Lakner László: Identity I. (Rope), 1969, oil on canvas, 120 × 50 cm; rope: 159 × 54 cm
The work of László Lakner entitled Identity I. (Rope) was shown first at the second Iparterv exhibition, which is known as one of the most important manifestations of the Hungarian neoavantgarde. The work consists of two parts: one of the panels is formed by a piece of rope vertically stretched to a frame; the second panel is a painted depiction of a similarly sized and positioned piece of rope. The painted panel is framed as well, but a little shorter in length. The painted rope is depicted realistically and in detail. Its colour is a little darker than the object, and it is a little curvier. The painted part is a little bit splattered at some places, and this, together with the slight curvature, creates a sense of a slam, a hit. The painted rope rolls to the left, the real rope rolls to the right.The diptych composition can be interpreted as a depiction of the relationships between original and copy, representation and model, object and print, reality and imitation with sensual means. The rough presence of the hemp-rope and the detailed, almost photorealist, but still dynamic diction of the painted rope creates tension, as does the similar, but slightly different positioning of the two. The rope as a symbol and as an object can activate the cultural memory of the viewer (it can refer to sailing or to hanging), but at the same time, it reflects on the conceptual question of vision-based imaging, the identity of art with traditional painterly means. This “one fire drives out another’s burning” momentum alone makes this conceptual work peculiar.
The film is about a group of young artists and intellectuals (called Muskátli’s group), which was named after a café in Budapest that was their favourite meeting point in the city centre. The first part of the movie focuses on dr. László Végh, who was a physician and an avant-garde musician at the same time and also the protagonist of the circle. The interviewees remember the extravagant activity of dr. László Végh (e.g. playing experimental music) and the group, followed by official footage that shows the parallel structures of the socialist regime (this method was also used in the other parts of the series).
The second part of the movie presents the artistic and community salon of Pál Petrigalla. After the revolution of 1956, Petrigalla began to organize musical and (beginning in the 1960s) literary and other artistic events in his private apartment, which was located in a central neighbourhood of the city (close to the House of Parliament, the Soviet Memorial, and the American Embassy). Around these events, a community was established (with cc. 150-200 members). In many respects, Petrigalla was ahead of his time. He was a forerunner for the cultural centre directors who in the late 1960s provided space for artistic projects and exhibitions which did not belong to the realm of supported art, but could be categorized as tolerated or prohibited.
The third part of Kisfaludy’s movie begins with the memories of boat trips that are interpreted by the participants as a form of cultural escapism (cultural resistance). This section also concentrates on the intergenerational relationships between the representatives of the (old) classical avant-garde (e.g. Lajos Kassák, Dezső Korniss, etc.) and (young) neo-avant-garde as a personal, political and aesthetical connection. Another important aspect was the influence of contemporary western movies, especially French cinema (nouvelle vague), which was very appealing to young intellectuals. Later, many of the members of the group became film directors or worked in movie production.
The interviewees also talk about an emblematic new year’s eve party, which lasted almost 10 days at a private apartment. As the participants mention, over the course of these ten days people engaged in subversive activities. Even French photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson made an appearance at the party.
Törvénytelen muskátli follows historical chronology. This part covers the revolt of 1968. The problem of political engagement came up in the interviews. Interestingly, most of the speakers interpret their own (cultural) activities in a historical context. Following the logic of this narrative, these activities were against the dominant ideology, but not directly political. According to the interpretations given by the participants, "it was cultural resistance.”
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