Reimagining the near past and constructing local identities. A Fulbright project by Linnea West (2012-13)
People often ask me how I, an American arts and culture blogger, ended up in Budapest, Hungary for the 2012/2013 year doing a project on national identity in contemporary Hungarian art. I initially became interested in Hungarian art through research for the contemporary art blog, Art Ravels, that I have been writing in New York. I blog there about the arts and culture I come across in my life in New York, so, as you can imagine, a huge and diverse exposure to many things. More and more I found it a fantastic medium to work through my own reactions and thoughts about artwork I encountered, but also to start a dialogue, whether what I am sharing is something new or something that others can tell me about. Through research into Fluxus art I came across the work of Szentjóby Támas, and from other Hungarian artists. My curiosity was further piqued by Péter Forgács’s exhibition of The Danube Exodus at the Jewish Museum in 2009. So I started digging a little deeper in the contemporary scene, and one hand was fascinated by what I found and on the other frustrated by the difficulty I had finding English-language information. This experience shaped the project: I want to create a useful and accessible English-language resource for this kind of information. Because of my experience as a blogger and because of the way people access information today, I felt this project might begin to fill an unmet need.
National identity is a fascinating area of focus for many reasons: it is increasingly topical and being considered from many angles. As a former Eastern Bloc country, Hungary had the opportunity to recreate itself quite recently, which makes how we construct these larger narratives about origin and nationalism especially relevant. I originally proposed a version of this project in 2009 and, after making it to the final round of an extended application process, my project was turned down. I reconsidered, edited it, and reapplied and found out in April 2012 that my proposal was accepted. Now I am so grateful to be here and finally get started!