1st Budapest Biennale of Contemporary Public Art

Public spaces of Budapest (detailed venues under each project)

22 September – 23 October 2023

Participating artists:

Balázs Antal | Márk Bartha, Luca Borsos | Anna Bíró, Andrea Fajgerné Dudás, Eszter Ágnes Szabó | Virág Bogyó, Flóra Madácsi | DePART Collective | Gideon Horváth | Kristóf Kelemen, Tímea Török | Luca Petrányi | János Sugár | Valyo – City and River Association

Projecz coordinator:

Diána Darabos

Graphic design:

Dániel Kozma

Graphic designer intern:

Viktória Szabó

The asphalt of the sidewalk, the urban pavement, forms a surface: we can write on it, draw on it, built on it, but it also conceals, covers, evens out and renders invisible. It can be worn down, lived on, or torn up. We tread it day by day, but we have no idea what it covers. It’s like the city: we think we know it, but only parts of it and only for moments, the picture always changes.

As part of Budapest 150, the series of events celebrating the 150th anniversary of the unification of Pest, Buda and Óbuda, the 1st Budapest Biennale of Contemporary Public Art will take place from 22 September to 23 October 2023 under the title SIDEWALK. The aim of the series of events in public space is to draw attention to the forgotten stories of Budapest through productions of contemporary art, to provide a new opportunity to reminisce and experience the city from a different perspective, to represent invisible communities and to build new connections. The communal character of today’s public space is a clash of desires and expectations: we often feel that it is the ‘public’ that is most excluded from public space. In order to avoid this, we need to put the city to many different uses, we need to connect with its past and shape its present. These instances of contemporary art propose ways to do this.

The one-month series of events will bring about works of public art, performances, events and encounters for shorter or longer periods of time in different locations across the capital, under the coordination of Budapest History Museum – Budapest Gallery.

On the SIDEWALK blog you can read about the background and programmes of the event on a weekly basis (in Hungarian)

The projects:

As structural elements of building facades, niches for statues have a centuries-old tradition in the history of architecture. This is no different in Budapest, where one can discover niches on several public institutions, tenement houses and villas throughout the city. With a few exceptions, these niches are now empty and in many cases never had any content to begin with.
The aim of the project is to fill the empty niches with works of art. The planned works are site-specific, that is, they are created specifically for a given location. The reinterpretation of the function of the niches and their being put to use will influence and shape both the image of the chosen district and the overall image of the street concerned. The works will reflect on the history, the past or present situation, and the former or current inhabitants of the neighbourhood or the building in question.
The participants of the project will install works in three niches across two districts of the city, which will be visible from the street. The artworks will be selected by the organisers in the framework of a competition for students of the Hungarian University of Fine Arts as well as young emerging artists who have recently graduated from the university. The entries will be evaluated by a professional jury.

Dist. 3, Pacsirtamező St. 42-44.
Dist. 8, Baross St. 96.
Dist. 8, Rökk Szilárd St. 2.

22. 09. – 23. 10. 2023

Why do we feel restricted in public spaces? How can dance help us get closer to urban space? What new ways of cognition are offered by community choreography? The latest version of Dance the District focuses on the public spaces and residents of the District 9. The four-stage process starts with research in the form of interviews, then Luca Borsos and Márk Bartha organise public space activities and workshops with students from the district’s secondary schools, focusing on their relationship with the school’s neighbourhood. This will be followed by a public community dance performance that will provide an opportunity for the city dwellers to become not only users but also critical observers and shapers of the spaces that they use every day. The public dance is open to all and will allow local residents to experience their own environment from a different perspective through movement and dance, while the public will also be able to experience the free use of space. The project will conclude with an epilogue in the form of an audio walk, where the stories and sounds of the district as well as the students’ experiences will be made available in the form of audio recordings, which will remain accessible to the public for later.

