Pathos Management, No. 4.

Conversation series about the past and the present of topoi in Hungarian art

Time: September 24, 2019, 6 pm to 8 pm
Venue: Vasas Szakszervezeti Szövetség Székháza [Vasas Federation of Metalworkers' Union], Magdolna u. 5-7., Budapest 1086

# 4 János Kósa: Offering, 2010, oil, canvas, 190 x 200 cm, Courtesy of the artist

Pathos management is a non-existent concept created from the fusion of “pathos formula” and anger management. Thus, one of the sources of this ephemeral concept goes back to psychology and social psychology, and the other to art history, specifically to Aby Warburg’s work. Warburg, in one of his letters, described himself as a psycho-historian of culture, who examines how visual topoi expressing strong emotions, passions and sufferings, the ecstatic and the tragic migrated from one historical-cultural era to another. As a modernization and updating of the iconological method, pathos management looks at how Hungarian visual culture has dealt with Hungarian regime changes over the past hundred years, how it related to the ideas and feelings these changes brought up, and how it has re-interpreted its own topoi and pathos formulas. On the one hand, the series examines which topoi, symbols, and allegories of Hungarian art have become once again current, and what happened to these topoi over the course of independent Hungary’s first century.

János Kósa: Offering, 2010
Offering is a particular, surreal, picturesque montage that reflects on one of the ancient topoi of Hungarian culture: Saint Stephen, the first King of Hungary, offers his crown symbolizing the country to the protection of the Virgin Mary. The medieval topos appeared on numerous altarpieces during Romanticism and Historicism in the 19th century, and was painted by Hungarian historicist painter Gyula Benczúr as well, from where Kósa transferred the figure of the angel to his own painting. In the Offering, however, the angel supports not the Virgin Mary, but Vladimir Ilyich Lenin, whose gesture evokes another ancient pathos formula: "Let the children come to me." In the age of Socialist Realism, Lenin appeared in visual culture not only in a triumphant pose or in one foreseeing a happier future, but also as the son and shepherd of the people whose pathos also pervaded the imagery of Stalin and his Hungarian counterpart, Mátyás Rákosi. However, Kósa's painting is neither a Romantic altarpiece nor a Socialist Realist genre painting: the aging Saint Stephen offers a toy crown to the likewise balding Lenin, who is nurtured by the angel of Benczúr, while the composition also features figures such as a harlequin in a rhomboid pattern dress, characteristic of Picasso’s Rose Period. The grotesque and uncanny language of Dada, Surrealism, and Magical Realism is relevant again in today’s Eastern, Central-Eastern Europe, for reasons of memory politics: as the various regime changes repeatedly replaced the symbolic figures of power, the simple, almost infantile, feudal power structures have remained in place until today.

Regime Changes

Over the course of 2019-2020, launches the events series entitled Regime Changes, which, in the form of lectures, exhibitions, research presentations, thematic magazine issues, examines what real and symbolic changes arise from political turning points in a given era. How do views and narratives live on underneath the surface so as to emerge in a re-interpreted form as the dominant discourse of another regime? Case studies commissioned or adapted for the series present the shifting, often politically appropriated and contradictory interpretations of political, social and cultural events of the past hundred years.

János Kósa: Offering, 2010, oil, canvas, 190 x 200 cm, Courtesy of the artist

Pathos Management