Giving Birth to Identity

  • Abstract:
    Having joined the European Union, both Hungary and Romania found themselves facing new challenges. The borders, that seemed impossible to cross between the two neighboring countries, suddenly opened up. This new freedom inspired a discourse through which, mostly because of the touchy issue of Transylvania that created tension between Hungary and Romania in the past century, ideas of identity and belonging are being raised not as a national, rather as a regional question. Today, there are diverse artistic dialogues that cross national borders. For the definition of what it means to be European, or Central- and Eastern-European to be precise, artists are exploring concepts such as the individual and collective identity, past and present, nationalism and internationalism. Within the different artistic practices there are two distinct voices present which could be seen as quests for identity. On the one hand, there are artists who reach back to the past through reflecting on the sorrows inflicted on the region by Communism and the post-communist present. This is mostly a painterly direction initiated by Transylvanian-Hungarian artists, similar to the artistic message of the now renowned Cluj-school coming from the same region. On the other hand, Hungary-based multi-media artists and photographers look upon the idea of a recently emerging, often radical nationalist present with political criticism and irony. The idea of the EU and the making of the EU identity that is supposed to be a new hybrid, is clashed with the symbols and issues of nationalism. Although these artists acknowledge that the language of art is global and international, they keep local references. In her talk, the author argues that in spite of the nationalist tendencies that characterize Europe in these turbulent times, artists seem to state that instead of a radical, exclusivist voice, there is a need to initiate a new discourse that is sensitive to hybridity, complexity and difference.