#Artistresidency Katharina and József at Sputnik Oz

The German-Hungarian duo of artists Katharina Roters and József Szolnoki usually explore themes relating to social blind spots or taboos resulting from trauma. Their collaboration started out from a study of the objectified documents of transference between ideological and cultural spaces, and of transitional states. They make use of the widest possible variety of media, such as photography, video, performative elements or lectures.

Katharina and József The Spur

During the residency at Sputnik Oz (Bratislava), they worked in a project called “The Visegrád Syndrome”. The Visegrád Group, also called the Visegrád Four or V4 comprises four Central European states (Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia) and it is a cultural and political alliance that works towards military, cultural, economic and energy cooperation with the purpose of furthering their integration in the EU. Roters and Szolnoki focused on the Slovak‒Hungarian constellation. Hence the work developed within The Spur is “Vol. 1”.

For their research, they looked for stereotypes relating to self-image and ‘other people’ within that context. This investigation comes from previous experiences. For instance, when Szolnoki played cards with his father as a child and spent too long thinking, his father would say: ‘Worrying’s not a game, a Slov’s not a person! ’. He did not understand at that time the meaning of this response. Later, he heard people say things such as ‘I can see through you like a Slov peeking through the fence’ or ‘why are you poking around like a Slov in a piss-covered pear? ’.  As a Hungarian, he was not familiar with the Slovak stereotypes of them.

Katharina and József The Spur

During their residency in Bratislava, they researched and collected these stereotypes. For example, when a Slovak grandmother wants to warn her grandchild to behave properly, she says to him: ‘Ja ti dam VILÁGOS!’, which means ‘Watch out, or things will become CLEAR to you!’. The Hungarian word ‘Világos’ is used in the Slovak language as a code. Világos is the village where the Hungarian Revolution of 1848 formally ended and is a symbol of the lost fight for Hungarian independence. Therefore the meaning of Világos shifted over the decades to refer to something that is very bad. The artists have stated that 98% of Slovaks use this turn of phrase, but they do not know where it originates from. The word has been freed from its original sense and nowadays has its own meaning, being used as a threat.

Roters and Szolnoki worked on a socio-linguistic interpretation that deals with post-communism, ideology and memory through everyday language. Due to the complexity of the project, the artists spent the two months residency researching and gathering data.

As part of their research, they have worked on different maps that explore the territory and history of Hungary and Slovakia. One of the maps shows the territory of the former Greater Hungary on today´s borders. As a result of the Treaty of Trianon, the peace agreement of 1920 that formally ended World War I between Hungary on one side and the Allied Powers on the other, the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy was split up and Czechoslovakia was formed. The Kingdom of Hungary lost 2/3 of its territory and almost half of its population. It was not possible to talk about this trauma in the communist era. After the regime change in Hungary, however, the image of Greater Hungary became the central motif of nationalist pop culture. Another map shows Czechoslovakia and Hungary until 1993 and another one, Slovakia and Hungary from 1993. A fourth map is based on a fictitious map by Jan Slota, the co-founder and former president of the Slovak National Party, which showed the western part of Hungary added to Austria and the eastern part to Slovakia. According to this, Hungary ceased to exist.

The visualisation of the research results will take shape as a photographic series that would be augmented with a museum learning element on both sides of the border between Slovakia and Hungary, ideally coinciding with the 100th anniversary of the Treaty of Trianon, that is to say, in 2020.