From Art Program to Critical Institution: Stories from’s Ten-Year Activity

Selection from the archive and exhibition

“One must refrain from any form of organization or institutionalization.”
(Miklós Erdély. Some Characteristics of Post-Neo-Avant-garde Behavior. 1981)

“to absorb everything
if it grows wild, we’ll harvest it
if it escapes, we’ll entice it
if it opposes, we’ll convince it
if it refuses, we’ll harness it anyhow
if it grows thorns, we’ll cut it
if it’s toxic, we’ll eat it anyway.”
(Miklós Mécs. gastronomic metaphor for’s special artist/art patronage, 2015)

Opening: April 15, 2016, 6 pm

With works by Balázs Fekete, Zsolt Hajdu, Tibor Horváth, Miklós Mécs, PR group, Hajnalka Tulisz, and tranzit. hu documents

Venue: Mayakovsky 102, the open office of tranzit. hu, 1068 Budapest, Király utca 102.

On view until May 20, 2016 by appointment at or +36 30 570 20 34

With the exhibition From Art Program to Critical Institution: Stories from’s Ten-Year Activity, tranzit. hu reflects on the last ten years and initiates a discussion about tranzit. hu’s future identity. What have we done, what have we achieved, and what is next?

The tranzit network is a significant factor on the so-called
post-Soros era cultural map and funding structure. As a result of ERSTE Bank’s sponsoring initiative, the tranzit contemporary art program was launched in 2002, with the unique model of involving local art scene members. Since 2010, the ERSTE Foundation is the main partner of that has extended in the last ten years into an East-Central European network. tranzit. hu, established in 2005, was able to develop a stable modus operandi with this kind of funding structure that is usually only possible in Hungary in state-funded public institutions. tranzit. hu’s program that in the beginning did not have an institutional identity through long-term projects, experimental formats, and various collaborations, has grown into an institution in the course of the last ten years.

Initiating pilot projects and raising topical issues, tranzit. hu endeavored to position itself critically towards art institutions that often adhere to hierarchal political and economic power structures. The aim of the program conceived in 2005 was to support the local art scene’s capabilities and self-esteem through educational formats and experimental projects, open calls. Fostering socially responsible contemporary art and the foregrounding of critical thinking were also part of our mission. It was also important for us to uncover and study still relevant and inspiring historical antecedents of these models. Furthermore, we also attempted to mediate counter-hegemonic, grassroots initiatives to a wider, local and international audience.

After five years of nomadic existence that meant finding different venues for each of our projects, the need for a permanent public space emerged. Subsequently, we opened Mayakovsky 102, the open office of tranzit. hu that serves as the venue for our events and exhibitions. Setting up this new space coincided with a political change in Hungary: instead of the democratic operation of art institutions that slowly appeared after 1989, an autocratic cultural policy—familiar from the times of state socialism—became yet again dominant. tranzit. hu responded to these changes with a program that extended the notion, the role, and the borders of the art institution, through which it got closer to the activist sphere and civil society. It still operates as a mediating platform in carving out alternative spaces for the increasingly disappearing forums of public life. Due to the transdisciplinary activity that moves between various fields and thematics, tranzit. hu’s mission expanded: the most significant new element is (political) education for social responsibility through the means of art, among others.

The hybrid archive presented at the open office of tranzit. hu is an enumeration: relics, memories, documents, videos, and art works that are presented for studying. For the exhibition, we invited artist Zsolt Hajdu to prepare drawings based on the stories recounted by members of the art scene in Hungary. Thus, besides the documents of professional activities, everyday stories are also foregrounded with the possibility to note some anecdotes for the future. We revisit the PR group’s 2014 prophecy for the art scene, and we present artist Miklós Mécs’s birthday gift that dwells on tranzit. hu’s all-absorbing criticality. Artist Hajnalka Tulisz depicts in a coordinate system “time” and the relations of motivations in time spending. A selection of drawings by artists Balázs Fekete and Tibor Horváth is also presented: their differently driven commentaries reflect on public issues of the last ten years that happened in parallel with tranzit. hu’s existence.

On April 29, we present our new, English-language, online magazine Mezosfera, which is part of the cultural-social festival Negyed7Negyed8

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Image: Work by Zsolt Hajdu