Catalyst Award 2013

Time: January 17, 2014
Venue: MÜSZI - Művelődési Szint. 1085 Budapest, Blaha Lujza tér

Award Ceremony
Time: February 9, 2014
Venue: Trafó House of Contemporary Arts, 1094 Budapest, Liliom utca 41.

It seems that today there is one thing we share deeply in Hungary: the experience of having no tools at our disposal. Most of us feel that the tools which could really change our closer and wider contexts are not available. Furthermore, in the last couple of years, the art professionals have had to face—due to cultural policy measure which frequently violate professional autonomy—that the possibilities where art could exert its potentials for social change have become scarcer.

Poster design by Péter Rónai

With the Catalyst Award 2013, announced this year for the fourth time, we endeavor to look at what tools and possibilities are available for art to intervene into the social fabric. The course towards selecting the awardee is a self-reflective analysis, in which the participants examine these very possibilities of art.

The Catalyst Award project this year encompasses a more open process than in the previous years, as the audience also plays a crucial role. Within an open forum, everyone is invited to debate and delineate a set of criteria, with which the awardees can be selected. The award ceremony will also be different from previous years, as the jury will decide live on the spot, which will be preceded by the nominees’ introduction and an open debate.

The nominating process begins mid-December. This year we ask everyone to nominate their own projects for the award.

Winners of the 2013 Catalyst Award

Gallery8 and The Missing Classmate: the best socially engaged art projects of the year

Gallery8 Roma Contemporary Art Space and The Missing Classmate Social Theatre Program are the winners of the 2013 Catalyst Award, founded by At the award ceremony, which took place at the Trafó House of Contemporary Arts on Sunday in the presence of about two hundred participants, winners were announced in two categories. Of over 130 nominees, the jury selected Gallery 8 in the Motor Category, while, in the Art Category, The Missing Classmate was chosen as the best socially engaged project. A prize of HUF 500 000 was awarded to the winner in both categories.

Gallery8 Roma Contemporary Art Space, winner of the Motor Category, is located on Mátyás Square, in the heart of Budapest’s 8th District—the dominantly Roma-inhabited area of the capital. Their gallery is an intercultural space in the true sense of the word, where experimentations, creativity, collaboration, and exchange of ideas between the Roma and the non-Roma can take place, resulting in new artworks and solutions in the spirit of a peaceful future co-existence. As a further objective, Gallery8 aims to facilitate the development of innovative projects and experimental, interdisciplinary works by the Roma youth. It is their hope that Gallery8 will become a space where the freshest thoughts, discourses, and trends of contemporary Roma art can flourish. Gallery8 website:

The Missing Classmate Social Theatre Program, winner of the Art Category, was established in 2012 by sociologists (Anblokk, Parforum), drama teachers (Káva), and amateur Roma actors, and has thus far been presented on 16 occasions to high school classes. This theatre is not really a theatre. Rather, it is an artistic intervention that utilizes the forms of sociological research and participatory theatre towards common thinking, and seeks to create a shared space of alternative thinking. The program focuses on a single theme: the incongruities of the Hungarian educational system and its mechanisms of selection that sustain and reinforce social inequalities. The participatory theatre dramatizes the key points in the selection processes one undergoes as a student (starting school, being assigned to a group, continuation of studies) as performed by young, talented Roma actors—from their vantage point, presenting their own experiences—to students of “reputable” city high schools, who are just about to graduate.

The jury made its decision on the closing evening, following an introduction by the nominees and a public debate; in accordance with the principle of participation, the audience had the opportunity to discuss the submitted materials of the nominees at this stage as well, just as it did during the public forum that defined the system of selection, as well as the subsequent pre-selection process.

The award ceremony was concluded with a performance by German artists Stephan Dillemuth, Maxi Baumgartner, Mirja Reuter, and Florian Gass, which had been prepared within the framework, and with the participants of, the Free School for Art Theory and Practice workshop, held at the open office.

