Krisztina Varga is a PhD student in Film, Media and Cultural Studies and researcher at the Minor Media/Culture Research Centre, ELTE. Prior to this, she graduated from the Contemporary Art Theory and Curatorial Studies program at the Department of Art Theory, Hungarian University of Fine Arts, where she examined questions of contemporary Roma art institutions in Hungary. The focus of her PhD is on the cultural representation of minorities, the question of the Roma museum, and participatory practices in museums. In her research, Krisztina compares the situation and practice of Roma cultural institutions in Hungary with the exhibition and mediation practices of Roma museums in Europe which apply participatory methodologies.
She is currently an OTKA Assistant Researcher where she works on the project “The history and current practices of Hungarian participatory film culture,” with an emphasis on the self-representation of vulnerable minority groups. Within the project, Krisztina focuses on aspects of participatory filmmaking in the museum and explores alternative modes of museum pedagogy based on visual participation. She teaches undergraduate students at ELTE. Recently, she was selected as a speaker at the Federation of Human Rights Museums International Annual Conference. Her newly published essay, “Critical reflection on the ROMAMOMA initiative” is available to read on the European Roma Institute for Art and Culture’s blog (eriac.org/critical-reflection-on-the-romamoma-initiative).
Whose Reality does the Museum Reflect?
Does the image represented by the museum portray reality, and if so, whose reality does it reflect? What if a representative of a minority is dissatisfied with the minority image represented by the museum? In my talk, I revolve around the case of cultural hybridity, where the representative is a group of contemporary artists who creates counter-narratives in their critical reflection, using the strategy of “talking-back” in order to demand place, space, and adequate (self-) representation in both iconic national monuments and in the art museum.
Is it possible to break out of the power structures preserved by the museum through participatory practices and contemporary critical reflection by moving beyond the traditional museum framework and creating an alternative interpretive context in virtual space? With this, can the reality represented by the museum be re-contextualized and can an institution’s policy be influenced?
In my presentation, I seek answers to these questions through the analysis of two performance documentations by Sostar, a critical Roma artist collective. Through the collective’s work, I examine alternatives of deterritorialization offered by contemporary art and participatory practices.
The performance Untitled (2012) can be understood as an act of repatriation: András Kállai reflects on the omission of the Roma minority from Hungarian national history (e.g. in the Hungarian National Gallery) and appropriates representative spaces by visiting national memorial sites and leaving behind a trail of blood.
Sostar uses techniques of critical appropriation in the Rewritable Pictures (2010) performance, in which photographs from the former Roma collection of the Hungarian Museum of Ethnography are performed with a gesture of re-enactment, offering opportunities for a re-reading and alternative presentation of these artefacts. The institutionalization of the project can be seen in the “Politics of Photography” section of the RomArchive archive created in an online, virtual space.