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The Finale

The last and largest-scale happening at Boglár was a real staged/conceptual event. It mostly resembled a film shoot without cameras. The ‘actors’ - policemen, soldiers, investigators, high-ranking officials, subordinates, blue-collar workers, a radio reporter, a few friends and tourists who happened to be there – played their roles according to the ‘script’. There was no audience, which is why this ‘play’ could become a staged/conceptual event.

According to Joseph Kosuth, “The audience of conceptual art is primarily constituted by the artists – which means that there is no audience separate from the participants. Thus, art in a certain sense becomes just as »serious« as the sciences and philosophy, which do not have audiences either.  The extent to which it is interesting or uninteresting depends on whether someone is informed or not.”[1]

The concept of culture intelligence emerged slowly amidst the cast iron rules of law enforcement. By the beginning of the fourth summer at Balatonboglár, however, the method of open measures had been made apparent and the script for the closing event could be written. During the summer, due to lack of time, all the possible public offices and authorities conspired against me, as if they were driven by a kind of nervous compulsion. There were some curious incidents: for example, the district insurance company ‘found out’ about a prohibitive order issued by the local authority and terminated my insurance policy taken out for the chapel and the crypt, which they had strangely found to be regular for the previous six years. They were reluctant to sign any new policy with me and informed the first secretary of the county party organization that I had ‘discontinued’ my policy. (I actually settled the matter by taking out a policy with an insurance company in Budapest.) The police did not investigate the break-in into the crypt with the justification that the crypt was not included in my lease agreement, but they should have done so since it was covered by the insurance policy. They then informed the first secretary of the county party organization that they had not carried out an investigation because they believed that my friends were responsible for the break-in. At the same time, the fire department fined me for keeping a gas cylinder in the ‘non-leased’ crypt, justifying the decision by saying that it was illegal to store gas cylinders in an underground location, although the crypt was not below ground level but opened from the hillside. The most interesting incident concerned my “construction without a permit”. In the countryside, the only condition of occupancy is the presence of a “dug pit outhouse”, i.e. a loo, so, logically, the first authority to survey the site was Köjál (National Public Health and Medical Officer Service), which concluded that there was no outhouse and that the facility was therefore unfit for use. A year before I had already invented the ‘mobile loo’, which – due to the unexpectedness of the spot-check – I had had no chance to set up by then. The operational mechanism of the mobile loo is the following: a pit is dug, above which a chipboard box with a seat and a door and open at the bottom is placed. When the pit is full, it is covered with earth and the box is moved above another pit. So I announced that, complying with the requirements made by Köjál, they could come for a survey. After this, however, the construction authority ordered the demolition of the building saying “it was built without a permit” and in the end they fined me. It was just icing on the cake that in their efforts to cunningly terminate my lease, the police recorded in an official document that “the faithful had been shocked”, yet the parish priest had not mentioned any problems. I collected some forty such “violations of the law” at the time but let me stop here. These “mistakes” provided the content of my appeals. The only means in my tactics of playing for time was the precise meeting of the deadlines, which enabled me to practically prevent the activists of the cultural intelligence unit from wrecking the summer program.

I think that in the course of the four years, there were at least as many officials allocated to the chapel project as there were participant artists. The last (administrative/police) happening had as many players as the audience that appeared at the best art event earlier on. However, this balance in numbers doesn’t faithfully reflect the real power relations, since the innocent and heroic attempts of the counterculture we represented came up against the penetrating methods of the cultural intelligence unit.

The call addressed to the operatives in the 80s said: “...operative prevention, disintegration, separation, isolation, inciting discord as well as exploiting and deepening existing divisions and discrediting leaders, etc. are to be used besides open measures […] use the non-political criminal acts, violations of rules, etc. committed by the hostile persons and groups in order to abuse their reputations.”[2]

The theme of the ‘last happening’ was forced eviction justified by the violation of construction law. Prior to the event, the author of the performance – the ‘construction-officer’ építés-rend-ész (the technical administrator of the Construction Administration Department of the District Council’s Central Committee) – established that the facility (the chapel and the crypt) was being used by György Galántai “without an occupancy permit in a way contrary to its designated use”. Therefore, he issued an order to the lessee to “discontinue the present use of the chapel”. According to the explanation, “the facility is unfit for continued human occupancy, therefore, no permit can be issued for its present use, […] insofar as the facility is used […] without an occupancy permit, the user can be obligated to terminate above use”.[3]

