Thursday, 11 September 2014

A Goth Tourist in Budapest: The museum of contemporary art

I intend to hold on to my words, which I stated in the previous post about writing next about an art museum I liked really much in Budapest. 

The museum is one of the youngest attractions of the beautiful city of Budapest. Ludvig Múzeum, a museum of contemporary art, moved into its current location 2005, when the whole building The Palace of Arts was opened. The Ludwig Museum takes only a part of this huge building, although the museum has exhibitions on three floors. 

Since other forms of art too take residence in the building and the architecture is very airy, people who have no ticket to the museum have an access to the floors too, so you must take good care of your ticket, because you must show it in every floor to the staff before you can go to the exhibition rooms. 

In one of the halls in front of the exhibition rooms there was a model of the Palace of Arts. 

Next to this model, shielded by glass, was a note saying this: 

Not sure what the blind are going to get, while touching that glass shield...

Unfortunately one could not frolic around the actual art museum with a camera, so I have no photos from there. I shall shortly tell about the exhibitions I saw in there and why they were so interesting. In general I find contemporary art very rewarding for the viewer, because art often reflects the world, time and place, in which it was created and that way offers a valuable "second opinion" of the world. If one tries to comprehend the world just by science, he or she is going to miss a lot about being human in the world. 

Now, about being human we have a nice little bridge to the exhibition that is still in the Ludwig Museum till the end on this month: [silence] - A Holocaust Exhibition. If you happen to live in Budapest or are visiting it before 29th of this month, I recommend to visit this exhibition. A piece of art, whether it is a painting, a video installation or a novel, can sometimes represent and pose questions and find answers a scientific document of history can not. 

I was extra interested of seeing the holocaust exhibition for one reason. During last spring I attended a course at the university of Tampere and that course was about cultural memory and the ethics of telling a story. It was a literary class and it concentrated on literature that has been written about holocaust and theories were from philosophy, culture studies, literature studies and other areas which fit the theme of how historical events can be represented in fiction and who is allowed to represent them. Jonathan Littell's novel The Kindly Ones (original title Les Bienveillantes) tells the story of a former SS officer who manages to keep himself alive while the Third Reich collapses. On our course we pondered all kinds of questions like "Is it ethically problematic if the narrator of the novel is a person who took part in a genocide and walks seemingly without punishment?" I was very interested to see what kind of questions and answers might be given when used other forms of art instead of literature. 

 To be frank, some of the works of different artists were not that interesting. I did not see them challenging the common ways of representing holocaust or saying anything else than "well, it was so hideous a thing and beyond comprehension". When I watched photos and mute videos I started to wonder, if we are still too tied into language, when we try to construct different stories (aka. representations) of history. Language is a vital tool to communicate and to ponder ethical questions so I guess I as a viewer am not that experienced to instantly understand the language of an artist, whose works I have not seen before.

Long story short, I still enjoyed that exhibition and in the museum's shop I found the postcard of Ciprian Muresan's work "Communism Never Happened" from year 2006. You can see it in the bottom part of this photo. 

When I saw that postcard in the quiet shop I instantly started laughing aloud. My mind linked it straight to the holocaust exhibition, because like holocaust, communism and especially the effects of Soviet Union to its small neighboring countries is something that is hard to represent. Also, Stalin had his own genocide in the Soviet Union and people do not tend to talk about it as much as about the genocide of Jews in Nazi-Germany. I could go on and on about this, the cultural memory and how for some reason people tend to think compassion is a limited natural resource, like one could only sympathize a limited amount of people who have been through unspeakable horrors and therefore those horrors must be compared and all the compassion is going to go to the "winner". Well, that is enough and back to art! Here is an interesting article about Ciprian Muresan, if you are interested. 

Although the [silence] - A Holocaust Exhibition ends soon, I am sure there are future exhibitions in the Ludwig Múzeum that are interesting to see too. I'll be back in two weeks with Gothic Art in Spotlight, this time probably with something surreal. Thanks for reading! :)


  1. Wow, I really want to know how that sculpture of the building works for the blind! I guess it WOULD if it wasn't covered over?

    Hate how you can't take photos in exhibitions! I get why but there have been amazing exhibitions I went to like the massive Dali one in 2007 that I can only remember vaguely like a dream! I would love some more concrete memories of the actual works!

    1. I too think that model should not be covered, otherwise there is no use. :) Oo, Dalí has some amazing works, alas, usually in guest exhibitions one can not take pics. :/ There was a exhibition of surrealism in Budapest and there were a few of Dalí's works but no photos were allowed to be taken.