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nettime: Budapest 1956: an invitation
Carolyn Smith on Sat, 12 Oct 96 23:22 MET


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nettime: Budapest 1956: an invitation


Dear Nettimers

re. Budapest 1956 collaborative web site

Apologies for haste.
I feel I am like the white rabbit in Alice in Wonderland.

Your thoughts please, on this proposal for a collaborative web site
constructed during the two weeks that mark the 40th anniversary of the
Hungarian Uprising.

All suggestions welcome.
Comments, criticism, ideas, contributions to
carolyn {AT} isys.hu

Many thanks

Carolyn




Budapest 1956
-----
An invitation: 23 October - 4 November 1996
-----

Soviet invasion of Hungary in 1956: a 'failure in strategic
intelligence'
CIA FAQ 0.02 for alt.politics.org.cia

"In no way this 'political unrest' was less than any of the great
revolutions of History, including the American and French Revolutions."
Csaba Gaal, Etobicoke, Ontario,Canada
in a letter to Time Life magazine, at the
instigation of 'The Hungarian Lobby'

"...As a young '56er, were you to ask me of the revolution, the last
phrase I would use is a 'glorious uprising against Communism'.  And I
would be correct - for me it was my nation reduced once again to
animal-like fratricide..."
László Petrovics Ofner
[Brown Shoes and the Demystification of 1956, The Hungary Report, 23
October, 1995]

-----

"I rebel - therefore we exist".
Albert Camus

October 23 1996 marks the 40th anniversary of the beginning of the
1956 Hungarian uprising.
        In Hungary its failure was followed by mass emigration, official and
personal silences, repression, recrimination, and then conciliation
and concealment.
        Internationally the repercussions were significant and contradictory:
the 1956 uprising dented the course of the destalinisation process
initiated by Krushchev by provoking the Politburo to crush the revolt,
yet inspired other rebellions in Soviet bloc against totalitarianism;
it served Politburo purposes (in terms of undermining the local
stalinist leadership) as well as those of British and US governments,
to deflect criticism of the handling of the 'Suez crisis' /
nationalisation of Suez Canal. Both major powers of the Cold War used
the event to reinforce their ability to retain control over their own
citizens aswell as providing inspiration for those attempting to
overthrow them. Recent revelations of Politburo discussions advocating
complete military withdrawal from Hungary and CIA sponsorship of
an(other?) AVO-inspired uprising have encouraged a more critical
evaluation of events whilst adding to the confusion.
        Forty years later as official commemorations abound, understanding the
events and their implications is hard - and controversial. Memory has
been isolated from action, distorted by myth. Critical interrogation
leads to investigation of equally broad concepts: the politics of
linguistic definitions, the distortion of cold war propaganda and
current censorship, the confrontation of official silences: the
conflicts inherent in the development and mediation of collective and
individual memories.


ARTISTS AS 'ARCHAEOLOGISTS'

Artists, writers, historians, (psycho)geographers and all those with a
creative approach to historical, cultural and spatial analysis are
invited to interrogate how perceptions of these events have come to be
seen as 'truth' and 'reality', exposing the strategies of domination
and resistance that have defined our understandings. The problem of
1956 will be approached by asking the question '1996?',  concurrently
producing a critical history of the present through an analysis of the
past. Results of these investigations will be displayed on a
collaborative web site constructed between the 23rd October and 4th
November, the dates that mark the uprising 40 years ago.
        Excavations will start with the city itself.
        Participants are asked to start by exploring present places, examining
past processes and confrontations that have created them, thus
uncovering the temporal depth of spatial phenomena. The city will be
read as a mnemnonic text of perpetual conflict and resolution - a
historical document that can be understood in any number of ways, and
its structures and chaos analysed as strategies of domination and
resistance in themselves.
        Participants are invited to use the psychogeographic techniques of the
dérive, detournement and play; to pay attention to the forms of
mediation and contestation of collective and individual memories, and
the use of popular and material culture in their transmission and
transformation;
to manifest the presence of absence, silences and thoughts, beliefs
and ideologies.
        The site will form a historical subjective document, offering multiple
and contradictory interpretations of the events and their
transformation. The aim will be to encourage, provoke or demand a
critical and personal response from the reader. There will be a forum
for reaction and discussion for those both producing and encountering
the site, with the intention of bringing the representation and
interpretation of history back into a public domain. A mailing list
will also be set up for the two weeks that mark the uprising,
encouraging live participation and fresh cataclysms of dissent,
outrage, hope, critical evaluation and action. Both forum and mailing
list will be archived as part of the historical document.
        The exploitation of hypertextual form of the internet permits spatial
and temporal conceptual clarity in the representation of historical
investigation, visually illustrating the uncovering of layers of history
and enabling a heightened contextualising of events and material objects.
Hypertext also helps clarify the conceptual structure of the investigation
paralleled by a
structural representation of space and time.  This site will also be
an ironic but very practical use of a medium that is the latest (and
therefore most efficient) technology to speed the (post)modern
experience of 'time / space compression' - an experience that has been
charged with leading to the 'end of history'.

