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Lajos Kassák’s Avant-Garde Journals from an Interdisciplinary Perspective (1915–1928) – NKFIH-k 120779
The Kassák Museum (an affiliate of the Petőfi Literary Museum), as befitting the open profile of twenty-first century museums, engages in exhibition, archiving, educational and research work. The mission of the Museum is to conserve and present the work and personal documents of Lajos Kassák and undertake academic research into Kassák’s activities in literature, art, public affairs and publishing. In autumn 2016, with support from the Hungarian National Research, Development and Innovation Office, we launched the project Lajos Kassák’s Avant-Garde Journals from an Interdisciplinary Perspective (1915–1928). The project team was selected to realize the interdisciplinary approach demanded by the subject: it is led by the historian Eszter Balázs; the art historian Edit Sasvári and literary historians György Tverdota and Gábor Palkó are senior research fellows; and the literary historian Gábor Dobó and art historian Merse Pál Szeredi are the project’s two full-time staff.
More information on the members of the research group here.
A comprehensive investigation of Kassák’s avant-garde journals based on academic research is opening the way for new interpretations that can provide a richer and more textured account of Kassák’s oeuvre and the Hungarian historical avant-garde. Kassák is known in Hungary mostly for a few canonical items of poetry and prose; internationally, his reputation is mainly as an artist and – increasingly in recent years – a magazine editor. Our broad-based research into his journals of the 1910s and 1920s simultaneously explores the Hungarian and international contexts of Kassák’s multifaceted activity. The project therefore adopts the approaches of periodical research, history of intellectuals and cultural transfer. We examine the networks and milieus connected to the Kassák journals within Hungary and transnationally, and the debates within them that resulted in a fundamental reformulation of the role of art – and of artists – in society.
The research comprises the discovery, study and digitization of the magazines edited by Lajos Kassák, and of related publications, correspondence, diaries, memoirs, analects and other documents.
We started the research in autumn 2016, and are continuously publishing our findings at exhibitions, domestic and international conferences, on microsites devoted to specific themes, and in academic publications.
More information on the publications of the research group here.
Since autumn 2014, Kassák Museum director Edit Sasvári has been leading a group of mainly young researchers in the Museum. The group’s objective is to make a comprehensive study of Hungarian visual art in the 1960s and 1970s. We propose a new conception that focuses on the regional context, replacing both the isolated nationalist view and the centre-periphery dichotomy. The fundamental determinant of this context is the delicate position occupied by the countries of the region, squeezed between the two superpowers. This is the starting point for an attempt to rethink the present constellation. The main virtue asserted for the model is that it gives expression to the special cultural patterns of the region instead of invoking the ossified cold-war narrative of superpower confrontation. The key concept here is the “doublespeak” engendered in all of the countries in the region by the vice-like pressure of the two superpowers, eclipsing geographic, linguistic and political differences.
More information on the research group here.
More information on the international conference Contested Spheres: Actually Existing Artworlds under Socialism, co-organised by Kassák Museum - Petőfi Literary Museum and Translocal Institute of Contemporary Art here.
- Local Contexts | International Networks – Avant-Garde Magazines in Central Europe (1910–1935)
International conference in the Kassák Museum, 17–19 September 2015
Between 17 and 19 September 2015, the Kassák Museum organised an international conference entitled Local Contexts | International Networks – Avant-Garde Magazines in Central Europe (1910–1935), with the participation of researchers from the Visegrad countries.
The subject of the conference is the ‘Central European avant-garde magazine’, arguably the most important medium of communication for progressive literature and visual arts in the region during and after WWI. Given the multifaceted nature of the phenomenon, the analysis will take an interdisciplinary perspective and employ several different approaches. The avant-garde magazine will be examined as a discursive space of avant-garde communication, as a Gesamtkunstwerk, and as a historical document. As the recent conjuncture in scholarship positions the art of the region in the international context, our aim is to draw more attention to the interrelationships between the local contexts and international networks of Central European avant-gardes.
The web2.0 platform Online Avant-Garde Database, edited by staff members of Kassák Museum, was launched in January 2015. The OAD is aimed at people who are researching or are interested in modernist and avant-garde art. It is an internet interface that builds up from users’ own contributions, and keeps users constantly up-to-date with research results, publications, exhibitions, conferences and call for papers.
