Tuesday, February 22, 2005


Why am I here? The question has many answers. It depends from whose point of view the question is being asked. When I explained to a newly made young friend from Sturovo that my main goal is to make good art and in that sense I don’t care what others think about it, he accused me of being egoistic. And from his point of view it is. I wasn’t offended. Maybe a little dissapointed. He explained to me that he thought the right goal for the bridge guard was to meet as many people as possible. He advised me to go “clubbing”. Visit as many pubs as possible, make friends. Or: the more beers you drink, the more friends you’ll make and the better bridge guard you will make.
I noticed before that people rather see me as “the girl from Holland” and not “the visual artist in residency”. In fact, in the Sturovo newspaper the article about my flower project was even “censored”: the fact I bought the bulbs at the local supermarket, Billa, was left out and all the emphasis was layed on the fact that the bulbs were tulips from Holland, planted by a Dutch girl and my ironic remark about the Dutch song “tulips from Amsterdam” was transformed into a jolly title. Did I mind? I did. But. I also wondered. Wasn’t it for the best? Wasn’t this a better way to become part of the Sturovo community?
There is a film about the brilliant piano player Glenn Gould, “32 short stories about Glenn Gould”. It shows how, at a certain moment, he decided not to play concerts any more, only focus on recording albums, because there was no way to get his music to the audience in the most perfect way in a concert hall: people would be coughing, the accoustics would be doubtable, he himself might make a mistake, etc. He wanted his audience to hear his music in the best circumstances. He thought making excellent recordings was the only way to achieve that.
You can discuss this point of view. People called this egoistic too. But in fact it was the complete opposite.
I remember a conversation I once had with Ritsaert ten Cate, former director of the Mickery theatre, nowadays a “ young Dutch artist”, despite of his age. I was organising an event in Amsterdam and I had invited some artists I really liked to join in. He borrowed me some of his material and when I went to fetch it at his atelier we sat down to talk and I explained to him that organising this event was really nice because it got me in touch with a lot of artists I admired, but it didn’t leave me enough time to make art. And he told me that according to him a true artist always focuses on his work in the first place. Everything else might be inspiring but still distracts from “the real thing”.

Back to Sturovo and my young friend. I told him: okay, I’m doing my best. I’m out on the streets every day, people see me walking around and working, I attend openings, movies, balls, pubvisits, go to the local stores and the swimming pool. I put my photos in the window so people can see what I’ve been doing, I’m doing projects on the streets, I’m trying to learn some Hungarian and I invite everybody I meet to come to my atelier. I even had it put in the newspaper: everybody is welcome to visit at any time (at least I think so, I put it in the English version). But nobody ever even asks me what I’m really doing here. The only thing they ask is if I made a lot of friends already. As if that’s my main goal. And what do they mean by that anyway, friend? *

* when I attended an opening at the Muzeum some weeks ago I was introduced by one of the local artists (I believe his name is Sandor, he only speaks Hungarian and Slovak) to a friend of his who lives in Esztergom and speaks English very well. We talked for a long time, he enjoyed talking English and he said we could become very good friends. I gave him my card and never heard from him again.
But maybe this was not about the notion of friendship, it has probably more to do with the way Hungarians make promises, agreements and which is an interesting topic for some other day to write about.
Actually it is no different here than it is in Holland. But the difference in Holland is that I don’t have to deal with the people on the streets. In Holland I’m just an artist. Here I’m the Bridge Guard. What should I tell them if they don’t want to talk about art? What should I tell them if I answered all their questions about Holland and whether I like living in Sturovo?
Maybe my young friend was right. Maybe I should go out every night, drink beers and make friends and have another life during the day, making my strange videos and boring photos. Maybe I shouldn’t try so hard to make people understand what art is about. Maybe I should be happy they like my silly, easy photos and find my good ones not interesting. But it’s hard.

And it’s a challenge. And it doesn’t keep me from enjoying everything happening in this strange city where you can’t see the programmed movie in the cinema unless eight paying customers are present, where the swimming pool already opens at 5 in the morning, where wonderful music with a doubtful political message sounds at four thirty sharp every day, where three cemetaries lie side by side, where two languages get mixed, where people think I’m crazy if I hum while walking the streets, where shopwindows are small and roads are muddy, where people appologize for not speaking English whereas I’m the one not speaking the language spoken here, where balls are being held and where I’m being taken care of so well.

An amateur photographer visited my atelier today. He didn’t like the photos I liked but he was very nice and we talked for a long time. We talked about how beautiful it is when the ice starts melting and freezes again, about poetry, Slovak beer and Zen. I realised again there is a whole world inbetween making art and the basic socialising.

My young friend is partying tonight, in a far away Slovak university city. He invited me to come, one of his friends would travel with me from Sturovo by train and I promised him I would be there. But I never heard from his friend again and actually I’m not that much of a party girl. And as a promise in Hungary is never a promise I think he won’t miss me.

(to be continued)


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