Dóra MAURER: Once we went (photo actions) May 1972

Spontaneous actions in the chapel about which Dóra Maurer makes a series of photographs under the title “Once we went”. Participants: Miklós Erdély, Tibor Gáyor, György Jovánovics, Dóra Maurer, Tamás Szentjóby.

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An interview with Dóra Maurer (1998): “I think it was Miki Erdély's or Tamás Szentjóby's idea that we should go to Balatonboglár in May 1972. We asked Galántai for the key to the chapel and shot 36 photos - the full capacity of a camera - on the square and the ideas we had around the chapel. That was when the photo series was made. It was Jován's idea.

There was a grid put across the chapel door, originally from a fence, but applied horizontally and not vertically. Jován stood on it, and the others automatically began to find their places, too. Szentjóby lay down on a branch and stuffed his long hair into his shirt, so his hair was not floating like Jován's in the photo. Erdély placed himself in the door, bent over, as if he had been glancing out from there, while Tibor lay on the ground, as if that had been another direction, too, and only the smoke of his cigarette revealed where upwards was. Erdély held up a poppy and said that if we photographed it, it might look as if it were the chapel bell. Then they were jumping down from a bench, Erdély, Tibor and I think Jován, too, as if they were jumping on top of the Badacsony, that is, as if they had been touching the mountain with the shape of their bodies.

It was during this time that the Marx-Engels-Lenin-Stalin parody and other similar works were made; for example, I sat in the alcove posing as the Madonna and standing around me posing as saints were Jovánovics, Gáyor and Szentjóby. […] I enlarged two series of photographs: Galántai has one of them and the other is at the Hungarian National Gallery, in a cassette for which there is a cassette recorder too. The cassette tape contains the recording of Tamás Szentjóby reciting the poem titled “Once we went…”

Interview with György Jovánovics (1998): “This work was my idea but Dóra Maurer made the photographic series. In fact the project has many authors after all because the final work incorporates ideas added by Miklós Erdély, Tibor Gáyor and Tamás és Szentjóby too.

What actually happened was that the four, I mean five of us – me, Dóra Maurer and three of my above-mentioned friends – were approaching the chapel door. I noticed that the improvised security bars on the door was a piece from a wrought-iron decorative fence with lance motifs, which was turned at a 90 degree angle. In order to demonstrate my idea to my friends optically, I jumped to the bars and pulled myself up into a horizontal position. I remember that when Dóra photographed me first, Miklós laid down on the ground, concealed his body from the waist down with the church interior and assumed a pose as if he was positioned at 90 degrees too and talking to us from a pit.

I found out about the two most brilliant ideas – those by Tibor Gáyor and Tamás Szentjóby – only later because I couldn’t see them at all during the action. Szentjóby introduced a Tintorettoesque aspect in the project as he was hovering upside down while reading a book. He’s falling through the foliage and about to be spiked into the ground head first. But I found Tibor Gáyor’s addition even more interesting as he appeared in the photo smoking away, evoking a carefree summer ease and the genteel nonchalance of the early 20th century. He is observing Lake Balaton or the flight of butterflies, his cigarette is half-smoked and he peeks out from behind a tree with an expression of utmost peace.

What is amazing is that in reality Gáyor was lying on his back in the thicket. His wife, Dóra Maurer, took a shot of Tibor’s profile and the front part of his shoulders and chest but I think even she didn’t think she would create such an effect. We can see a fantastic image of calmness standing still, as Gáyor is lying on his back in a dirty, neglected thicket. Dóra always told me that she was publishing my idea, she almost said my photo, when in reality she took them but everyone added their own ideas.”