Occupying the Ludwig Museum in Budapest

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As of Thursday May 9 2013 a group of artists and activists have been staging a sit-in protest/occupation in the hallway of Ludwig Museum, one of the most prominant cultural institutions in Budapest. The numbers of participants are varying according to the nature of events organized, ranging from a handful to 50-60 people of all ages and social groups.

The initiative to occupy was taken when it became clear that also Ludwig Museum was going to undergo the same form of governmental intervention that many other cultural institutions have been subjected to since January 2012, the time when the new constitution came into force.

The National Theatre, the New Theatre, Trafó, Kunsthalle and Gödör are some of the other institutions most recently affected, having their directors replaced through non-transparent procedures. This time the director is once again going to be replaced through a Fidesz-led, opaque procedure, where the key nominee for the position, Julia Fabenyi, former director of Mucsarnok and the current director of the museums of the city of Pecs, refuses to publicly share her proposed program for the museum.

The move could be understood as the expression of transformation of public capital into a form of national capital; “national” as defined by the Fidesz-government. “National” can as well in this sense be interpreted as a combination of anti-liberalism, conformism with the government, and “national” as opposed to international or universal.

Currently, it is difficult to estimate for how long and in which form the occupation will proceed. A participant stated that that the goal is to get governmental representatives to come and engage in a serious consultation with the occupiers, but more importantly to ensure transparency, inclusiveness and democratic procedures in the management of public cultural institutions at large.

The creation of the new government-led academy of arts, MMA, spear-headed by György Fekete, makes it logical to expect that the government unfortunately will continue to attempt to consolidate its power within and over the arts and the public consciousness through the already frequently employed strategy of replacement of arts directors, active mobilization and support of artists that plead loyalty to the state, as well as transformation of publicly funded art studies.

One of the participants of the occupation recounts that the occupation is organized by members of an informal, leaderless network of artists and culturally engaged citizens. The coalition has ties with the global Occupy Movement, the Occupy Museum Group and other formal and informal European and transatlantic networks of artists.

Being asked how the activists would imagine a fruitful intervention on behalf of the internal political community, it was evident that continued criticism by the EU would be desirable, although to a moderate extent due to the alleged risk of increased fuel added to Jobbik’s already successful EU-hostile rhetoric.

Author: Miranda Myrberg

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