The need for an “avant-garde information centre” was first expressed at the Kassák Museum’s 2011 conference on avant-garde research currently in progress in the region. This has prompted us to set up an information exchange to help countries in Central Europe to learn about each others' research. We also aim to spread the word of the region’s modernist and avant-garde art and research throughout the world to researchers, organisations, and everyone who is interested in the subject. The OAD will also help researchers in the region become better informed about publications and events on modernist and avant-garde art from other parts of the world.
Information uploaded as news is permanently retrievable, part of a constantly-expanding database. The OAD is intended to strengthen international cooperation and the avant-garde research community, but the information it holds is also of use to non-experts with an interest in the subject.
The central focus of the Kassák Museum’s long-term digitalization programme is a critical publication of Lajos Kassák’s avant-garde textual works, necessitated in part by the need for international compatibility, and in part by the recent boom in international research into periodicals. The Kassák Museum’s digitization program is part of the Petőfi Museum of Literature’s digital philology (DigiPhil) project.
During the first phase in 2014, we digitized 17 issues of Lajos Kassák’s first periodical, A Tett [The Deed], published in 1915-1916. From spring 2015, the scanned facsimile pages and processed pages are available on the DigiPhil site, while publication of the material on Europeana, Europe’s digital library, is under way. At the same time, the first Hungarian-language textual materials will be available at the Humboldt University in Berlin, the National Library of Austria, and Wittgenstein Source (Bergen), partners of the Digital Manuscripts to Europeana (DM2E) project.
Over the next stages of this outstanding international project, Lajos Kassák’s other avant-garde periodicals will be made available online in 2015-2016: MA [Today] (1916-1919), 2x2 (1922), 365 (1925) and Dokumentum (1926-1927). Collation of data and documents required for the digital critical edition is currently in process.
- Kassák and Kassák 2
Academic conference and accompanying exhibition in the Kassák Museum, 28 March – 15 June 2014
From 28 March to 15 June 2014, the Kassák Museum hosted the academic conference and the accompanying exhibition “Kassák and Kassák 2: Boom and Displacement. Lajos Kassák’s career in the West and Hungarian Judgements in the 1960s”. Invited conference participants were specialists who approach Kassák’s late creative period and the complex problems of his legacy from a number of perspectives.
What is actually at stake here? In the 1960s, the rediscovery of the Eastern European avant-garde in art history and art collection circles took place in parallel. Thanks to this burgeoning interest, Kassák was able to stage a return to the Western European art community in the later stages of his life. His exhibitions in Paris were followed by individual and group shows in Geneva, Munich, London, Cologne, Torino, New York, and other major cities. Western interest lay mainly in the notion of the consistent, and direct avant-garde master, which is why after his Paris exhibitions of 1960 and 1963, Kassák revisited a number of his earlier works from the 1920s, and produced stricter revisions of some of his lyrical abstract paintings from the late 1950s. After his death, many fakes of his works appeared around the world.
Such pictures and fakes, re-works and posthumously re-dated works, as well as compilations attributed to Kassák now regularly appear in huge numbers, both in Hungary and abroad. This issue had already been tangentially addressed by the Hungarian National Gallery in its 1987 exhibition of Kassák’s works, and the accompanying catalogue. In 2009, the art historian and earlier director of the Kassák Museum Gábor Andrási examined Kassák’s 1959-1967 works from primarily stylistic and aesthetic viewpoints in the exhibition “Kassák and Kassák.” In recent years, the Kassák Museum has received a growing number of enquiries concerning attribution of Kassák pictures, which prompted us to involve experts in addressing this question, to encourage dialogue on these complex phenomena and their consequences.
On 1-2 July 2011, the Kassák Museum organized the workshop titled The literary and artistic products of the Hungarian avant-garde and the avant-garde of the neighboring countries in the Carpathian Basin, between 1919 and 1929. Common themes, common research plans, competitions, with the participation of researchers in Hungary and abroad. During the inspiring meeting the participating professionals got an insight into the Hungary-related researches that take place in the field of historical avant-garde in Austria, Slovakia, Romania, Serbia and Hungary. At the end of the workshop the participants set the objective of elaborating common research plans and of organizing regular professional meetings.
- CHANGE OF MANAGEMENT IN THE KASSÁK MUSEUM 1 November 2020 - 31 October 2022