Budapest, Hungary, 2007
Cast to the outskirts of the city, among the powerlines leading to Budapest, sits Memento Park. It was conceptualized to keep historical memory alive. It feels more like a graveyard of memories laid to rest.
I have come at the end of winter, when the cold keeps most people inside warm cafes sipping mulled wine and coffee. There are just a handful of people visiting. My attention is drawn to a father and his young son. The man smokes his cigarette and watches his boy happily run around lifeless figures. The statues remain expressionless and stoic. Their struggle to free the proletariat is lost on the child as he plays at their feet.
Buda and Pest were two cities with rich history who grew up facing each other from across the Danube. They rose in importance over the centuries, twin jewels in the region. At the beginning of the great Austria-Hungary Empire the twin capitals ruled together, two thrones on either side of the river.
The capital of kings eventually fell under the weight of its decadence. Communists fought for new leadership under the banner of restoring power to the people who had suffered greatly after wars and civil disputes.
Palaces were emptied of their treasures, gold stripped away and statues of kings removed. Austere decorations replaced art and memorials.
Socialist realism wants to capture the emancipation of the proletariat. With its forced optimism, grand statues idealize the elevation of an entirely new type of human being under a new society. Unfortunately, creativity is also rejected. All art resembles itself using strict codes and imagery – flowers, sunlight, the body, flight, industry, new technology.
Creativity drives innovation and progress; without it we languish
Power to the people was the motto of the time, but when the people fled to the streets to ask for democracy, they were met with rifles and gunshots. The people’s ruler fell into the same trap as kings and emperors before; to keep power free will must be suppressed.
With the fall of the Iron Curtain, the city was left to reclaim its history. Nostalgia for their regal past lead to restoration of palaces, courtyards and churches. Tourists returned to the city to see glimpses of a long and complicated past.
The guardians of the Communist dream are entombed in Memento Park where curious eyes can gaze at them as relics.
Where the working man was happy in his labor and all that he dedicated to his country.
Emancipation of the proletariat
Socialist Realism – give art to the people
With its forced optimism
42 pieces of art from 1945 to 1989
Revolutionary Romanticism to elevate the common worker, to show how society should function and create an entirely new type of human being