Barnabás Bencsik about the exhibition
“Memory is life, borne by living societies founded in its name. ... History, on the other hand, is the reconstruction, always problematic and incomplete, of what is no longer.”
“While the collective memory endures and draws strength from its base in a coherent body of people, it is individuals as group members who remember.”
The exhibition entitled Lost Stories is intending to investigate the various phenomena, forms and practices of both the collective remembering and the historical amnesia, the individual and collective endeavor for producing and reproducing personal and historical memories opposing the willful oblivion enforced by ideological and political apparatus.
The artists from the countries of this region of the former Austro-Hungarian Monarchy analyze the psychological, social, and esthetical features of the private and collective memories reflecting on their recent past and the socio-cultural upheavals within their own shifting societies.
To remember is always to give a reading of the past, a reading which requires skills of imagination – both verbal and visual – derived from the traditions of story-telling within a culture and which presents issues in a narrative that owes its meaning ultimately to the interpretative practices of a community of speakers. When what is remembered is one's own past experience, the mental image of the past becomes a phenomenon of consciousness only when conveyed by words, images and other symbolic forms and these owe their meaning to practices of social interactions. On the contrary history starts when social memory and continuous tradition stop operating and dissolve. History is a science and as such only for a few, while the collective memory of the past is shared by the different layers of community. Furthermore the history in this region is regularly exploited by ideological aims and political reasons and used to construct national myths for mass manipulation. Through the critical approach and apparent subjectivity of the contemporary art practice can provide us an insightful and unbiased investigation to overstep the controversy between the different interpretations of nationalistic ideology, ethnic prepossession, false convictions and even can act against oblivion of traumatic events.
The stormy history in the last century of the this part of Europe, – which has even nor clear geographical outline, nor exact name, just approximate circumscription determined by various ideological preconception i.e.: Mitteleuropa, Zwischeneurope, Central-East Europe, Eastern Europe etc. – challenged the stamina of societies to endure the constant transitions of state ideology, the continuous shifting of political and administrative powers, the cultural and economical privation, the permanent, rapid and massive transformations of the structure of local communities over generations. The geopolitical topography of the central region of Europe was several times completely re-designed by the power states. The historical changing was executed mostly without the real involvement and active participation of the wider population of the lands. The history just happened with the defenseless people. And this human experience became the most relevant existential lesson for generations throughout the 20th century in the Central European region. The permanent transitional conditions in all field of social, political, economical and cultural realm of everyday life profoundly determined the habit and the collective consciousness of the societies.
The artists in the Lost Stories exhibition excavating hidden and forgotten stories, painful human fates from the last century before falling into oblivion. The remembering and suppression of collective traumas, conflicts and hostilities, the different level of memories, the ideological manipulations, the controversial relation between the individual experiences, the personal stories and the officially constructed narratives in different periods are in the focus of the artistic investigations.
Barnabás Bencsik (1964) – curator, lives and works in Budapest. He earned his degree in literature and history, later in history of art from the ELTE University Budapest. He became involved in the changing period of the Hungarian post-communist art scene from the early ‘90s. From 1990 to 1999s he ran the Studio Gallery, Budapest exhibition venue of the Studio of Young Artists Association. Parallel to that he was visual arts program-coordinator at Soros Center for Contemporary Arts-Budapest between 1993–1995, when the CEE network of offices were established. He worked as the head of the Trafó Gallery, Budapest (1999–2001) and as chief curator in Műcsarnok|Kunsthalle, where he contributed to the project at the Hungarian Pavilion of 49th Venice Biennale. In 2001, he started to work as the artistic director of MEO–Contemporary Art Collection, Budapest and from 2002 he acted as an independent curator. Since than, time he has been involved in various visual art projects and exhibitions. He initiated and, from 2006 is the director of ACAX|Agency for Contemporary Art Exchange (acax.hu), which is an office working to support and develop various types of cooperation between the local and the international art scene. In March 2008, he was appointed as director of Ludwig Museum–Museum of Contemporary Art, Budapest. He is the author of several publications on contemporary art in both Hungarian and international magazines, as well as exhibition catalogues.