Whose Memory is Commemorated in the Newly Erected Memorial of National Alliance in Budapest?

Event: Public talk

Location: NEC conference hall & Zoom

22 June 2022, 17.00-19.00 (Bucharest time)

Edit ANDRÁS, Senior Research Member at the Institute of Art History, Centre for the Humanities of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, Budapest, Hungary, and Visiting Professor at the History Department, CEU

The public talk will take place at the NEC, but the audience is kindly asked to rather resort to the Zoom transmission since our conference hall cannot accommodate more people than the ones engaged in the seminar.

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Meeting ID: 826 4054 1798
Passcode: 414844


The memorial nearby the Hungarian parliament, inaugurated at the hundredth anniversary of the Trianon Peace Treaty stirred a heated debate mostly among historians. The main question was whether it is really about the national unity spanning beyond borders, as it is communicated by its name, or the historical Hungary is commemorated in it, as claimed by a cohort of acknowledged historians. Or is it rather a hidden Trianon monument, as some critics voiced? The debate centered around the meaning of the use of the Kingdom’s geographic listing of 13,000 cities and towns that made up the Kingdom of Hungary in 1913, that were carved on both sides of the granite wall of the sloping memorial. Concerning the visual formation of the new memorial, even the critical voices were appreciative, asserting that at least this one is not a conservative, traditional and figurative monument cast in bronze or carved stone, but a “contemporary” one. The well-informed journalists referred to Maya Lin’s Vietnam Veteran Memorial in Washington DC, as a prefiguration or model of the edifice (if not a blatant plagiarism).

The art historical interpretation starts where the historical ends and wishes to uncover what the visuality and spatiality of the monument communicates and what the role of the mythical elements that are incorporated is. In this regard, in comparison with Maya Lin’s memorial the differences are much more telling than the similarities. The close reading of the edifice poses the question: what kind of hidden meaning is advocated by the architectural archetypes that are utilized in the construction, and what kind of sensory experience is the beholder exposed to and for what purpose? And finally, who is the mastermind behind this controversial memorial and who benefits from it?

The analysis wishes to demonstrate that one cannot underestimate the power of images when it comes to the nationalistic propaganda machine, despite it being materialized in a contemporary form and paired with an alternative official narrative.

This event is organized within Periodization in the History of Art and its Conundrums. How to tackle them in East-Central Europe seminar series, a program supported by the Getty Foundation as part of its Connecting Art Histories initiative.