We continue our conversations with the artists where we left off a week before: in our second round of mini interviews we were interested in what kind of experiences they gained during the second week, this time spent in Moss and Fredrikstad, structured in the same way as the week spent in Budapest. More visits at sites, a two-day symposium, all at a furious pace. We asked the artists about what they got out of the second week, what changed for them and what they expect during the remainder of project. What is the difference between the Hungarian and Norwegian situation? And the thing almost everyone wanted to talk about: what kind of effect will the presentations or artistic projects of the Norwegian workshop in March have on the public presentations in Budapest at the end of April?
Naja Lee JENSEN
It has become clearer to me what I want to achieve in these two projects. I had to realize how very different the Hungarian and the Norwegian roads are. The main difference is that we live in different realities. I was surprised that Dávid [Dávid Somló – editor’s note] wanted to do a more political project here, while I had the same feeling in Csepel. For me as an outsider it seemed more urgent to interact there, but here I just say it’s OK, nothing can be changed so easily. It has been a hard week, or better to say, two weeks. It also makes me happy that this is a nice group of people, the atmosphere is very warm and generous. When you work as a freelance artist, you usually don’t have the opportunity to have the kind of stimulation that we got here at the symposium. I think in the end the project can definitely be interesting.
This second week didn’t really change me in any way. I was introduced to the Norwegian context, which is very different from the Hungarian one. I was not surprised by it, I already knew this context to quite a large degree. My understanding of the project didn’t change, my approach was almost the same as last week. The two weeks we spent together started to correspond in a good way and I realized we have similar things to deal with, both good and bad. I try to think about the project on the basis of having two very different contexts and two very different goals. In Budapest we have to present something, but the Norwegian part – at least for me – is clearly a research project with an open end. Although the topic is similar, the intentions are not. What I really don’t know is how to relate these two projects. The meetings, the problems, the collaborations and everything is of course part of the PICTURE Budapest – Østfold, it is always there as a larger perspective. The main difference between the two countries is the different relationship between the private and public aspects, the difference between our understanding of the political and civil spheres. Someone told us that in Hungary private is the new public. There is an urgency, an urgent climate in Hungary, which might not be found here, but one day it will appear.
Liv Kristin HOLMBERG and Camilla WEXELS RISERS
LKH: I’m a bit confused again, as this last night we had to speak about our concepts. I think I’ve been a bit too focused on producing a work of art. This drive has forced me to think about how I will make it. This kind of instinct, the anxiety to make something, I don’t really like it. I had to reflect more upon this feeling, and finally I realized it’s still a research project, so we have to find the method itself. I felt that I have to go back to myself, to the application, to my former intentions. Camilla and I have very different approaches, so talking with her, knowing her horizon, her wishes and dreams was as exciting as visiting a site for me. In Csepel it was hard to understand what the future of people living and working there can be, while here we have creative labs at the post-industrial areas. Of course it’s still just an impression, as I don’t know the Hungarian context from the inside.
CWR: For me the only key to PICTURE Budapest – Østfold is to think about it in the long term, trying to see our project from a greater perspective. That’s the only way to forget about the fact that it is an EEA grant, and at the end we have to produce something. The speakers at the symposium were really good and inspiring, and when it comes to the production part, it will help us a lot. For me observation and sharing our ideas is crucial. For me intuitions come before the theory. I love travelling and sitting and watching, that’s how we can know more about a place. Csepel is not necessarily a hopeless place. I understand the political difficulties, the struggle for individuals, I can see the homeless on the streets. And since I can see my inability to make a change, it is a challenge just to be a human being in this situation. I’m not a fighter, I’m not a struggler. I want to feel Csepel, it’s important for me next time to be there alone or only with a few people. It’s like walking around without shades. You meet individuals and you search for some kind of a key. It’s something which I sometimes miss. It’s not about nostalgia, it’s a different way of thinking.
