• János Sugár, Fire in the Museum, OFF-Biennale Budapest, 2015. Photo by János Sugár / OFF-Biennale Budapest Archive. For this installation, groups of volunteers and audience have rotated to keep on the fire during the biennial.
  • Horizontal Standing, exhibition at a private apartment, curated by Kati Simon and Zsolt Vásárhelyi. OFF-Biennale Budapest, 2015. Photo by The Orbital Strangers Project/OFF-Biennale Budapest Archive
  • Igor and Ivan Buharov, Revolutionparabotany. OFF-Biennale Budapest, 2021. Photo: Orbital Strangers Porject/OFF-Biennale Budapest

Eszter Szakács

Experimental Art Institutionalisms in Hungary

My Ph.D. project examines experimental art institutionalisms in postsocialist Hungary through ethnographic fieldwork (participant observation, interviews, and focus groups), archival research, and theoretical analysis. It studies art initiatives that criticize and intervene in the lacunas of the Hungarian state-managed art system by creating novel structures for art. In this way, the project focuses on the limits and possibilities of experimental art institutionalism. Instead of merely engaging with the public narratives put forward by initiatives in this area, it examines their objectives, how they develop, and the structures that they build to present art. The case studies are analyzed in the context of regional, Eastern European artistic developments, as well as in relation to a wider, global perspective. Studying the ways in which concepts such as independence, publicness (nyilvánosság), funding, and censorship are grounded in a specific (post)socialist context, I adopt a broad theoretical perspective building on a comparative analysis bringing together theories rooted in Eastern Europe and the Global South. The Ph.D. project will contribute to an innovative anthropological, practice-driven analysis of the conditions of experimental art institutionalism and art production in Hungary. It will show how these conditions relate to state transformation and novel forms of institution-building in culture and beyond in the framework of a broader international outlook.