I was selected to participate in the inaugural East Calls Curatorial Residency in Budapest, Hungary organized by East Topics. It is an honor to be one of the chosen curators from over fifty international applicants and an immense pleasure to share this intensive experience with my cohorts from around the world.
Our group, the twelve (as referred to by the local art community during the East Topics opening reception) seems to have been carefully selected to represent diverse parts of the global art perspective. Ann Mirjam Vaikla, academically trained in scenography, is the Director of Narva Art Residency based in Estonia. Genevieve Farrell holds a Master’s Degree in Cultural Studies and Curatorial Practices. She is currently based in Winnipeg and works at the School of Art Gallery (SoAG) at the University of Manitoba. Josh Plough is the City Curator and Editor at Onomatopee Projects in the Netherlands. Karina Cabanikova is currently based in Birmingham, UK., and earned a Master’s Degree in Contemporary Curating. Her practice to date largely focuses on Central and Eastern European political art. Salima El Aissaoui is a Curator from Morocco. She works at the Musée Mohammed VI d’Art Moderne et Contemporain and is also a first-year Ph.D. student. Her research focuses on literary influences on contemporary art. Takuya Tsutsumi is a Curator originally from Japan, who is currently working on his Master’s studies in Poland focusing on the theories of Piotr Piotrowski. Julia Korzycka is a Curator and writer from Poland who is currently based in Milan. She holds a Master’s Degree in Art History and Curation. Oleksandra Pogrebnyak is a Curator based in Ukraine and founder of the emerging artist collaborative ((Spadkoiemtsi)). Luisa Heese is a Curator at Staatliche Kunsthalle Baden-Baden in Germany. She explores the connections between art, politics and the body in a global age. Golnoosh Heshmati is from Iran and holds a Master’s Degree in Curating and Collections. In addition to being an independent Curator, she is also part of the curatorial collective, GAPS. Alex Hartstone is a Curator in the final stages of her graduate studies. Her focus is the formative roles curatorial acts play in the development, framing, and dissemination of contemporary Latin American art within national and global visual cultures.
Time is not going to allow me to give a full account of the experience here, but I aim to provide some highlights and insights into the program, as well as the art in the wonderful city of Budapest. This will be the first of the posts regarding the curatorial intensive which included: 16 studio visits and artist talks, 12 non-profit and commercial galleries, 5 museums and art institutions, multiple performances, opening receptions, 4 archive organizations, 2 speed networking sessions with artists and curators, and 1 university visit all within 2 weeks!
Monday, April 8, 2019, was our first day and it was a fantastic introduction to Budapest. Flóra Gadó Ph.D. candidate, Curator at Budapest Galéria, Board Member of FKSE, and Art Critic at artportal.hu, provided us with the general introduction to the recent history and current state of the art scene in Budapest, along with a summary of its chief cultural organizations and leaders.
Next, we had a passionate introduction to the political situation of Hungary by social psychologist and political scientist, Péter Krekó. He informed us of the current problems and the fake news phenomenon from governments interference with the media and the anti-immigrant codes distributed in the rhetoric also being put forth by the government.
Krekó’s presentation immediately resonated with me as an American. The current Hungarian situation compares to the corruption found within the United States under the Trump administration. The xenophobia-centered speech and fear-driven campaigns regarding migrants are also bombarding the visual culture. The leadership in both countries are feeding the masses a scapegoat for their woes in the comfort of the hate of the other.
In addition to the fear-driven campaigns of people crossing their borders, another similar agenda is found in both administrations via the bombardment of the fake news agendas. The perversion of the one-sided extremist news outlets is similarly, as we learned from Krekó, in Hungary and orchestrated by the government. The dangerous repercussions of the slanted media stations and proclamations of fake news are that the general public has been convinced that all news sources are not credible information. As a result, even independent outlets with powerful investigative journalism are now questioned and diminished in importance. Amazing how two countries with such different political histories could hold these similar comparisons of media scandals and hate of the other put forth by the government.
On our second day, we visited János Szoboszlai the head of the department of Contemporary Art Theory and Curatorial Studies at the Hungarian University of Fine Arts. My mind was blown. Not only is the building of the University absolutely gorgeous, but Szoboszlai shared with us the reader for the undergraduate program—adding significantly to my reading list created from this curatorial intensive. It was awe-inspiring what the students are learning in an undergraduate program.
He also gave us insights to the government’s changes implemented in the curriculum such as the removal of the Master’s program in Curatorial Studies, which was the only in Budapest. Now students must leave the country for these pursuits. We met several students with aspirations to go to France or the U.S. next. However, good news for Americans … they are currently building an international degree program which will be taught in English at this beautiful University.
We were also able to do studio visits with some of the fine art students.
Later that day, our group visited Vintage Gallery, and I was equally impressed. This is a beautiful space tucked away across the street from a park. The owner Attila Pöcze greeted us and explained his gallery program with its stern scholarly approach. Pöcze is the first gallerist I have ever met who does not collect art himself. He considers it a conflict of interest and wishes to serve the collectors and aid in the art historical record. (Curators at institutions are not allowed to collect the area in which they work, but this standard usually is never held to gallerists.) His program displays a keen interest in photography, neo-avant-garde of the 60s and 70s, publications, and attending international and regional art fairs.
We also met Gergely Nagy who is a journalist and editor of Artportal Contemporary Art, a noteworthy network of international art criticism.
And the day wrapped up with a visit on the Buda side with Alexander Tinei. A Moldovan artist living and working in Budapest, he has a studio with a view and an expressive figurative practice.
View from Alexander Tinei’s studio!