Dist. 9, Angyal street

29. 09. 2023, 5 pm

The Common Jam project – organised by Andrea Fajgerné Dudás and Eszter Ágnes Szabó, and joined by Anna Bíró as of 2022 – has been consistently working for 10 years on the picking and processing of fruit growing in, and available from, public spaces. In the past years, they have organised several urban community harvests of public fruit trees.
Within the scope of Sidewalk, the artists will mainly be engaged in the creation of a Fruit Map of Budapest. Based on their many years of experience and with the involvement of Budapest residents, they will map and mark the trees bearing edible fruits (nuts, hazelnuts, etc.) in the public spaces of the capital using a map application and social media. They will also check the marked trees. Moving the map – and the community – partially into virtual space is not an alienating gesture- In fact, it allows even those who cannot attend the organised events to join the project, creating a community that exists in virtual space but is centred around trees standing in physical space.
As an accompanying event of the project, the organisers are planning fruit picking and canning sessions. Fruit picking will be announced as the fruits ripen.
An important experience the group has had with fruit picking in public space is that each year there are fewer trees to harvest from. Another interesting and instructive consequence of the project is that, although the fruits of the trees in public space are available to all, they are legally the property of the caretakers of the trees, in the case of Budapest, the municipality (FŐKERT). As in the spirit of sustainable and democratic city use, the artists would also like to plant an apple tree as the closing event of the project, they have approached the owners and managers of the trees for permission to do so. However, the regulations, protocols and standpoints on public space, especially on any kind of intervention in public space, are so contradicting – and inconsistent between the different authorities – that the location of the tree to be planted in the scope of the Sidewalk is still in question.

Dist. 1, Dist. 3, Dist. 11, Gellért Hill, Garden of the BHM Budapest Gallery

22. 09. – 23. 10. 2023

Dates of the programmes: TBA

It’s natural for everyone in urban spaces to think of the playground as the main site of child play, where children can enjoy freedom in a designated manner, on regulated (and of course safe) equipment, but this was not so clear until recent decades. From the 1930s onwards, so-called playstreets for children’s communities were created in many cities around the world, permanently or temporarily closed to car traffic. In the 1950s, there were playstreets in Budapest as well, but by the 1960s they had been displaced by the increasing density of car traffic. In recent years, like other cities, Budapest has seen a conscious, people-centred trend in urban development that takes into account other aspects besides – or instead of – transport, but child’s play still rarely emerges as a design principle.
In the scope of the project Playstreet?! by Virág Bogyó and Flóra Madácsi, Barát Street in District VII (which was once one of the first playstreets in Budapest) and the Mátyás Square section of Bauer Sándor Street in District VIII will be closed to car traffic. The main objective of the multi-day action is to create a space for discourse, to redefine and re-invent the tradition of playstreets and to challenge dogmas about the use of public space and children’s play activities. What is the relevance of playstreets in Budapest today? How have our public spaces, as well as the ways we educate and supervise our children, how have the ways of spending leisure time changed over the 70 years since the first playstreets were opened in Budapest? Can the playstreet provide something that overregulated playgrounds cannot?
In collaboration with architect Alíz Bárczy and the College for Advanced Studies in Architecture, Virág Bogyó and Flóra Madácsi designed multifunctional wooden elements for these temporary car-free zones that invite children as well as adults to play, while having no exclusively designated function, leaving room for imagination. The structures will be on display in the Kesztyűgyár (Glove Factory) Community Centre’s Gallery before being installed at the sites. Here, the playground elements will be transformed into pedestals and benches accommodating a mini-exhibition presenting the history of playstreets, children’s urban play and its inherent potentials. During the street actions, the exhibits will transform into play equipment, and a special feature of the Barát Street site will be a giant sand hill in the middle of the street, inviting visitors to play. In the meantime, the creators will be continuously available to the adult public for professional discussions.

Dist. 7, the entire Barát Street
Dist. 8, Bauer Sándor Street at the Mátyás Square

27. 09. – 28. 09. 2023 (Mátyás Square)
28. 09. – 01. 10. 2023 (Barát Street)

