Here in Leipzig I met up with three artists from my University who have been doing a residency at Halle 14, a contemporary art center in town. I'll be curating their work in the spring at UPS. I got to spend my time here in the studio, learning about the work they've been doing, exploring the art center as a whole, and seeing a few of the sights and museums in town.
My apartment here in Budapest is just off one of those main boulevards that every big city has. It is heavily trafficked by motor and foot alike. Along the wide sidewalk are hundreds of restaurants and cafés, almost all of them shit. Un memorable places lacking in character, quality food and creative cuisine. But they are flocked to by tourists because of their superficial appearance and most of all, convenience. I don't eat at those restaurants. Food is one of my biggest expenditures traveling, so of course I'll do it right. Plus, I've found that food offers a great way to explore a new city.
Art tends to be city centric, but during times of conflict and chaos, some of the most progressive and creative artists seek refuge in the countrysides and provinces, further from the reach of the centralized power. This was seen in World War 2 when numerous French artists spent time in countryside of the South of France, as the North including Paris was occupied. In the post-World War 2 Soviet era in Hungary, it was only outside of Budapest where contemporary art could truly flourish without the ideological control of the Soviet government.
I've begun the second chapter of this journey as all adventures should, by diving in rather than beginning with a taste of the waters. Yesterday I spent the day at the Hungarian National Gallery, meeting with the curator of the post-World War II section and exploring the collection. In talking with my contact at the Ludwig museum (more to come on that one), and Zsolt at the National Gallery, I’ve come to understand much more clearly the artistic system in Hungary, as well as the development of contemporary art in the last century.
I wrote a while back about how the way we identify places, specifically travel locations is stupid and limiting. I dubbed this problem the recommendation conundrum, noting how we concentrate on one or two specific aspects of a place, making it a must-see. For example, Rome is a city for history, Paris for art, etc. I sincerely hope that i never end up spending serious time in a city that can be truly condensed so minutely.
Rome is one of those places that you can't get out of your head. Its history and buildings constructed in warm tones are pleasing for the wanderer, foreign as it may be, it is physically welcoming. Its grandeur is in its weathered nature, in battered buildings that have stood for centuries, and in the intricacy of its marble fountains and wild traffic patterns alike.
t has become a daily habit to wake up and think about where I was and what I did the previous year on the current day. Its nostalgic and at the same time awe-inspiring. Tuesday may seem mundane, but last Tuesday I was in Paris, where I lived.
By this point in my time abroad, it could be said that I am decently well traveled. I've seen a wide range of countries, cities and cultures. But despite the exoticism and fascination that comes with a new place, there is always consistency - especially in cities. A city may be full of monuments, public art, intricate and unique architecture, yet from far away and from an exterior view - they often look the same.