actually acting responsibly and making adult decisions: If you come in and I pay your salary, it is good for me too, etc. etc. ... if we don’t have this attitude, well, I can only be pessimistic. [...]

[Péter Sziámi Müller] Given the battles we have fought and being part of that segment of culture that has preserved its freedom and has also become institutionalised to some extent, I regard it as a major problem if we cannot find a way to ensure our own survival. We were partisans for a reason, so we can’t be shitting our pants now, at the same time we need to screw the money out of the state. So these two things should be combined somehow. [...]

[Péter Halász] If you don’t want to pay salt tax, go to the sea and draw your own water. Step out of a system that destroys you or cripples you or makes you dirt poor, and find yourself another solution. Squatting is probably not the ultimate solution, but whatever leads to confrontation is visible, and people understand dramatic situations better. Being quiet doesn’t work. [...]

[Péter Sziámi Müller] The question is how publicity can be gained for culture and also for any new idea or progressive idea in a truthful way. How to make this whole thing work... [...]

[Péter Molnár] Let me stress again that in my opinion what we have here is largely or perhaps completely a question of attitudes [...]
It seems that it might be more efficient and might attract sympathy in a wider circle if we adopted a shift in attitudes like this because it’s a good starting position and doesn’t involve any cynicism and tricks, any cleverness in a negative sense, but it would be a genuine shift of attitude, even though in the case of Artpool, for example, it’s about money. [...]

full text and audio of the symposium (2) in Hungarian