According to the script, the first scene of the last happening was the ‘procession’ of the authority. However, due to an organizational hitch, the participants of this scene – the masons responsible for walling up the facility – arrived way ahead of the scheduled time. On the other hand, this provided an excellent opportunity for a reporter from Hungarian Radio, who was also present at the event, to conduct an interview with the builders. (The interview, which was never broadcast, met an unfortunate end, because the reporter, Szilárd Nyakas – whose vice was not only that he came to Boglár but also that he arrived in the car of a foreign national, which qualified as a “minor offence”, for which he was later dismissed from his workplace.) The entry scene was photographed by Gábor Dobos, who worked at the television as a cinematographer at the time and was also sacked, although, as far as I know, his only crime was that his identity had been checked at the site of such an event. He salvaged his shots by taking the film out of his camera before the police arrived and buried them in the soil by digging a hole with his bare hands.

We had been waiting for the only truly spectacular scene of the performance, i.e. the convoy proceeding up the road, for half an hour. Then the convoy came into sight as it was advancing slowly and almost solemnly and wrapped in a cloud of dust like in war films. There were seven cars in the convoy: three jeeps and four passenger cars. Reaching the hillside, they each turned onto the clearing above the chapel and pulled up next to one another, smoothly and precisely, just like in films. The shock-brigade of policemen and soldiers (ca. 20 persons) got out of the jeeps in quick succession and immediately lined up in an extended order to surround and comb the hill both to the left and right. Then they returned with a few tourists who happened to be in the area. The police herded the tourists over to the fireplace, body checked them, and took the films out of their cameras. After the protruded process of carrying out identity checks and recording data, the policemen and the soldiers left unnoticed. However, I was the one who had to send away the tourists – on an official order – because they counted as an audience, which would have made the event illegal.

In the meantime, the ‘plain clothes’ comrades also got out of the official cars: they were the administrators sent by the county and the district authorities. They even brought typewriters with them and – resembling a spontaneously organized picnic – the next scene of the forced eviction ensued. The protagonist – besides me – was the first secretary of the county party organization. He was a heavily built, strong, healthy and corpulent man with a round head and tidily combed hair cropped on the sides. He was wearing an ironed and stiffened snow-white linen shirt with rolled up sleeves, dark blue or grey crinkle proof trousers and shiny black shoes. The county’s number one personality approached me with a look of responsibility on his face and greeted me in a friendly way, as if he had wanted to “open” the next event. My only, best, outfit was composed of a white T-shirt – instead of a shirt – which was slightly tattered and washed threadbare. My knees showed from my frayed jeans hanging on me and held together by a pair of braces. I was wearing the homemade sandals I got as a present from Andrea Bősze when my only previous footwear, a pair of Vietnamese rubber flip-flops, had become unwearable. My long hair and beard, combed with my hands, had been bleached blond by the sun. I naturally complemented my poor looks with my behavior and expressed the elegant view of mine that what was – in reality – happening there and then, constituted ‘art’ for me. My shaking hands with the well-to-do party secretary – looking at it from inside a film, it was a meeting of two distant cultures – must have been a peculiar sight. The party secretary asked two questions: had I received the enforcement minutes and would I subject myself to the procedure? Since I could only answer yes to both questions, preserving my nonchalance, I first asked him in a friendly manner – as if the matter did not concern me – if there was another option (for me). He said no, also in a friendly manner. Then almost everything went smoothly.

I don’t know if it was part of the script but in any case, two plain clothes detectives looked through all my papers in the chapel (letters, notes, books etc.), or to use their terminology, they executed a house search. As I later found out, they were looking for hard currency, since one of the wise clerks thought that the reason I was doing so well and still surviving was due to the support sent to me by the capitalists from the West. At this point in time I was actually on my last legs, I was skin and bones, and my teeth had become loose, etc. As a second scene of the house search, two policemen, who stayed behind unnoticed, were about to go down to the cellar but fortunately I noticed them in time and quickly went after them to keep an eye on them. They turned everything I had there upside down, such as the mattresses and the cables, and checked behind every nook and cranny. I was constantly watching their hands to make sure they did not plant any evidence in there that they would later on ‘discover’. I tried not to think about them being able to do that and if that was their agenda, since it was the two of them against me... In my imagination they had more opportunity to do this than they realized. They didn’t say a word, nor did I, and only the noise made by the objects broke the silence. They didn’t find anything. In an artistic sense the scene could be called movement theatre, i.e. as being connected to objects.

