Emese Süvecz’s interview with the participants of “Nude/Model” (2007)

Nude/Model – exhibition and action

András Halász: Piroska was a professional nude model. She may have been a gipsy. We liked her a lot. However, her role remained that of a model.

Orshi Drozdik: Her name was Piroska Szabó.

Zsigmond Károlyi: You know, these people were usually quite unfortunate. It was pretty depressing to realize this. But Piroska was different. She was a bewitching flower, in the springtime of her life.

OD: I invited some artists and critics to participate in my performance in order to legitimize my work. Oh, yes, their names are: András Halász, Zsigmond Károlyi, Károly Kelemen, László Beke, and Miklós Erdély. They were my friends rather than just colleagues. They could do whatever they wanted. They opened my show.

AH: I liked it a lot—it was a silent, relatively small room. And behind these big wooden doors, they were sitting together. Piroska was sitting naked on a chair, and Orshi was at her drawing bench. I found it beautiful, because it somehow showed the truth of this situation. She went to school for six or seven years, and she was looking at the nude with unerring precision. I found it very funny; it was not erotic at all.

ZK: I can remember that there were five of us, and I wrote a text. But I don’t remember what text it was. Then Orshi and Piroska walked into this room, which was somehow closed off first with a cordon, then with a gauze curtain, so you could not enter. The spectator could see them as a picture framed by the doorway.

OD: They didn’t understand the work—art history and the audience. On the visual level it was very pleasurable and complex. It was comprehensible in a modernist way too. They understood the work this way. But they did not understand the use of the female body and its complex structure. Unfortunately, I did not explain clearly enough why I chose a female nude. I should have elaborated more what the conflict is about. Even though I consider secrecy a very important component of art, this work was didactic; still, I did not provide any guidance to its reading. The intention was to show the grotesque nature of the situation—that a woman artist has to draw a naked woman.

ZK: I do not want to judge the work, but to tell you the truth, the idea of drawing a nude model, as a performance, did not impress anyone that way. Rather one said, how nice the chicks are, how nice it is that one of them is drawing the other. Usually this is how things go. But let’s take this as a social condition: it is mandatory for everyone to draw; in this constellation you try to define yourself, that you either like or dislike the model, either feel disgust or empathy with her situation—this is interesting to analyze.

AH: In 1977 the Rózsa Circle was still active. It was Kelemen’s and my idea to establish women’s art in Hungary. But, at first, we thought of others, not only Orshi; for instance, El-Kazovszky’s name emerged.

OD: I did not look at the nude model with desire. To be frank, my nude model was the mistress of those friends of mine whom I had invited. She was the object of their sexual desire. And I inherited an academic method, which is totally ambiguous: for women to depict naked women is an ambiguous procedure. It was a normative condition that women painted female nude models, and no one had changed this.

ZK: It was about women’s art, but I was not sensitive to it at all. I was not really interested in it. On the level of theory, I did not work with it either. But it is a fact that Orshi pretty much advocated the idea, so we agreed to it.

AH: Orshi undertook this role, she organized this “Ship Excursion,” but somehow it came about that she was very much an independent artist and detached herself from the movement very soon. She did not become a soul of the movement.

ZK: Piroska was very different from the average : everyone was in love with her. Very many men were courting her—to put it in this way. Many things can be said about Piroska, because she was really everywhere—at parties, in the neighborhood pubs—as if she had gone to the Art Academy like us, but in another manner. She was not the one who made drawings, but she was drawn.

Source: Various oral history interviews recorded and typed in Budapest and Malmö, November 2007–January 2008. [unpublished]