Shortlisted nominees for the 2013 Catalyst Award in the final selection process:

Art Category:

20 Forint Operetta
The Operetta with its giant squirrel has been boating since 2012 as a wandering street university and nomadic news channel on the Eighth Sea in Budapest’s 8th District. This project by the open network Pneuma Szöv. and the German performance group Mobile Albania focuses on public space, where current social-political transformations take place and have their impact. The aim of this theatre is to invite artists on the periphery into the spaces and zones reserved for the middle class in order to render their voices audible and to make tangible through a joint artistic creation process the possibility of a new open society. The poor theatre of the 20 Forint Operetta is built from the regenerated debris of castaway thoughts, objects, and places.

The City and Its Dwellers
The aim of the volunteer-based project—established on the initiative of the Albert Schweitzer Foundation—is to do away with prejudices and to facilitate the social reintegration of those who live in the homeless shelter of Budvár Social Centre. The project explores the issues of homelessness—and, in the broader sense, the themes of home and being without a home—in a close community by involving homeless people and volunteers living in the city. Participants jointly create public events (forums, activities, awareness raising actions, and theatrical events) that foster a better understanding of the issues at hand, and thus make it possible to formulate long-term solutions to problems in collaboration with the operators of the homeless shelter, and, at a later stage, with city leaders.

Open Doors Hungary
Open Doors is an art project that offers a complex program to underage refugees and asylum seekers arriving to Hungary without adult accompaniment, through the means of visual communication, architecture, and design. The goal of the program is to aid young refugees in successfully integrating into Hungarian society and to aid in the development of their self-expression skills and social relationships. During the process, the youth themselves become part of the planning process, with the end result being produced based on their decisions. “Design” as a problem solving method can thus provide a model for resolving other issues as well. The work process of problematizing, planning, and implementing teaches participants that problems can be solved, given the proper tools.

Motor Category:

Gólya Community Center and Cooperative Café
The institution began its operation in fall 2011 in Frisco, a basement in Mátyás Street, Budapest. Their aim was to establish a cultural and community meeting point which could accommodate initiatives that fostered a fairer, more solidary, livable, and sustainable society. Having outgrown Frisco, they moved into Gólya, with the objective of collaborating not only with the above mentioned groups, but—on the borderline of the Corvin-Szigony Project and gentrification—also with the local residents of the area and 8th District initiatives. Building on the cultic history of the Gólya, they work embedded in the life of the district, facilitating the interchange between the sphere of a movement and the existing social reality. The Gólya is run as a cooperative, which in itself is an experiment in developing a new form of entrepreneurship.

Valyo – City and River Group
Valyo has been working on linking Budapest with the Danube River since 2011. Their objective is to place the Danube on the mental map of Budapest residents, so that they think of this natural treasure as their own. They draw awareness to existing riverside locations and also create new venues. They organize events and programs at chosen locations, during which they direct attention to the beauty of the Danube bank in an interactive, playful manner. They organized various cultural and sports events during each day of the Danube Festival and Valyo Part, including civic discussions, yoga lessons, pétanque matches, meditation, film club, photo exhibitions, book borrowing, and parties. In addition, Valyo was also the initiator of the Facebook group “Let the trees remain on the Római bank of the Danube,” and organizer of the protest that mobilized over 2000 people against the mobile dam plans, already accepted by the General Assembly of Budapest. In the long run, they envision the waterfront of Pest as a livable green belt, accommodating recreation and sporting activities, thereby rendering the area a part of residents’ everyday lives.

Káva Drama/Theatre in Education Association
Káva is a theatrical and drama pedagogy studio which organizes Hungarian and international programs. It defines itself as a forum where those participating in the work and performance (actors, viewers, researchers, drama teachers, and directors) explore what it means to be a human being in present day society, and what our relationship is to the human, ethical, and social questions and issues that we raise. While their main activity focuses on putting on theatre pedagogical performances for school groups, they are also committed to realizing drama programs and longer-term drama projects. They work in various parts of Hungary with groups of children and youth between the ages of 7 and 18, many of whom are from a disadvantaged background. They also create experimental performances for adult audiences.