This week the most determining thing was having all this input, with you trying to find yourself in it, among all the talks and lectures. It’s a bit strange for me. There are really nice dynamics in the group, we are having a good time together, and sharing ideas is great. For me the past two weeks seem like a complete whole, I wouldn’t split it into two separate parts. We definitely need time to digest the whole thing. You come back to yourself and question yourself about your intentions, your aim in the project. In a way it manipulates you, changes the way you work and think. You try to understand yourself, see yourself from outside. All the impressions resonate through me: during the two weeks of lectures you start to rethink about yourself and the information you got, the way you use it, your expectations. And about the point: what do I really have to say? I will have to rethink my ideas, because now I feel the need to reflect somehow on what we have been listening to.
This was an intensive week, it really was, especially from a human viewpoint. We didn’t have any free time, free space, which of course affects our professional work, and we didn’t have time to think about all that we have heard either. I’m happy that I had two hours to take a walk in the woods before today’s presentation, and that I finally came to some important conclusions. This doesn’t mean that I am finished, I still have to write everything down – this is the way I work, the way I will be able to see the entire project. I finally felt that there is a light at the end of the tunnel after the day-long site visit we had on Tuesday. I received many impulses, got new ideas, more than I had had in Csepel. Maybe because this is not my home turf, and the stakes don’t seem as high because we won’t have to present our work here for an audience? The first day of the symposium didn’t have talks that really interested me, though the case studies did seem convincing. There was a debate with the urban designer, which was exhilarating. The Norwegian and Hungarian contexts seem very far apart from each other. A common trait is that we are working together with people, we are taking them into account, but our societies are very different, as is our relationship to art itself. Here maybe we don’t have to explain everything from the bottom up to each other, but the debate with the urban designer made it clear that sometimes even he does not understand when an artist needs to have a say in a given process. Could it be because we define creating values in a different way? I feel I can connect easier with people in Csepel, I know those who actually use the spaces better. A big question for me still is who exactly we are doing this project for? How can we really reach them at the end of April?
Ziggurat (Kristóf SZABÓ, Flóra SARLÓS)
KSz: We have heard many things and have been to many places. My favorite was the harbor at the shipyard, with its frozen waters. I think we’re a bit overwhelmed with all that we have experienced. I had guessed before that Norwegians lived better than we do. This did not surprise me, and I believe that we could realize many of the things that are natural here back home in Hungary as well – we just don’t. I will try to live my own life in this way, and I’m not surprised that things can work like this. People living here are much less frustrated, see life in a more positive way than we do. We must express our every grievance, our complexes with minorities or certain other groups, this is how we make ourselves feel strong. The theoretical background is important, but it really bothered Flora and me that we couldn’t work for two weeks – this is why we went out on our own to take photos, record video materials, which we will be able to use in future projects.
FS: The locations were very inspiring, especially the spaces in the paper factory which we visited on Tuesday. Of course we were still fresh back then, we still had the capacity to take in new things, unlike today, on Friday. The conversations we had with locals were especially important for me, because we had a chance to better understand the situation here. I think their world is as surreal for us, as ours would be to them. We are amazed with how artists and local officials communicate here, just like how amazed they all are when we tell them about the situation back home.
The most exciting thing for me was the fact that I was inspired in a completely different way by locations so very similar to those we saw back home. While my imagination started out on a more alternative-underground path in Csepel, Norway had me thinking in a more political way, to an extent that surprised me. Isn’t it strange that after spending some time in a welfare society leads one to try and provoke it a little? I don’t know if such long-term planning exists at all in Hungary, but it would be great if we could bring it home with us. One puts together their projects in a different way if one lives in total unpredictability, and doesn’t start thinking about where they could end up later like they can plan 3-6 years ahead. In Norway they are not improvising, repairing things one by one, like they do in Hungary.
I liked the presentations this time around more than I did last week. There were specific, inspiring examples now which I could relate to. Working in the field was a good experience as well, it was good seeing how the same game model can work in a foreign environment – but I do need to do more research to confirm this. There is a strong desire for change in Norway, but it is not always clear what kind of desire this is. There is the train line in Moss for example: a lot of people are included in the planning, but I don’t really see how local residents are actually part of this story. Understanding this would interest me the most. The situation is more “clear” in Csepel: whoever invests money takes all the blame, and people live on as they can in a kind of “survivor” mode. In Hungary you have to get used to the rapidly changing rules, while in Norway some things are fixed for ten or fifteen years, and if these rules don’t work, they’ll change them if they need to later on.