SOME KEYWORDS AND CONCEPTS
cold war  *  propaganda  * censorship *  revolution  * counter revolution  *
* uprising  * rebellion  *  treason  * patriotism  *
neutrality  * alignment  *  exposure  *  concealment * silence * the American
Dream / the 'American Empire of the Senseless' [Acker] * the 'Evil
Empire' [Reagan]  * the 'end of history' [Fukuyama]  *  confession  *
accusation  *  guilt  *  betrayal  * loyalty  * identity  * scarcity  *
abundance  *
you are what you wear  *  fratricide *  jetztzeit  *  jail is a good school  *
the Iron Curtain  *  find the Warsaw Pact: a game (I was going to ask the
Invisible College for this).

-----

BUDAPEST 1956

"...The demonstration voiced nation wide demands for an end to
dictatorship, withdrawal of Soviet troops, freedom of the press and
the appointment of Imre Nagy as Prime Minister. Nagy had headed
briefly a mildly reformist government in 1953. Later on the same day
when State Security forces fired on demonstrators at various places,
notably outside the building of the Hungarian Radio in Bródy Sándor
Street. The army was called in. Many units simply handed over their
weapons to the demonstrators. The revolution had begun...."
RADIO BUDAPEST publicity, 1996

".... And this is what I saw.  By Gorky Row students with the
tri-colored armbands rushing and shouting about a traitor. The "secret
policeman," or so presumed, was hung by his legs over a small fire.  The
loud plaid
trousers that covered his frame only partially, was singed, but
recognizable at once - the used pair of trousers received in a care
package from relatives in the States weeks earlier, '50s wild-plaid,
belonged to Gyula Bacsi, the father of a neighbor, Pisti, a friend in
third grade, two ahead of me....  I stood transfixed and numb from
trauma. Gyula was a plumber, no member of the Party and a true
patriot, this much I knew.  A white light overcame my child's
consciousness.  I saw his charred skull, face half eaten by flame.  I
looked into the heart of darkness, a blackness now consuming all
light, the heart of Hatred.  I heard the cry, 'Barna cipô', rotten
brown-shoed, the color of the shoes of the sercet service officers.
It was only years later, in psychoanalysis, that I reconstructed that
the man had been lynched for wearing his only pair of shoes - a
deadly color at the time."
László Petrovics Ofner
[Brown Shoes and the Demystification of 1956, The Hungary Report, 23
Oct, 1995]

------

THE SITE(S)

1. the city itself
2. website/mailing list/forum hosted by ISYS
3. locations of your choice

Investigations / excavations will take place throughout the month of
October. The site will be constructed so that something is running by
the 23rd so that it is newsworthy and to heighten user participation.
Construction will be halted on the 4th November. It is anticipated
that the site will be intergrated with other evaluative events taking
place in the city. There will then be a month period of review when
its impact can be evaluated and further changes made.
        Participants are also encouraged to leave traces on city as a
'memorial', perhaps a catalogue with critical texts, physical marks on
the city (permanent or impermanent) or live presentations -
exhibitions, performance, video/film.
        The website will work on the following planes (following Lefebvre's
conceptual triad of spatial production:
        * the perceived,
        * the conceived and
        * the lived.
Different planes, different themes will be interlinked. Internal links will
be based on
antagonisms and contrasts rather than logical connections.

LEVEL 1: THE PERCEIVED
City map or a textual map related to sites of the
uprising - places linked to individual themes of level 2.
Some of the places to explore:
        * bridge at Andau (the book at least is at the CEU!)
        * Heroes Square
        * Ujköztemetô cemetery
        * Kerepesi cemetery
        * Blaha Lujzsa tér
        * New York kávéház
        * Brody Sándor utca / Magyar Rádio
        * Lukács kavéház
        * Lottóház
        * Corvin cinema
        * Museum of Applied Arts
        * Statue of Imre Nagy (near Parliament)
        * Parliament building
        * the 'White House'
        * Bem tér
        * Csepel island - steel works, soviet barracks
        * Former police interrogation center on Fô utca
        * Former secret police HQ on Andrássy út
        * Tram 38
        * Damnaijich utca
        * statue park
        * Morisz Zsigmond tér
        * routes in and out of the city
        * the road to Vienna

LEVEL 2: THE CONCEIVED
Strategies of domination or resistance - participants will define and
interrogate one (or more) of these, sparked off by place(s) chosen.
Here are some thoughts to set you off:
        * revolution / counterrevolution / uprising / rebellion
        / treason / patriotism
        * mindszenty syndrome - false confession and
        accusation, guilt / betrayal / loyalty - who am I?
        * neutrality / alignment
        * city as spectacle
        * heroes / villains
        * exposure / concealment
        * the way out
        * better dead than red
        * silence
        * you are what you wear
        * the end of history? the triumph of the American
        Dream (and the dawning of centuries of boredom)
        * freedom / imprisonment: 'jail is a good school'
        where is one truly free?
        * borders / boundaries / isolation / intergration:
        the Iron Curtain
Perhaps to finish on a question that the reader has to answer, leading
to...

LEVELS 3 & 4: THE LIVED
Forum: to facilitate a dialogue between authors and readers.
Mailing list: set up for the two weeks that mark the uprising. Vibrant
discussion and argument encouraged and provoked.
Participants may also choose to have direct reader reaction /
intervention on their pages.


CONTACT
Interested? Outraged? Bewildered?
Would rather dérive around the sites for a few beers instead?
Do contact Carolyn Smith at iSYS Hungary
tel: 117-1798, email: carolyn {AT} isys.hu

Time is short.





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