The Private Nationalism exhibition in Pécs focuses on issues which are relevant locally, in the Eastern and Central European region, and also in the Balkans.
Hungary struggles with assimilation of the memory of the imperial past since the Treaty of Trianon. The pain felt over the territorial losses and the idealization of the “historical greatness” has become part of the Hungarian national identity (KissPál Szabolcs). This kind of interpretation of the past is getting stronger grounds in both the education and the official canon. The serious economic and social crises of the present, though, do not fit easily into a traditional national narrative. The collapse of industry following the change of regime drove into desperate situation entire cities and regions (Csaba Nemes). Migration took proportions that have not been experienced for a long time. Democracy, the political system that builds the nation through continuous debate, is experiencing a crisis (Tibor Horváth).
At the birth of the European nations (Gábor Kristóf), although in different ways and degrees in the case of different countries, regions and eras, there was a mixture of the historical attitudes and closely associated with this, the expansionist traditions (Gökce Suvari) and desires (Société Réaliste) and the egalitarian ideals of the Enlightenment. Particularly, but not exclusively in Central and Eastern Europe, including Hungary, however, the tradition of ethnocultural nation, and working through the past and education about the past within this framework (Oscar Dawiczki, Zsolt Keserue), its cultural and political representation (Lőrinc Borsos) became dominant.
When examining nationalism as a cultural phenomenon inevitably we will bump into its strongly masculine nature, which is quite obvious considering the heroic (public) sculpture (Little Warsaw) that is related to the birth of the nation and the national myths, and also from the perspective of its deconstructed, deheroized version (Karol Radziszewski). Connected to this project we would like to present nationalism and national identity in the exhibition in the Swanhouse Gallery especially from the aspect of the gender roles (Martin Piaček, Lucia Tkáčová—Anetta Mona Chisa, Ilona Németh and others).
The interpretation of our history, the development of a common national memory (Michal Moravčík) or the experience of national identity in everyday life (Jaroslav Varga), and making it corporeal (Dan Perjovschi, Ciprian Muresan) seems to be an insurmountable challenge even twenty-fifth years after the change of regime. The official forms of remembrance of the tragedies often give birth to more conflicts, whether they are in Dresden (Barbara Lubich), the post-Soviet countries (Kristina Norman), or in Budapest.
It is inevitable that the exhibition explores also the nationalist aggression. The ethnic conflicts have intensified in the region, and as a result of the effects of the economic crisis and the general deterioration of social conditions the influence of the exclusionary groups has increased both in the region and in Europe. Perhaps the operation of the strengthening extreme right-wing movements and parties is the most visible manifestation of the so-called neo-nationalism for us (Tomáš Rafa), but the military aggression is part of everyday life in Ukraine and the Middle East (Basel Abbas and Ruanne Abou-Rahme) also.
As a result of the aforementioned crises, migration, irrespective of having economic, social or political origin (Mark Ther) determines the lives of different generations and their relationship to the nation. Experiencing the national identity, and keeping traditions (Sári Ember, Viola Fátyol) is very different in a diaspora, away from the official national representation, than in the mother country. Nostalgia (Alban Muja), the often projected expectations, or even the liberation from the burden of history may all be parts of the lives of these different communities.
After the change of regime one of the big, so far fruitless debates of the Hungarian political discourse was what is meant by the concept of the nation and, particularly, whom we classify as belonging into this category. And while this debate has generally remained within the limits of symbolic politics, there was always a lot at stake. Namely, the nation should not only or not simply mean ethnic or cultural affiliation, but rather a solidarity-based community Belonging to an inclusive nation also presupposes empathy towards each other’s historical pains, helplessness and exclusion (Wojtek Doroszuk, Marcell Esterházy).
The Private Nationalism exhibition in Pécs neither wants to treat nationalism simply as a “disease” that was passed down to us by history. Nationalism is part of our past and present, whose sins must be remembered and monitored, and we may argue about or identify with its different traditions, mistakes and thoughts both as individuals and as a community. The curators of the exhibition (Rita Varga and Márton Pacsika) seek to assist in this.
Márton Pacsika, co-curator of PNPécs