“It’s not enough to have talent, you also have to be Hungarian” – said Robert Capa, one of the most famous Hungarian-Americans. Inspired by his words, seven members of the Studio of Young Photographers set out on a journey to survey the Hungarian community in New York.
Is the attraction of the American dream justified in the capital of the world? How did Hungarians get there and do they still speak their mother tongue? Do grandchildren understand the words of their grandparents? Do they suffer from homesickness and what do they miss the most from home? Which home? Have they adapted themselves, have they been assimilated or do they remain “average Hungarians”? And what are Hungarian scouts looking for in the wilderness and what are Hungarians looking for in New York?
Seven young Hungarian photographers spent three weeks in September 2014 in New York and they were looking for answers to these and some similar questions or more correctly they were rather looking for new questions. The exhibition, consisting of their photographs, videos and texts is shown to the Hungarian public for the first time. Their future plans include providing an opportunity to Hungarians who live in New York for also seeing these works. The idea of the project came from Zsuzsa Bakonyi and Zsófia Pályi, who received a grant for their fieldwork through a cultural grant application announced by the Hungary Initiatives Foundation.
Bernadett Alpern and Dániel Halász met with the major Hungarian figures of art in New York – including artists András Böröcz and Tamás Vészi, art historian and teacher Ágnes Berecz, dancer and ballet critic Suzanne K. Walther – and interviewed them about the beginning of their stay in New York and their relationship with Hungary. Besides taking their portraits, video reports were also made with the artists, asking them what they missed from Hungary. They had one minute to think about the question before having to answer. The videos only show that one minute.
Bálint Hirling explored the subject of Hungarian scouts. Scouting is one of the most important forces to preserve and create the community of Hungarians who are getting continuously assimilated. In this community, it is not rare to see that all three generations are members of the organization, but the young people are rather attracted by the exciting world of scouting instead of easing their homesickness.
Zsuzsa Bakonyi talked to couples living in and around New York, where at least one of the partners regarded him- or herself Hungarian. Some of them have been in America for a few years and others are already third-generation immigrants. Some of them came here on their own free will, others were taken by their hand from the homeland in 1956. Some of them teach Hungarian sayings to their grandchildren, others only speak broken Hungarian. Through the diverse couples and life stories, Zsuzsa Bakonyi is looking for an answer to the question what can be preserved from the Hungarian identity and how “being Hungarian” changes within the history of a family.
Máté Bartha explored the average Hungarian, the average New Yorker, investigating why they turn their back on their homeland and why they avoid each other in their new country. With the interviews, he would like to unravel stereotypes, identities, and the texture of criticism on Hungary and America.
Zsófia Pályi looks at the issue of assimilation in the case of Hungarians in the New World. The pictures of identity preservation and identity loss appear as counter-poles and raise new questions. What does the Kossuth Street sign mean in the houses where the earlier Hungarian residents have been replaced by Hispanic immigrants? Why do the children and the grandchildren of immigrants struggle with learning the Hungarian words of the folk song “The Grapes are Ripening,” when they speak English with their friends in school-breaks?
The series of Éva Szombat shows how immigration may lead to the achievement of self-realization through the examples of two dancers. Her pictures are printed on banners and they show how everyday Hungarian objects and symbols are distorted when they are taken out of their original geographical and social context.
The Studio of Young Photographers was founded in 1977 and it is one of the most influential organizations of young Hungarian photographers. It helps artists, art historians and curators, who are at the beginning of their career by providing professional opportunities: exhibitions, workshops, theoretical trainings, a Hungarian and international network. The organization lays great emphasis on integration into the international art scene.
Robert Capa Contemporary Photography Centre, Budapest 1065, Nagymező u. 8.
01/12/2014 – 18/01/2015, open every day from 11 am to 7 pm
photo: kulturpart.hu/Zsófia Pályi