The finale consisted of two parts: the first one was the closing scene acted by the walling-up brigade. The workers took all the objects from the crypt to the chapel and started to wall up the crypt door. In the meantime, the other ‘closing scene’ also ensued, the beauty of which was that the same locksmith who made the iron bars for the crypt to protect it against burglars was now fitting a thick band-iron – metaphorically against me – onto the same door to execute the official shutdown of the chapel. The stout, strong iron bolt was fitted with two tiny locks – there was nothing bigger available at the time. One of the little locks symbolized me and the other the authorities; we were only allowed to open the door together. This made absolutely no sense but since the ‘construction-officer’ thought it did, he wrote the script accordingly and it had to be followed.

To this very day I regard Balatonboglár as my second college, which was far more important than my first one because it gave me the opportunity to rid myself of all the unnecessary knowledge in my mind and it also taught me about ‘all-art’. Every object – not only works of art but every object created by man – has content, regardless of its function, that refers to the time, the place and its maker at once. This is not new since many scholars researching the objects of old periods maintain the same. The novelty of my approach is that I extended this principle to every artistic and non-artistic product of the present, as I did in my presentation of the chapel project. My method is essay-like, so it can be argued again that it is not something new. Yet, the novelty of it is that I swap around the non-related aspects of various views of life in such a way that connections form between things and meanings distant from one another. It is easy to discover that even this approach is not entirely new, but in a newer, i.e. Flusserian sense, this is an assembling (computing) reading mode, which is why I write down things as if I was reading them. I’m not reading texts but meanings. In this reading mode anything can be connected with anything else if at least one of its points justifies it.

Finally, let me give an account of my last culturo-pathographic memory related to the conversion ‘in the spirit of socialism’ of the chapel building, which is still extant today, perhaps in the form of a listed building. Thus the starting point – my favorite quote – is taken from Nóra Aradi’s book titled Symbols in Socialist Fine Art: “…therefore, the starting point can only be a complexity of social experiences that entails sensory and visual experiences alike.”[4] After the chapel was appropriated by the state, its conversion lent ‘the spirit of cultural policy’ an architectural expression. According to the architectural concept of this policy, the building primarily needed to be deprived of its “sacred symbolism”. This task was given to an interior architect, who designed the outer walls of the chapel with a blue that was used on buses at the time and the roof became banana yellow. This loud and glittering color scheme transformed the meaning of the building so much that it even “roused indignation in [the Catholic Church and] the faithful” - which was ignored.

The chapel presents a sight that cannot be missed, even from a considerable distance, by people bathing in Lake Balaton. Seen from afar, the tiny dark blue chapel with a greenish-yellow roof resembles a cheap souvenir, whatchamacallit, trinket, knick-knack, a bob. From close-up, it is like a fairground sideshow construction ‘enriched’ by the ornamentation of pseudo tulip-like motifs on the hardwood door and the window-grate. The old wooden fence with stone pillars by the side of the footpath leading up to the entrance of the chapel was replaced by a fence made in the style of tourist shelters from densely joined logs. Night lighting is provided by massive, imposing reflectors fitted onto iron structures on the two sides behind the log fence. The interior of the chapel reflects the same concept. The originally beautiful acoustics were wiped out by replacing the brick flooring with a wooden floor. The original space of the chapel was turned into a marketplace pavilion by covering up the interior architecture with folding screens. They successfully reduced the floor space of the little chapel to two-thirds by securing the screens – placed at a sufficient distance from the walls – with cumbersome fittings around the interior. The supporting structure had another function too: the oversized chandeliers, which happened to be available at the time, were mounted onto it. They succeeded: “this chapel” is in fact “not that chapel”.

(Budapest, 2002)

“The pavilion is not visible from here.
I am afraid that there are snakes between the trees.”

[1] Joseph Kosuth: Művészeti tanulmányok [Studies on Art], Knoll Galerie, Wien–Budapest, 1992.
[2] Gábor Kiszely: Állambiztonság 1956–1990 [State Security 1956-1990]. Korona Kiadó, Budapest, 2001, p. 270.
[3] T/6/1973. Doc. no. 78.
[4] Nóra Aradi: op. cit. p. 14.
[5] Gergely Molnár, Dream Power. Galántai-kiállítás New Yorkban [Galántai Exhibition in New York], 1973. In: AL 5, summer 1983, pp. 2–5. (English translation by Adele Eisenstein)

[The chapel project]   [Reality and dreams]   [The trial year]   [The year of everyone]
[The year of the paradigm shift]   [The last kick-off year]   [The Finale]