This project began in response to a racist attack on Roma (gypsy) people by a facebook acquaintance. When I criticized the post, this person and several of her friends described me as a pretentious Westerner who no longer had any right to discuss Hungarian politics because I “left my homeland.” During the course of the conversation I was told not to come back to Hungary and that true Hungarians were proudly racist. My refusal to embrace the exclusion of Roma from a Hungarian political identity entailed my own exclusion from Hungarian-ness. Throughout the conversation, I felt unsafe, especially knowing that my homosexuality was yet another reason to exclude me from a Hungarian nation. This experience was a catalyst for creating a project that explored the frictions, imbrications, and constellations of nationalism, racism, sexuality, gender, and violence.
In order to contest these exclusions and inclusions, I focused my thesis show on using and subverting textual and visual images that reference Hungarian national tradition, queer experience, and the problems of translation. In particular, I chose to combine Hungary’s ancient runic alphabet with sexualized language and images, so that the work engages in multiple acts of simultaneous translation. The language that I use has a fraught history. It was used before Hungary became a unified kingdom and converted to Christianity. The runic alphabet lived on in decorative folk art. Recently, it experienced resurgence with extreme right-wing nationalist groups. I use it in order to evoke the beauty of folk traditions and the violence which that folk nationalism has perpetuated. The visuals that I use, particularly the colors, and patterns, come from Hungarian folk art, traditionally done by women. I celebrate its beauty while also recognizing the violent history and the extreme nationalist politics that it’s attached to. This work is a way for me to claim membership within that community of Hungarian women while also stretching the boundaries of who’s included in those communities. You’re not supposed to talk about loving c*nt in your embroidery.
The work is densely encoded and translates between these different paradigms—queer, Hungarian, US, verbal, visual. In this show I have intentionally left some of the languages untranslated in order to encourage the audience to enter into these conversations as well as to experience the exclusion and discomfort of not having an easily accessible translation. The work is never a straightforward translation to and from; rather, I attempt to make sense of these topics in a comprehensive and necessarily complex way. Through exclusion, homesickness, frustration, desire, perversion, community, humor, tears, anger, words, and silences, I invite you to engage in this incomplete, messy, and impossible conversation.