The sound installation If All Ears Could Hear is a participatory and performative work that focuses on the practice of active remembrance. By way of creating partnerships (so-called memory keepers), people living today write letters to Roma people murdered during the Porajmos (the Roma genocide during the fascist era) in the Second World War. As only fragments of their biographies survive, the installation aims to recover their memory and give voice to their imaginary stories.
The letters are written and recorded by activists, artists or supporters of today’s Roma communities. The growing archive of letters forms a bridge between the past and the present and creates a space for shared grief. In the struggle to end oppression, the public is invited to join the alliance by committing themselves to remembering the past and by taking personal responsibility for a future of solidarity. The installation’s metal poles sprouting out of the ground and the parabolic concrete slabs lying on top of them scatter the authors’ voices across the field or the urban public space. The public is invited to come closer to bear witness to, and participate in, the personal recollections of the authors, leaning close to the ground and listening attentively. By showcasing the collaborating activists’ practices of resistance, the installation offers counter-stories to combat forgetting.
The sound installation has so far been presented in four cities in three European countries. As a sensitive temporary travelling memorial, it marks erased and forgotten sites of oppression. Its narrative of care honours the ground and the body as the source and carrier of memory and history, describing care and attentive listening as a beginning. The installation aims to explore the possibilities of a responsible and active culture of memory, narrative historiography and storytelling through interdisciplinary arts.

Óbudai Kísérleti Lakótelep (experimental housing estate in Óbuda / 3rd district of Budapest): the area bordered by Bécsi út, Váradi utca, Érc utca, Gyenes utca

20-23. 10. 2023

Non-heteronormative relationships are in the focus of Gideon Horváth’s work exhibited in Elvis Presley Park. With its beeswax sculptures installed in a hidden fountain as well as its accompanying events, Memory That Could Have Been is a monument to unfulfilled relationships, to unproclaimed and hushed loves. All this at a location that has been an important safe space for the subculture of gay cruising for decades. Gideon Horváth is interested in the various mechanisms of repression in mainstream society and its historical past. He points out a secluded site in the city that now becomes a reminder of the marginalised position of sexual minorities and their resulting resignation and vulnerability. In addition to the installation of a group of abstracted human figures in the fountain, the park comes to life several times through ‘secret’ events organised there. Based on unrealised personal memories of the participants, which become tangible via performative occasions, these events are organised by the artist himself. Otherness belongs to all of us, we have all felt like strangers or outsiders. The experience of the communities that deviate from the normative order is not a series of exotic stories that others cannot understand, but a set of basic human needs and desires that have never really been fulfilled over the course of the capital’s history of 150 years.

Elvis Presley Park

22. 09. – 23. 10. 2023

Dates of programmes: TBA

The voices of homeless people are rarely heard among the stories of the city. In their work, Kristóf Kelemen and Tímea Török highlight an extraordinary event that provides a positive example of how the housing crisis can receive attention on a national scale: on 28 November 1989, a new regulation forced people taking refuge in unused railway carriages in train stations out onto the streets. It was owing to their strike in the Blaha Lujza Square underpass and to their supporters that the foundation of Budapest’s homelessness service system was laid. The event was an example of both self-organisation and solidarity put into action, and as such, it deserves to have a prominent place in our collective memory.
The project’s creators will realise an ephemeral performative memorial at the site of the former demonstration, in the Blaha Lujza Square underpass, with people experiencing homelessness, as well as workers and activists from housing organisations. It is based on ideal visions of the future that are created together with the participants using the method of backcasting. It will be presented on three occasions: 13, 14 and 15 October. The event, which will take place over a one-hour timeframe, will draw attention to the fact that, alongside the apathy and exclusion often experienced, there is also a strong sense of solidarity and willingness to help in Hungarian society, and that bringing this to the fore can lead us closer to positive practices at community level.

Blaha Lujza Square, underpass

13. 10. 2023, 6 pm
14. 10. 2023, 4 pm
15. 10. 2023, 4 pm

Is it possible to learn about Margaret’s life through active running? With a contemporary approach, Luca Petrányi’s project explores the forgotten story of the person the former Island of Rabbits is named after. The main stages of the life of Saint Margaret of Hungary as a Dominican nun are brought to life along the island’s running track through eleven textile flags. After St Margaret’s death, her tomb was considered by her contemporaries to have miraculous and healing powers, framed by the self-discipline and penance she exercised throughout her life, her empathy with others and her all-embracing faith, sometimes at the risk of her own wellbeing. Luca Petrányi will place textiles made using Indonesian batik technique along the running track on Margaret Island, which abstractly depict the most significant episodes of the saint’s life, based on János Kodolányi’s historical novel Blessed Margaret. By targeting the running community as the primary recipients and involving them as active commemorators in the project, the artist’s main intention is to parallel the exhausted, energised and contemplative state of being experienced while running with the self-sacrificing and ascetic life of Saint Margaret. The physical exertion experienced while running can make the recipient open to rethinking the life of Saint Margaret and create a deeper connection and identification with the figure of Margaret, the princess turned ascetic, who is falling into oblivion in the urban legendary. Runners can also listen to the episodes highlighted by the artist in audio form, which adds further layers to the story of the saint. Collective identification with her will become complete in the course of a collective run to take place on the opening days.

