Nature Art in Romania and Hungary
In March 2008, together with a fellow German and
four Korean artists, I was invited to an exhibition in the MAMU
Gallery in Budapest, Hungary,. It goes without saying that I was
interested in art in Hungary and Romania, especially in Nature
Art movements in the region. I met Karoly Elekes, Istvan Eroess
and others, who told me all about the development of Nature Art,
and I would like to share this interesting story with you here.
In the late 1970s a group of young artists, who
had known each other since their childhood in Transylvania, graduated
from art schools in Targu Mures, Romania.
They wanted to remain in contact and show their
work to each other and to their friends. Their works were presented
in private places such as studios, kitchens etc, exploring the
limits of art at the time and enabling dialogue within the group.
The official art world was old fashioned, with galleries displaying
only official art influenced by the Communist Party’s cultural
ideology and refusing to show other concepts. The artists` alternative
was a form of escapism, from which a dialogue with nature evolved.
Although there was little awareness of ecological aesthetics at
the time, people were very close to nature, it was normal to live
with nature and be in it. Some artists` work looked like that
In the early 1980s Romania was a country paralysed
by Ceaucescu`s dictatorship. Everyday life was dominated by surveillance
and regimented (self-) control, and public space was dominated
by nationalistic policies of modernisation and representation.
Artists responded with demonstrating their opposition
to the understanding of orthodox iconography. They developed allegories
that referenced the figure of the politically oppressed, and its
bare existence. For instance: at that time the people in Romania
were starving of hunger. In 1981 several artists collaborated
to make a huge red sausage, which they placed in a green meadow.
Visitors immediately understood the meaning behind it, a comment
on and criticism of Ceaucescu`s politics.
The artists met several times from spring until
autumn at a Neolithic grave site. Their meetings were an opportunity
to stage small actions and were accompanied by parties and lots
They also invited young fellow artists from Budapest to consider
collaborating and presenting their art.
The artworks presented at these meetings were initiated by individual
as well as groups of artists. Some of the works were private performances
and rituals, such as that by Karoly Elekes about a lost love,
while others were observations of nature.
In another action (1983) five artists burnt the
official correspondence relating to applications to art schools,
galleries, and official authorities.
Other actions involving burning things functioned as a protest
against politics, though the slightest deviation from conventional
behaviour aroused suspicion.
In another group work, textile flags (not national, just personal
flags) covered the top of a hill where there were ancient graves
Most of the events were staged for the artists
themselves and not for the public, but they were documented by
photos and catalogues.
In 1984-85 the entire group of artists escaped
from Romania to Hungary. They met in Budapest and established
an artists` association called MAMÜ. MA is the name for town
and MÜ stands for a piece of art. It also means: actual work.
The new residents were able to hold regular meetings and in 1990
they established a showroom for their activities, which was also
called MAMÜ. Exhibitions with a focus on Nature Art and related
topics have been presented ever since. In Budapest the artist
y faced different situations and financial problems. Some are
still there, while others have moved to Israel and other countries.
To make a living, most of the artists teach at art schools and
art academies. Support for public art education is very rare,
since there is almost no money.
Regular weekly meetings keeps the association
together. In terms of structure, small groups of three to four
members come under the umbrella of the main association. Altogether
there are some 120 members, of whom 20 to 30 work actively for
MAMÜ has presented its works in several countries including
the USA, Austria, Poland, Germany, Finland, and Korea and it has
also organized workshops and art camps.
The aim is still to create works for Land Art
or Nature Art projects, as well as to meet other groups working
in this field.
Also in the East, following the demise of the
Soviet Union, in the 1990s individual and groups of artists displayed
an increasing interest in the artistic experience of nature. Creating
works for, in and with nature functioned as compensation for the
desire for nature on the part of the artist and the recipient
Since then, the concept of working with nature has changed and
is now influenced by travels and meetings between artists from
all over the world.
The most important members of MAMU are Elekes Károly, Garda
Aladár, Nagy Árpád, Krizbai Sándor,
Borgó György Csaba and Istvan Eroess. The full list
of MAMU members can be viewed at www.MAMU.