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József MÉLYI, art historian, critic, 1967


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

The regime change influenced my professional activities only indirectly, but in that sense strongly. It was as a result of the regime change that I was able to travel on scholarship to the Netherlands, where the opportunity to work in the field of visual arts presented itself.


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

I didn’t play any important roles; it simply happened to me. There were many in my immediate environment who experienced the transition process – which, to me, lasted from 1987 till 1990 – much more consciously than I did.


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?

During this period, I simultaneously attended lectures at the Hungarian University of Economics [presently Corvinus University of Budapest] and the Art History Faculty of Eötvös Loránd University (ELTE). Public life was much more active in the former. There was a magazine at the university with the title Támpont [Clue] for which I wrote texts. I also organized and participated in events, which included film screenings, discussions, and even exhibitions. All this would not have been possible before. Except for exhibitions, I did not yet frequent any art events at the time.


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

I gained my experiences about the political-economic transition primarily through events at the Rajk László College for Advanced Studies (University of Economics). I read Fordulat és reform [Turning Point and Reform], which I considered one of the most important sources/guides in those days, and which I still regard as an outstanding achievement. Later I had the opportunity to meet numerous key figures of the time. My retrospective opinion of the regime change has been shaped primarily by personal discussions.

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 mental picture of the regime change continuously changes, especially in connection with all that was decided back then in an extremely short time, which still affects our lives in a definitive manner today. Old narratives are constantly being overwritten by new ones. I think that today I see what were then our personal and collective illusions in a much more realistic manner. And while previously – 20, 10, and even 5 years ago – I concentrated mainly on changes and discontinuation, today, I think, I see continuations (and how they led to our present day failures) much more clearly. I can’t highlight anything in particular that has influenced this process of coming into awareness; every text, discussion, research and experience continuously adds to it.


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