Hungarian Watch

New York & Baltimore solidarity events this week

In Uncategorized on March 5, 2012 at 5:44 pm


Árpád Schilling/Krétakör with Andrea Tompa (Hungary):

March 7th: Theatre as Civic Response

The Martin E. Segal Theatre Center’s Spring 2012 season of programs kicks off with a day with Árpád Schilling, Hungarian director of the internationally renowned Krétakör company, and leading Hungarian theatre critic Andrea Tompa. Schilling will present his oeuvre, including traditional theatre—like seminal productions Woyzeck and BLACKland—and the communally constructed performances his company has been devising since 2008. Schilling and Tompa (head of the Hungarian Theatre Critics Association) will discuss how today’s Hungary—with its creeping radicalism, rewritten constitution and diminishing artistic freedoms—cries out for new forms.

Film screenings at 3pm: BLACKland (Krétakör performance, 2004); Urbanrabbits (cirque collaboration, 2009); New Spectator (community project by Krétakör)

Discussion with Schilling & Tompa at 6:30pm

Martin E. Segal Theatre, The Graduate Center, CUNY
365 Fifth Ave at 34th St.

Free! First come, first served.



March 9: The Dismantling of Hungarian Theatre

Andrea Tompa, Prominent Hungarian Theatre Critic and Writer, to Speak About Hungarian Political Situation and the Plight of Hungary’s Theatres and Writers

Friday, March 9 at 7 PM at CENTERSTAGE

Event Partners:
Baltimore Open Theatre
Center for International Theatre Development
CityLit Project

To Reserve Free Tickets Online click here

Playing politics with the arts

In Uncategorized on March 5, 2012 at 5:21 pm

The Art Newspaper is reporting what we already know…Hungarian artists and arts organizations are under siege.

In an article straightforwardly titled Hungary’s government tightens grip on arts, Julia Michalska describes the systematic dismantling of Hungary’s arts leadership, be they people or places, by Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and his majority Fidesz government.  The goal being to silence traditionally oppositional voices and to create a path toward what Orbán calls “a new, modern, right-wing culture.”

It’s one thing for a majority government to assert power over cultural life, threaten the arts sector, and replace leaders with party insiders; it’s another thing for a pseudo dictatorship to form in the heart of Europe without a wave of outrage coming from the EU.

Now Orbán is playing politics with some of the major arts organizations in the country.  To help celebrate the inauguration of the much contested, new Hungarian constitution in January, Orbán’s government organized an exhibition celebrating 1,000 years of Hungarian history.

“The show includes 15 large state-commissioned canvases depicting important historic events spanning 150 years, including an image of Orban. The event contributed to the decision by the National Gallery’s director, Ferenc Csak, to resign before the show opened. ‘The government shouldn’t have the power to order exhibitions with such a high political agenda. Museums shouldn’t be getting involved in politics,’ says Csak.”

Internationally respected curator György Szabó has been ousted as the director of Trafó House of Contemporary Arts.  The official Hungarian dubbed voice of Bruce Willis, György Dörner, will be the new director of Budapest’s Új Színház (New Theater), and will rename it the Hinterland Theater because, according his proposal for the position, what is new is not necessarily good, especially “in the degenerate sick liberal hegemony”.

If you hate liberals and write proposals filled with anti-Semitic vitriol, the government will reward you with your own theater.  Additionally, the Hungarian government would very much like to make sure that the world knows Hungary had no involvement in the Holocaust.



“A row broke out in March last year over an image of Hungary’s interwar leader, Miklos Horthy, at the Holocaust Memorial Centre.

The state secretary, Andras Levente Gal, said that the picture unjustifiably linked Hungary to the deportation of Jews to Nazi concentration camps and asked that the display be ‘re-evaluated’. ‘This kind of historical inaccuracy creates unnecessary tension,’ Gal said. His remarks prompted an outcry among some historians and the liberal press. Matters deteriorated when the government relieved Laszlo Harsanyi, the director of the centre, and his chief historical adviser, Judit Molnar, of their positions. ‘We could not change the permanent exhibition to align with the new political expectations since we regard that as a falsification of history,’ Molnar says. In response to their departure, 42 historians and social scientists published an open letter criticising statements in the new constitution.”

“…unjustifiably linked Hungary to the deportation of Jews to Nazi concentration camps..”

So, Hungarian Jews were not deported to Nazi concentration camps?  That’s the party line now? And museum officials will be fired if they don’t tow that line?

Now is not a fortuitous time to be an arts leader with a conscience in Hungary…


The New York Times is talking Hungary…

In Uncategorized on January 22, 2012 at 10:58 am

Here are the two newest New York Times articles on the increasingly dire situation in Hungary:

Hungary’s Junk Democracy by Gyorgy Konrad  (a scathing op-ed about the over-reach of Hungary’s new Constitution, it’s impact on the Hungarian people, and the downgrading of Hungary’s debt by 3 leading credit rating institutions as “junk. A junk country, with a junk administration and a junk prime minister.”)

Hungary Misunderstood by Kim Lane Scheppele  (Thank you for bringing her to our attention, Paul Krugman!)

Ms. Scheppele is going to be in Budapest this week giving public lectures. If you are in Budapest and have the opportunity to see her speak, please do.

Her article begins…

“On Tuesday, January 17, the European Commission launched an urgent “infringement procedure” against Hungary for violating EU treaties with its new laws. On Wednesday, January 18, Viktor Orbán dramatically appeared before the European Parliament to defend his country’s new constitutional order.
Orbán’s defense could have been guessed in advance from what Fidesz government officials have been saying for weeks as they fanned out around the world to explain why they rewrote the Hungarian constitution. They claim that they have been misunderstood. And they repeatedly say that their many foreign critics do not understand Hungary.
In this post, I will take up the most frequent arguments that the government has made in its own defense. And, as I will show, its explanations for the new constitutional order are not credible.

The main government explanations are:
1. Fidesz has a popular mandate for change and democracy requires a government to give the public what it wants.

2. Fidesz has consulted with the public about the constitution and this is the constitution that the public approved.

3. Fidesz has consulted with European agencies and they have approved, too.

4. Fidesz is replacing a communist constitution, and finally closing the chapter on the communist period.

5. Fidesz is acting on the basis of Christian principles, like other states within Europe.

6. Everything in the new constitutional order can be found in other European countries.

I will take up each of these in turn.”

Do yourself a favor and read the full article.  Her talent for de-bunking is masterful.




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