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Balázs FEKETE, intermedia artist, 1957


How did the change in regime influence your professional activity and interest? 

The second half of the ‘80s was very inspiring for me. My interests widened, both as a solo artist and as a member of the Helyettes Szomjazók [Substitute Thirsters] art group. I tried and learned a great number of things.  It was an extremely active period; as our friend at the time Talán Sebeő  – now Sapirico Sebeő – would say: it was a time “touched by the spirit.” In 1990, I finally drew a breath of fresh air. That was when I first felt like my life, and what I was doing, was legitimate. I no longer had to be afraid of the political police. I looked to the future – to freedom, as I then thought – with hope.


Around 1991-92, following the dissolution of Helyettes Szomjazók, however, everything closed in around me. I became completely isolated, I lost my confidence. I didn’t understand what was happening to me and to the country (the world). The political and economic changes took a turn that I found shocking and disheartening. I was astonished. The confidence I had felt about the future in the ‘80s vanished. After this great disappointment, it took me 10-15 years to get myself together again, both in intellect and spirit.


What part of your role in the regime change do you consider most important today?


As a member of the Helyettes Szomjazók, I felt we had some influence on the art scene. I would think that our events and work facilitated the changes. Today I see that we did not make the most of our opportunities. We could have had a much more positive role in what was happening at the time. In our defense, actors of the intellectual scene, who were of much greater prominence than us, were similarly uninformed and unconfident – they too made serious mistakes.


What cornerstone events or publications in art / politics / public life / the professional sphere do you remember, in which you participated, or to which you reacted in some way?


To me, the first turning point was when, in 1984, we illegally published the magazine of Helyettes Szomjazók for the duration of a year, without any retaliation. Then, in 1986, we rented a basement together with the Cseresorozat [Exchange Series]. Although this was shut down, it nevertheless was an important intellectual center at the time (similar to Tranzit today).

We established the local Fidesz branch in Ferencváros. I participated in the first two Fidesz congresses. And, of course, there were great demonstrations for Transylania, for the Danube, for the 15th of March, the reburial of Imre Nagy, etc., where everyone was present. The first free election was in 1990.


What sources and experiences have determined your view of the transitional period – both during and in retrospect? 


My greatest problem is that I don’t have reliable sources at my disposal for evaluating the period.

I think that I should turn my professional attention to gathering information (for example, from the internet), I should start specializing in this topic, but I don’t really feel like it. I think it would be crucial to have unbiased, summarizing publications accessible to all, which could be read by the man in the street (me) without any extra effort – which could help us remember and also become better informed.

In the second half of the ‘80s, we weren’t documenting, we were not conscious of our increasingly free existence. Now, however, we should encyclopedically collect the signs indicative of the increasing constrictions on our freedom and the crashing of our standard of living.

Has your picture of the regime change and its ideas been altered – if yes, in what way, and as a result of what – in the past 20 / 10 / 5 / 1 year(s)? 

My opinion of the regime change is constantly changing. It was the most significant political event of my life thus far. The change in regime was placed in ever shifting focus by the post-1990 changes of government. Nevertheless, in the past 4 or 5 years, partly as a result of the global economic crisis, and partly because of my observations on the restricted mobility of national governments and the power of global capitalism, I have felt an increasing need to revise my opinion on the “Kádár system” and the “existing socialism”…

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