The exhibition Dóra Maurer–SUMUS–We Are Together, curated by Eszter Szakács, presents archival materials and experimental film works by artist Dóra Maurer (1937– ), some of which she labelled as SUMUS, with the aim to signify the self-financed/DIY and collaborative aspect of her filmmaking.
SUMUS (We Are Together) was an informal group, a quasi-institution, established and led by artists Dóra Maurer and Tibor Gáyor between the 1970s and 1980s. SUMUS, in Hungary and internationally, in collaboration with artists, art historians, and art institutions, organised exhibitions, produced publications and films, and in general invigorated the avantgard-underground artistic milieu that had limited possibilities to exhibit in Hungary and that had scarce opportunities for international exchange. Through their personal lives, Gáyor and Maurer acquired a double, Hungarian-Austrian residency, which in many ways enabled traversing the Iron Curtain.
Expanding on and sharing their in-between position, Maurer and Gáyor as SUMUS–in lieu of state cultural policy–self-organised the otherwise not cultivated international exchange of Hungarian and Eastern European underground artists, generated and shared knowledge about Eastern European artists and artworks, and invited Western European artists and artworks to Hungary.
Through archival materials, the exhibition presents the story of SUMUS exhibition activities, with a special focus on their organising activities in the Netherlands. A selection of Dóra Maurer’s experimental films are also on display: those she made as SUMUS and those she made in collaboration with institutions or as a part of an initiative.
Dóra Maurer (1937– ) is one of the most significant artists in Hungary. She is also well-known as an art educator, yet her role as an art organiser and curator has rarely been foregrounded. Throughout her career, Maurer has invested in organising art, not as an expansion of her artistic practice, but as something in addition to it.
Looking at the activities of SUMUS today, several relevant topics arise, such as the ways in which an informal art infrastructure sustained by committed people, and in collaboration with various individuals and institutions, is able to create autonomous zones. The exhibition also features a selection of archival materials from de Appel archive in relation to the famous 1979 de Appel exhibition Works and Words, which presented various artists and artworks from Eastern Europe, including works by Dóra Maurer. Reexamining the Works and Words exhibition from the perspective of SUMUS activities also poses questions about the still existing difficulties in exchanging between the different parts of Europe.
The exhibition will also host a public program with IMAGINART collaborative research group (UvA) who address how artists and cultural workers are collectively experimenting with and reimaging public institutions in relation to states (or their failure). Other speakers connected to the larger context in Eastern Europe will also contribute to the public programme in August. Their names will be announced soon.
In memoriam Tibor Gáyor (1929–2023).
Special thanks to Vintage Galéria Budapest/Attila Pőcze.
Thanks to Chiara de Cesari, Lara Khaldi, Zsuzsa László, Zsófia Rátkai.
This exhibition is part of the valorization programme of the research project IMAGINART – Imagining Institutions Otherwise: Art, Politics, and State Transformation (project number VI. Vidi. 195. 178), based at the Amsterdam School for Cultural Analysis at the University of Amsterdam, and financed by the Dutch Research Council (NWO).
Opening and practi-theorising session with IMAGINART
July 8, 2023
On the day of the opening, we are organising a practi-theoretical session with IMAGINART from 15:00 to 17:00, open to all visitors.
The research group IMAGINART (University of Amsterdam) investigates how artists and cultural workers collectively experiment with and reshape public institutions in relation to (the failure of) states. Participants in this session include Chiara de Cesari, Andrea Elera, Quinsy Gario, Yazan Khalili, Aria Spinelli and Eszter Szakács. The opening at 18:00 follows this public programme.
During the sessions with IMAGINART and the opening of the exhibition, we organise two stortytelling activities for kids (3 – 10 years old) with Tirzah Shalome Baanks.
Tirzah’s bio in her own words:
My name is Tirzah Shalome Baank, Tirzah means ‘delight’, Shalome means ‘peace that passes all understanding’. Baank means ‘given in 1836, origin unknown, the time of the slaves made’. When I am invited to a gathering people always say, bring a story and your gingerbeer. I love telling stories because they may be the key that unlocks someone else’s prison.
Tirzah graduated at the Emerson School of Storytelling in England. Language is her art form.
Guided tour with curator Eszter Szakács
August 18, 2023, 17:00-18:00
August 25, 2023, 17:00-18:00
September 22, 2023, 17:00-18:00
Works and Words + Afterthoughts, 1979–2023
September 13, 2023, 18:00
Contributors: researcher and curator Zsuzsa László who has done extensive research on the Works and Words exhibition and art historian Marga van Mechelen, author of the book De Appel. Performances, Installations, Video, Projects,
Welcome by de Appel artistic director Lara Khaldi
Hosted by curator Eszter Szakács
Most of the archival materials from the 1960s-1980s presented in the exhibition Dóra Maurer–SUMUS–We Are Together come from de Appel’s archive. Dóra Maurer and Tibor Gáyor contributed to the exhibition catalogues and publications on display in various ways: sometimes as participating artists, other times also as background organisers or as co-initiators. These important publications are in de Appel’s archive due to the collection and research of de Appel prior to the 1979 Works and Words – international art manifestation, in which Dóra Maurer was one of the participating artists.
The ten-day Works and Words manifestation presented artists, art historians and critics from Czechoslovakia, Hungary, the Netherlands, Poland, and former Yugoslavia. An important objective of the endeavour was to stimulate contact between the artists. In 2018, the project Footnotes #3 Works and Words at de Appel revisited the 1979 manifestation, which also occasioned the reprinting of the original catalogue.
The event centres around Works and Words, to discuss its paradoxes, difficulties as well as the significance this project holds today, especially in East of Europe. The online discussion also wishes to begin to reassess the East–West; Cold War geopolitical dynamics and its consequences for today.
Informal Art Infrastructures During the Cold War
September 23, 2023 at de Appel, Amsterdam
Discussion with Megan Hoetger and Christa-Maria Lerm Hayes
Departing from the organising activities of the SUMUS group led by artists Dóra Maurer and Tibor Gáyor, this session of practitheorising discusses the informal and alternative infrastructures artists built for the circulation and distribution of artworks and films between the 1960s and 1980s in, and in between, the different parts of Europe.
Contributors: performance and media historian, curator Megan Hoetger; art historian, curator, professor Christa-Maria Lerm Hayes; and curator, researcher Eszter Szakács.
All images by Özgür Atlagan