Artwork from Budapest Black Lives Matter sparks right-wing backlash

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Right-wing party officials from Viktor Orbán stir up indignation over a two-week installation

It will be just one meter high and for just two weeks on view. Still, in Budapest, where the right-wing, nationalist government of Viktor Orbán has attacked the movement and everything it represents, a proposed art installation on the theme of ‘Black Lives Matter’ is creating an outcry. In the Ninth District of Budapest, an area on the Pest side of the city that blends streets of grand turn-of-the-century buildings with social housing projects from the communist period, the installation recently won a public art bid. The goals of BLM to oppose racism and police brutality are as significant in Hungary as elsewhere,”BLM’s goals of opposing racism and police brutality are as relevant in Hungary as elsewhere,” A total of seven works were chosen for two weeks next spring to be shown at different locations, but it is the BLM sculpture that has made headlines. Government officials and the media apparatus loyal to the government have enthusiastically grasped upon the issue. “Black Lives Matter is fundamentally a racist movement. The racist is not the one who opposes a BLM statue, but the one who puts it up,” said Gergely Gulyás, chief of staff of Orbán. Commentators on pro-government television talk shows vowed to tear down the statue if it was put up, comparing it to putting up Adolf Hitler’s memorial. Since there were few blacks in Budapest, others chuckled that it was an absurdity. Hardly anyone looked at the project’s information. More interestingly, the pro-government coverage failed to note that only a two-week installation, not a permanent addition to the area, would be the statue. “This whole scandal is typical of the way pro-government media works in Hungary. Everyone is upset about it and no one really knows anything about it,” said Baranyi.

She took charge of the ninth district as an independent late last year in local elections that dealt a blow to the monopoly of Orbán’s Fidesz party as Budapest and most of its districts were taken by the opposition. The government pushed its ultra-conservative credentials hard in the run-up to parliamentary elections in 2022. The government has been busy passing legislation even in a pandemic year to reinforce its position as Europe’s biggest champion of right-wing “traditional values” and to combat what Orbán calls “crazed liberals. ” The government amended the constitution in mid-December to specify that “the mother is a woman and the father is a man” in a family and clarified that only heterosexual couples should adopt chi-chi. A video telling women that they “should not compete with men” or expect to receive the same amount of money was released by Family Minister Katalin Novák.

Legal recognition of gender reassignment surgery for trans people ended in Hungary in May. Recently, the government has launched a billboard campaign in Hungarian with the slogan ‘All lives matter.’ The slogan ostensibly refers to the battle against corona virus, but it seems possible that the decision to use it was an allusion to the cultural war the government believes it is waging, especially because Orbán posted a video on his Instagram account of the English-language version of the slogan. Péter Szalay, the sculptor behind the BLM project, said that he had received a threatening email from a well-known far-right figure after news of it broke, promising that if the installation went ahead, he would be “punished” The sculpture is a “paraphrase of the Statue of Liberty,” Szalay said, which will be rendered into 12 parts using a 3D printer and placed together with magnets. “The figure kneels, lifts his right hand into a fist and holds a plaque that reads “Black Lives Matter.” The installation also has an LGBT rights theme, with rainbow colors used to illuminate the monument. Szalay said that the work was not intended as a display of support or solidarity with the BLM movement despite the government response. It does not declare itself against or on the side of the BLM.

“It indecisively vacillates between the two readings, according to my artistic intent,” he said. Baranyi’s deputy, Suzi Dada of the satirical Two-Tailed Dog Faction, arranged the art call.

She said she wanted to continue the wii public art tradition.

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