Margaret-island, running path

22. 09. – 23. 10. 2023

This simplest, most everyday expression of apology is commonplace in Japan, but surveys show that in Germany, for example, it is used only a third as often as in Japan. No such survey has yet been conducted in Hungary, but it is reasonable to assume that apologising is not at all a routine practice in both private and public life, although it is likely that we would have about as much reason to apologise to our fellow human beings here as in Japan.
We would probably feel much more comfortable, both in private and in public life, if this gesture: an acknowledgement of our own mistakes, errors, ignorance, stupidity, selfishness, narrow-mindedness, intolerance; and a more frequent expression of regret at the misunderstanding, confusion, hurt, exposure that this has caused.
Between 2004 and 2008, the sign with Hungarian inscriptions on both sides was implemented twice in Budapest and four times in the countryside (Szombathely, Győr, Eger, Miskolc). From 2009 onwards, a foreign-language apology has been displayed on the other side of the signs, alongside the Hungarian one, and this has caused conflict in almost all cases. This year the Ukrainian-Hungarian apology sign will be placed on Blaha Lujza Square.

September 2009: Romanian-Hungarian version, Târgu Mures,
October 2009: Slovak-Hungarian version, Dunaújváros,
December 2009: Slovak-Hungarian version, Bratislava
April 2010: Romanian-Hungarian version, Dózsa Gy. út, Budapest,
July 2010: Gypsy-Hungarian version, two locations, Pécs
September 2010: Gypsy-Hungarian version, Pécs,
September 2013: Slovenian – German version, on the Austrian-Slovenian border
May 2015: Gypsy-Hungarian version, disabled before exposure,
June-October 2018: Romanian-Hungarian version, Gyula, disabled
April 2022: Gypsy-Hungarian version, Üllöi út – Ecseri út corner

(János Sugár)

Blaha Lujza Square

22. 09. – 23. 10. 2023

Valyo: River Baths in Budapest – Swimming in the Danube in the Past and Future

Bathing in the Danube in the area of the capital has always raised important issues regarding the use of urban space. The first so-called wooden pools in the 1810s-20s were small enclosed areas of the Danube, which made open water bathing safely available until the Second World War, when it was later banned by decree due to pollution and budget shortage. It was not until the late 2010s that a turn came for bathing in Budapest: thanks to improved water quality and continuous monitoring, a free public beach on the Római-part riverbank was opened for a single day in 2019 and 2020, and for one month in 2021.
The idea for the project, which tells the story of wooden pools, was conceived and will be implemented by the Valyo – City and River Association. Valyo’s main mission is to make the river accessible to everyone in Budapest and to make the Danube a public space for the city dwellers.
As part of the project, two installations will be placed on the quays (both on the Buda and Pest sides), marking the location of the former wooden pools, as well as so-called GOGGLEs, a type of peep-box containing miniature exhibits developed by the association, and a series of events related to the topic.
Not only will the public space objects recall the history of the wooden pools, but also reflect on how urban bathing could be reintroduced into the public consciousness and demonstrate contemporary examples of it in major cities across Western Europe.

Raoul Wallenberg Quayside (Near the Szabadság Bridge) – GOGGLE
Friedrich Born Quayside (Near the Erzsébet Bridge) – GOGGLE
Várkert Quayside . (Around the Várkert Bazár ship station) – GOGGLE
Friedrich Born Quayside (Tram 19/41, Clark Ádám Sq. station) – GOGGLE
Margit híd budai hídfő (between the Angelo Rotta Quayside and the Árpád Fejedelem Street) – GOGGLE
Id. Antall József Quayside (Around Balaton Street) – GOGGLE
Sztehlo Gábor Quayside (Near the Széchenyi Chain Bridge) – GOGGLE
Vigadó Sq. (Valyo Quayside) – Installation
Fővám Sq. (Next to the Vámszedőház {Customs house}) – GOGGLE

22. 09. – 23. 10. 2023