Last year Something Human closed the year with MOVE W I T H (OUT)’s stopover in Budapest. Artist photographer Zsuzsa Bakonyi was invited to respond to the themes of the nomadic project with a new site-specific live art intervention, in dialogue with her practice as a photographer for whom Budapest has been a main subject for years. Here, we catch up with Zsuzsa after MOVE W I T H (OUT)#7 Budapest.
Something Human: As a photographer you took to the streets of Budapest over several years, which resulted in the series, ‘Listen to Budapest!’ Could you please tell us more about why you decided to make that series, and how you came to select the places and moments?
Zsuzsa Bakonyi: Actually, it was a very instinctive process. Budapest is a very photogenic city, but to me, Budapest is mostly about emotions, nostalgia and melancholy. It is a city with which if you connect once, you will never forget its feeling. I had been taking photos of Budapest for many years, and I put this series together after I had moved back from Italy. I was lucky enough to live in a wonderful flat close to the river. I have lived in Budapest most of my life. In retrospective, this period was very special: I was reconnecting with the city, trying to reconstruct my identity after moving back and it was the first time I could experience the majestic Duna (Danube in Hungarian) on a daily basis. The Duna is an incredible river and it is impossible to imagine Budapest without it. It is impossible to imagine any city without its lake, river, or seaside.
To me this series is about my personal relationship with the city. It is probably impossible to relate to a city without thinking about memories and people, but I do believe that there is also a kind of ‘pure’ connection which concerns only the individual person and the city.
Something Human: In response to the MOVE W I T H (OUT) project, you conceived the photographic performative intervention, “4/6” – how do you relate your 2014 live photographic intervention ‘4/6’ within your trajectory as an artist?
Zsuzsa Bakonyi: Each new project makes you understand more about your trajectory, that is very exciting to me. I like to reflect on what I consider to be social or emotional tension, like in this case, the fragmented social landscape; people are not only indifferent but rather suspicious of each other.
I also see it as a development of connections: connecting Budapest with an international project, connecting my photographic practice with live art, connecting the subjects involved in the project, and me personally being able to connect more with the city.
Something Human: With MOVE W I T H (OUT) you experimented with an instant print photo system and the performative for the first time. What developments do you envision within your practice from this first encounter?
Zsuzsa Bakonyi: I have experimented with performance, and mixing photography with performance before but this was the first real live intervention project I carried out. It was a very positive and fruitful experience. Photography, concerning the end product, is not typically very interactive, whereas a live intervention is a process where the control is not fully, or not at all, in the artist’s hand. It is an extended version of being in the process of photographing a subject – we never have total control and to me this is very intriguing. In a live art intervention, you stay in this present state, letting go of control, just staying focused on your initial intention and doing what you have to do.
I will surely continue with live art projects involving people. A very important point is also what people can get from an art project and here there is this instant gratification of connecting and being here and now. Just like with polaroid pictures 🙂
Something Human: In ‘MOVE W I T H (OUT) Budapest – 4/6’ you engaged passers-by to participate in your creation of a new narrative, along the route of the main Budapest tramway. Why did you decide to focus on this route? How did this experience change your perception of people and your city, and what do you hope the participants take in their experience with them?
Zsuzsa Bakonyi: While preparing the project, I came to realize how much the route (the Grand Boulevard of Budapest) we walked has recurred in several projects I did in Budapest, and it serves as a point of inspiration to me. It is the route with the most point of references, from where you would get oriented – everything inside is centre, and the outside is already beyond the city centre. It is also almost a circle, considering its shape. It is a democratic route as everyone uses almost daily if you have to do ‘stuff’ in the city. It would appear its character is on a decline. You can feel its glamorous past when the idea of this boulevard was first coined, since then, many signs of its communist past are also present, and lately it has been polluted with cheap bars and shops, transforming almost monthly. It is now quite ugly but I find its eclectic ugliness very inspiring.
My perception of the city did not change drastically with the project, but there were a few moments of note. I had expected it to be more difficult to involve people. I remember a part of the route between Király utca and Blaha Lujza tér, where people were very much in a ‘rush’ and probably thought I was asking money from them, so they gave me strange looks when I was approached them. There was a weird energy there.
I was fascinated how magically the fictional encounters evolved, for example, when I had to stop a ‘mother’ as a next subject, and I stopped a woman who then when viewing the previous photo, said that her son was the same age as the previous subject!
I think people can take away with them those few minutes they stopped to be with me, and stepped out of their routine, and they had to think about their daily encounters. In Hungary, people tend to be very closed and suspicious with strangers, so I believe I could create the good energy of real and fictional encounters.
Something Human: Following the pop-up exhibition, your images will become a work that forms part of the MOVE W I TH (OUT) travelling exhibition. What do you hope this work will bring to audiences in future cities?
Zsuzsa Bakonyi: Given that the photos contain a story of fictional encounters and instant portraits of the places and people, I hope the fictional encounters can continue everywhere where the trunk opens. Encounters and connecting are very important stimuli in life.
Something Human: This year has been a busy one for you, especially in the last few months with MOVE W I T H (OUT) and your photography project in New York, as part of the programme of FFS, Studio of Young Photographers Hungary. What does the 2015 have in store for you?
Zsuzsa Bakonyi: I started the year with a very relaxed pace and actually, for the moment there is not much happening yet for 2015. It is a empty canvas. We are presenting an artist book about the New York project in January, and the exhibition will be travelling throughout the States. I would also like to finish my long term project with a homeless couple, and spend a few months abroad on a residency program.
photos by alikati